Rules February 16, 2013

Time to rethink the LBW law?

Nilesh Jain
The LBW law has achieved the same place in cricket that the offside rule has in football - just watch a fan explaining either of them to someone else

LBW. The mere mention of those three letters is guaranteed to bring a myriad of reactions from cricket fans all over the world. The LBW law has achieved the same place in cricket that the offside rule has in football - just watch a fan explaining either of them to someone else.

Over the long history of cricket, the LBW law has been altered on many occasions. What started out in 1774 as a simple attempt to keep batsmen from gaining unfair advantage by using their legs to prevent the ball from hitting the stumps has undergone so many changes in the subsequent 200+ years, that its current interpretation has drastically moved away from the dictionary definition of that phrase - which is that the leg was in front of the wicket, blocking the progress of the ball to the wicket. Back to first principles - cricket is ultimately a game between bat and ball, where the batsman should be aiming to keep the ball from hitting his stumps by using his bat alone. However the current LBW law has a number of conditions which are significantly biased against the batsman's main role of keeping the ball from hitting his wicket by using his bat. These include the requirement for the ball to have pitched in line with the wickets or on the off side, the batsman being struck in line with the stumps while attempting a shot, or the batsman possibly being struck outside the off stump while not attempting a shot. And a ball pitched outside the leg stump is a complete no-no as far as the LBW law is concerned.

I think that the LBW law needs a radical rethink leading to a very simple law - if the umpire (or indeed ball-tracking technology) believes that the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps after hitting the batsman's pads or some other part of the body, then the batsman must be given out. It must not matter whether the ball was pitched in line with the stumps or not, whether the batsman was struck in line with the stumps or not, whether the batsman was attempting a shot or not, or indeed whether the batsman had touched the ball with his bat or not. After all, imagine if the player stepped towards square leg and completely missed the ball - then the batsman would be bowled even if the ball pitched outside the line of the stumps and was possibly still outside the line of the stumps when it passed the popping crease (where it would have potentially hit the batsman).

And remember this - would Mike Gatting have been given out LBW to Shane Warne's ball of the century if it had struck him on the pads? Going by the current law, he would most certainly be given not out since the ball had pitched way outside his leg stump. But the evidence is there for all of us to see - it bowled him!

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