February 16, 2013

Rules

Time to rethink the LBW law?

Nilesh Jain
Dean Elgar is trapped lbw for 0, Australia v South Africa, third Test, 3rd day, Perth, December 2, 2012
Should it matter where the ball pitched, as long as it is hitting the stumps?  © Getty Images
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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!

Keywords: Laws/Rules

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Posted by Si on (February 21, 2013, 2:08 GMT)

Good discussion. Don't agree with Batsman being given out LBW if he nicks it, but agree regardless of where it pitches, if hitting stumps should be out. Way too many restrictive rules on bowlers, yet a batsman can change from right to left after the balls bowled, dance down pitch, walk around the crease, boundaries are brought in, field restrictions, are all weighted in the batsmans' favour. It's a misnomer that spectators go to see massive scores ( and that represents good value for spectator admission). Spectators go to see their team win, simple as that; that can mean a T20 one point win with scores in 120's or 220's. It's supposed to be a contest and it's time to return to that. At least then the other half of players in the team are competing on equal terms.

Posted by Om on (February 20, 2013, 17:16 GMT)

I entirely agree with the author, the rules whereby a batsman is declared 'not lbw' are arbitrary and anachronistic. Why can't right hand batsmen, who are allowed to play the switch hit, not be out lbw if the ball pitches outside the leg stump and would go on to hit the stumps?

On the other hand, my father has a different view on the lbw rule. In an article, 'Abolish the LBW' (can be found on the internet) he argues that declaring a batsman out is like awarding capital punishment. Hence he argues that such a decision should be based on fact and not opinion. Since in an lbw decision since the ball still has some distance to go to hit the stumps, any decision will be speculative. Hence, he argues that instead the lbw rule should be replaced with a 10 run penalty every time the ball hits a part of the batsman's body.

What do you guys think?

Posted by giri on (February 19, 2013, 13:46 GMT)

ha ha ha . "Pitch any where from leg side hitting stumps - Out " . He he he, Such a rule change make it a different game not cricket. Whats the big deal ?? What changes ?? Fast bowlers , leg spinners everyone will come around the wicket and target the leg stump from pitching the ball in may be from 6th leg stump every ball. This will take away shots like leg glance,flick,sweep ( almost all leg side shorts )as this involves risk of getting out.It will make cover drive,square cuts etc impossible as the ball will never be there to be hit in such areas. Even kids who play cricket in street will know the limitations of such rule.Wonder how such blogs get published

Posted by Aditya on (February 19, 2013, 13:17 GMT)

Hitting batsman's legs is infinitely more easy when the ball is pitched outside the leg-stump's line, because: 1) Batsman's eyes are never aligned with the line of the ball when ball comes from that angle. 2) Rough created outside leg stump will make it even more easier for spinners to spin from outside leg stump and hit batsman's pads.

This means that bowlers will almost exclusively bowl a negative line - since it saves runs and would fetch wickets way more easily. That would make for very bad cricket.

It seems that it is fashionable these days to come up with ideas that favour the bowler - no matter what the repercussions. And this particular idea is so bad that it can single-handedly destroy the game's beauty.

Manjrekar suggested some changes in his latest column. And all of them are eminently sensible and worth implementing (and would favor the bowlers).

Posted by AB on (February 19, 2013, 11:05 GMT)

In principle, I agree. Your argument is completely sound. However its simply too big a change to make in one go, the entirety of modern batting technique is built around certain assumptions about the lbw law.

Posted by Waseem F Ahmed on (February 19, 2013, 11:02 GMT)

I am a bowler and I have always felt that the leg side rule is very unfair. First of all, who made up the notion that anything on the pads is a negative line? Surely it mustve been a batsman. What is "Negative" about it? I cant think of anything. I often want to bown into the legs from round the wicket but people tell me its negative? Negative to whom or what? I dont get it at all.

Posted by Umps on (February 19, 2013, 10:14 GMT)

I agree with loosening the outside off rule. I was umpiring a game on Sunday - in the first over the bowler pitched a ball about a foot outside off stump, and it took the middle stump out. Over the next couple of overs the bowler bowled the identical ball a couple more times, but both were not out because they hit pads just outside off. It just seems silly when you see that. The batsman was completely beaten and would have been bowled apart from the pad. Actually, I might also have no problem with LBWs pitching outside leg so long as the ball pitched within the 'protected area' line. - this could solve the negative bowling problem.

Posted by Victor K on (February 19, 2013, 10:14 GMT)

What a stupid article.

I assume the author has never played cricket apart from park or gully cricket.

The leg-stump rule is there because batsmen have a blind spot on the leg side behind the pads. If this rule came into effect, every outswing bowler in the country would be going round the wicket, starting the ball 18 inches down the legside and bringing it back to hit middle and leg - with a 4-5 or 3-6 field. Never mind the effect on spinners too! You'd essentially turn cricket into a slow-scoring, attritional, leg-side game - which is the opposite of what makes for good cricket.

Posted by Rakshit on (February 19, 2013, 7:18 GMT)

There are 2 things.. ball pitching outside of leg stump and batsman being struck outside the off stump while attempting a shot. 2nd point in the law should be changed. If ball is going to hit the stumps and batsman is outside of off stump should not matter. But to be given out when ball is pitching outside leg stump will encourage negative bowling. if we want to do that then few other rules should be changed as well like.. maximum 4 fielders allowed in leg side etc..

Posted by Austin on (February 19, 2013, 6:36 GMT)

The law of LBW is fine just as it is. The purpose of the rule is to discourage batsmen from using their pads and that is exactly what it is doing.

The rules for its application are meant for consistency in decision making and to help create absolute certainty that the ball was going on to hit the stumps. It is similar to how criminal law works. You do not put a man in prison unless there is absolutely no doubt that he committed a crime. Similarly a batsman ought not to be given out if the prerequisites of LBW are not satisfied, ie pitching and hitting in line and going on to hit. Grace for those offering a shot is reasonable. And as earlier comments have said, ruling out balls pitching outside leg prevents bowlers from bowling unfairly.

Changing LBW is unnecessary and too complicated. It will be a big mess!!!

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