Australia v India, CB Series, Sydney February 26, 2012

David Hussey in handling-the-ball incident

David Hussey came close to being given out handling the ball/obstructing the field, but the umpires ruled him not out under laws that remain open to interpretation. The incident led to a three-minute break in play and evoked differing opinions among former players; while Ian Chappell and Tony Greig thought he was out, Ravi Shastri and Sanjay Manjrekar thought he wasn't.

In the 24th over of the Australian innings, Matthew Wade pushed to cover for a single, and Hussey ran towards the danger end. As he approached the striker's end, he stuck his hand out - apparently in self-preservation because the ball could have hit him - and India appealed as soon as the contact was made.

The umpires - Simon Taufel at square leg and Billy Bowden - conferred for about three minutes to arrive at the not-out verdict. This case didn't fall under last year's addition to Law 37, which states a batsman can be given out obstructing the field if he changes his direction while running and comes in the way of a throw. Because Hussey didn't change his direction, this appeal, in all likelihood, fell under either the old obstruction law or the handling the ball rule.

Law 33, which deals with handling the ball, says: "(a) Either batsman is out Handled the ball if he wilfully touches the ball while in play with a hand or hands not holding the bat unless he does so with the consent of a fielder. (b) Either batsman is out under this Law if, while the ball is in play, and without the consent of a fielder, he uses his hand or hands not holding the bat to return the ball to any fielder."

There is a provision, an escape clause in Law 33, though: "Notwithstanding 1(a) above, a batsman will not be out under this Law if he handles the ball to avoid injury."

Law 37, which deals with obstruction, says: "Either batsman is out Obstructing the field if he wilfully obstructs or distracts the fielding side by word or action. Furthermore, it shall be regarded as obstruction if while the ball is in play either batsman wilfully, and without the consent of a fielder, strikes the ball with his bat or person, other than a hand not holding the bat, after the ball has been touched by a fielder. This shall apply whether or not there is any disadvantage to the fielding side."

In all likelihood, based on the evidence so far, Hussey was deemed to be avoiding injury. If the umpires interpreted it that way, the right decision was taken, but it will be interesting to learn how they and the teams viewed it. That the law is open to interpretation confuses things further.

There have been only two instances of batsmen being given out handling the ball in ODI cricket: Mohinder Amarnath, an India selector now, and Daryll Cullinan. Those two, though, were given out when they handled the ball bowled at them, so had Hussey been given out here it would have been a first.

Only three batsmen have been given out obstructing the field in ODIs. Amarnath features on that list too, given out "kicking the ball" with two fielders converging on it, joined by Ramiz Raja, who was trying a second to reach his hundred with a couple off the last ball of an innings, and Inzamam-ul-Haq, who patted back a defensive shot at a throw from mid-off.

Edited by Siddarth Ravindran

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments