January 26, 2013

Bruised knees, fallen bails - why the fuss?

Surely sudden movements by tiny bits of wood can't be distracting batsmen, can they?

Modern cricketers have many skills. They can sit without flinching while a man with seven nose-piercings carves inky scribblings into their forearms. They can encapsulate the existential absurdity of the human condition in 140 characters or less (including lols, exclamation marks and spelling mistakes). They can autograph a pint-sized bat without taking their eyes off the game they are supposed to be involved in.

And they're very good at standing with their hands on their hips, looking incredulous. England are particularly skilled at this. Watching the Sultans of Sulk in Mohali the other day, I had to admire their polished, poised display of perturbation. In one instant they turned from energetic young sportsmen to a gang of IT maintenance people who'd just discovered that the reason they couldn't get the printer working all morning was that it wasn't plugged in.

I wonder if, in between throwing and fetching rehearsals, they have sulking drill? Ian Bell's peculiar little grimace conveyed so much more than mere disappointment. There was angsty despair. There was a touch of indigestion. There was a hint of latent anger, as though any day now, the peculiar little grimace might be followed by a bat-wielding, box-throwing, glove-chewing, umpire-savaging rampage.

The cause of this display of demonstrative despondency was England's own bandy-legged duke of dead ball, Mr Steven Finn. His egregious patellofemoral habit has placed umpires in a quandary. There's no law against dislodging the minor timber with parts of your anatomy. After all, aside from the accumulation of colourful bruises on Steven's kneecap, no damage has been done. But it just kind of seems wrong.

So umpires have gone with a charge of distracting the batsman, and Finn has used all his warnings. He's been up before Justice Davis on more than one occasion, and this time, pleas for clemency from Alastair Cook were not entertained by the stern magistrate.

But I think there are grounds for an appeal. Is the gentle tumble of a four-inch piece of wood a distraction? What about the raucous spectators? What about the rapid approach of a two-metre tall bowler with hostile intent? In my experience nothing distracts a batsman from the maintenance of a perfect batting stance like the sudden arrival of a fast bowler and his flinging a leather sphere in your direction.

And is it the falling of the bail that causes the distraction? Or is it the realisation that the bails are missing and that the feng shui of the wicket furniture is disturbed that so discombobulates the man with the bat? This has yet to be explained, but it seems that easily startled batsmen, like particularly jumpy meerkats, are in need of protection and if he doesn't want to spend the rest of his career standing half way down the pitch looking disgruntled, Steven needs to exercise greater control over his lower portions.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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  • fanedlive on January 31, 2013, 1:01 GMT

    Maybe, we should even ban bowlers with hair flying all over the place. Or even those who use distracting hair colors to get people out. Shame on them, when will these bowlers realize, as has BCCI, its the batsmen that bring in the money (err, crowds).

  • fanedlive on January 27, 2013, 2:25 GMT

    A bowler is supposed to deliver from an area defined by the popping crease, return crease and stumps. He is not allowed to transgress the first two, so why is he allowed to brush the stumps with impunity.

    Call it a no ball and have done.

  • fanedlive on January 26, 2013, 23:34 GMT

    There are already far too many interruptions to the game these days. The umpires having to replace the bails twice an over because Mr Finn keeps dislodging them drives spectators nuts - or did me when he was allowed to get away with it.

    Mr Finn's solution is simple: stop knocking over the stumps. He is a professional cricketer and so should be able to work out how to do this. He did work out how to stop falling over after delivering, so he is clearly not an idiot.

    The overall solution is equally simple: ICC passes a law to declare a dead ball whenever the bowler dislodges the wicket during his delivery. The fact that this issue has assumed such importance suggests that the ICC should step in.

    Mr Finn is a stunning bowler and I look forward to him becoming England's leading Test wicket taker ever. He just needs to stop kicking the stumps during delivery.

  • fanedlive on January 26, 2013, 22:22 GMT

    I am not sure of this sarcasm and angst at the umpire's decision and that why should there be any issue at all by a 4in bail being dislodged. A batsman is trying to focus and trying to read things like .. which is the shiny side..wrist position..arm speed..direction etc. So dont tell me that the batsman wont be distracted by something right in his line of vision.. quite simply, are the bails supposed to be on the stumps when a legal ball is bowled? If yes then stop complaining. Also there are people talking about warnings. You need to undersrand that 1 mistake by a batsman can be his last while a bowler has 60 deliveries or chances. So understandably batsmen have to be given some sort of comfort otherwise a game can be over in 11 deliveries

  • fanedlive on January 26, 2013, 21:02 GMT

    Imo, the ball should be called as a no-ball and not a dead ball, because in case the batsmen hits it for a boundary or a six, its a loss for them. The reason why i think it should be an illegal delivery is because, if the bowler can hit the stumps while bowling, why can't the batsman? why should he be given out hit wicket?

  • fanedlive on January 26, 2013, 20:51 GMT

    Simple solution for Finn, just aim to start and, more importantly, finish your run up an inch or two to the left of the stumps. Simple really. A bit like a bowler who is constantly no-balling due to overstepping - just begin your run up six inches further back. I know that at Test and ODI level players are talking about very fine margins. However, if Finn isn't able to bowl the line he wants without getting so close to the stumps, then maybe he is not the bowler myself & others think he is.

  • fanedlive on January 26, 2013, 16:44 GMT

    In the magazine New Scientist 6/10/2012 I read that the performance of batsmen is improved by having them wear goggles that blurred their vision - they cut out unnecessary detail and so forced the player to focus on the important thing: the ball. But I suppose batsmen are queer people - many years ago in an end of season match at Scarborough, a Pakistani batsman complained that the music of the brass band distracted him.

  • fanedlive on January 26, 2013, 14:55 GMT

    I find the idea of calling a dead ball when bowler dislodges stumps very absurd. This is the least convenience you can provide to the bowlers in the batsman friendly game.

  • fanedlive on January 26, 2013, 14:30 GMT

    Lovely article. I particularly enjoyed learning the use of "patellofemoral" (had to look it up).

    Perhaps it is distracting the umpire rather than the batsman 22 yards away, and is that why they've got all huffy about it?

    Lots of sympathy for Finn as he is a very fine bowler, but surely by now he should have worked out where the stumps at the non-strikers end are and leave them alone? Concentrate on dislodging the bails at the other end, Steve. It's what you do best.

  • fanedlive on January 26, 2013, 14:09 GMT

    I'm not too sure, Mr. Hughes, if you have had the chance to stand in the said position of a batsman in a proper game of cricket, but from my experience, when a 6oz sphere of anything is thrown at 150ks in the general direction of your head, you would want all your attention on it. Batsmen are protected from distractions from the crowd by a sightscreen, and have the right to be protected by the disturbances of an uncoordinated bowler by the rule. There is more than enough going on, with swing and seam and cut and what not, to add flying bails to the list of things a batsman must register and then decide whether to rest his weight on the front or the back foot.

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