ICC news October 23, 2014

Bowlers' pause can now be deemed unfair

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The next time R Ashwin or Mohammad Hafeez or Suresh Raina pauses in his delivery stride, watch the umpire closely. The ICC has asked match officials to use their discretion to decide if the pause is unfair play under Law 42.2. This is a clarification in the latest, and unpublished, match officials almanac.

It was the same document that allowed Steve Smith's catch of Fawad Alam in an ODI earlier this month. Smith had begun to move from slip towards leg slip even before Alam had had a chance to strike the ball, which under existing playing conditions is considered unfair and significant movement, but is being encouraged by the ICC as the fielders' anticipation.

The ICC has chosen to not publish these clarifications because it believes they are not changes to playing conditions per se, just clarifications for better and more relevant interpretations of the law. Both the fielder movement as a response to switch hits and reverse-sweeps and other premeditations, and the bowlers' pause are developments that have crept into the game without being covered by specific laws and playing conditions, the ICC feels. There is greater autonomy to the on-field umpire in these instances now.

"There is no stopwatch being used to measure the length of the pause," an ICC spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo. "This is one issue where the umpires on the day need to judge what is unfair.

"The pause before delivery has not been specifically outlawed but each incident of this nature will be judged on its merits and will be dealt with under Law 42.2. When the umpires feel that a bowler is deliberately using this tactic unfairly to distract a batsman they can rule dead ball."

There can be an endless debate on what significant and unfair movement is, or what constitutes a significant and long pause, which will only be accentuated by its relying on how the umpire on the day sees it. Moreover the fact that the ICC hasn't publicised these has potential to create controversy, as was evident in Alam's case. The ICC thinks otherwise.

"The Law was designed to prevent a fielder intentionally deceiving a batsman," the ICC said. "It was silent on a fieldsman anticipating where the ball is going based on the movement of a batsman. Cricket did what any other sport would do: prevent a player getting an unfair advantage through deception, but encourage the skill of anticipation and reading the play.

"We have a number of video examples from recent years of a slip fieldsman anticipating where a paddle sweep is going and moving in that direction just before the ball has reached the striker. None of these examples was called dead ball by the umpires on the day when interpreting the same Law, so the 'change' you refer to would have been if we had instructed the umpires to call dead ball in those circumstances.

"The instruction included in the umpire's almanac was a clarification, not a change to what was happening in practice."

There are many, however, who have wondered why the umpires hadn't been doing their job, which was to restrict the fielders' movement behind the batsman's back before the ball had reached him. It hadn't become contentious because there have only been examples of the movement resulting in a wicket on the odd occasion, and that too in domestic cricket.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Keith on October 26, 2014, 22:38 GMT

    I must add to the chorus of criticism. I am a semi-professional umpire in a small cricket league in the northwest USA. Bowlers struggle to maintain themselves just as they do at the professional levels of the sport. They try all sorts of things, including pausing. I have never seen or heard of an instance in our league that sought to restrict these small behaviours. We concentrate on the basics: back foot not cutting the return crease, some part of the front foot behind the popping crease, no throwing. On the other hand, there is no question about fielders in motion: it is simply not on. Fielders stand still once the bowler enters his delivery stride -- end of story. Why the ICC would make an already extremely difficult job that much harder eludes me. I am forced to conclude that the bizarre and possibly corrupt behaviour elsewhere in cricket governance is now seeping into the application of the basic Laws and customs. The sport is definitely and deeply at risk.

  • Dummy4 on October 25, 2014, 23:31 GMT

    The bowler pause is absolutely ridiculous. I've watched Ashwin do it and it is outside the norm in any similar sporting situation: delivering a pitch in baseball, penalty in football, penalty shot in water polo all have to be done with a seamless unbroken motion. I can't see how it should be allowed to be different in cricket. It is OK to vary ones action - even bowl back of the crease (Andre Russell has done that a few times in T20s)

  • Faisal on October 25, 2014, 15:53 GMT

    In that case there should be standards for pitches too. You can't just make pitches that are supportive for batting only and then go out and impose more and more restrictions on bowlers. Its unfair.

  • Vijesh on October 25, 2014, 6:38 GMT

    There seems to be misconception that cricket lovers just want to see fours and sixes which I think is not true. Batsmen tested in swinging/spinning conditions is equally good to see and very entertaining. If cricket is just about scoring runs, they might as well use bowling machines in the middle!

  • Vijesh on October 25, 2014, 6:34 GMT

    Why the rules are always favouring batsmen? bowler pause may be unfair, but its perfect if the batsman tries to upset the bowler by moves right/left, comes down the track, switch hit, etc etc...are there no bowlers in ICC and its committees?

  • Dummy on October 25, 2014, 6:03 GMT

    If the ICC wants to get rid of the bowlers pause, then they should also restrict batsman stepping out before bowl is bowled.

  • Dummy4 on October 25, 2014, 2:52 GMT

    ICC is suppressing bowling and cricket on a whole...an art that has evolved over 100 years is now being told to stop...Beginning to think that FIFA might be better of the 2 evils.

  • Bruce on October 25, 2014, 2:46 GMT

    Just another example of the lack of clear thinking coming out of the ICC. In terms of deception what is the difference between a bowler pausing before delivery and a batsman jumping around the crease like a cat on a hot tin roof before same delivery? Seems whenever players introduce something innovative eg doosra, switch-hit, administrators move to get rid of it. All these innovations require a high level of skill to execute and thus involve an element of risk. It's what makes them exciting and what attracts us fans to the game. Tip for the ICC: If you're serious about making the right decisions for the game get at least one 'true fan' of the game onto each of your many committees and by 'true fan' I mean someone who over the years has forked out ten's of thousands of dollars of their 'hard earned' to play, support and watch the game, not someone who has MADE hundreds of thousands from the game. You will get a better perspective and finally have the game going in the right direction.

  • Dummy4 on October 25, 2014, 1:26 GMT

    Wow and no doubt you dont have great bowlers in abundance like the 90s and early 2000s .ICC has to be the worst sports governing body in the world . Cricket does not mean batting .Unfortunately ICC is making it a batsman friendly game

  • Android on October 25, 2014, 0:59 GMT

    but unfortunately all restrictions are for the bowlers, one cannot understand why? can anyone tell the reason. ....?

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