Kolkata v Pune, IPL 2013, Ranchi May 15, 2013

Did Yusuf Pathan get a fair trial?

He was given out obstructing the field, but there was much more the umpire would have had to consider while making the decision than Yusuf kicking the ball

The interpretation of Law 37, which deals with obstructing the field, by third umpire Vineet Kulkarni probably dealt the killer blow to Kolkata Knight Riders' IPL season. Yusuf Pathan had made his first fifty in three seasons for Knight Riders when he was ruled to have obstructed the field by kicking the ball away and was given out with his side needing 23 off 13. This was a huge decision. Allan Donald, the Pune Warriors coach, said it won his side the game. It was arguably also the moment that extinguished the defending champions' slim hope of making the playoffs.

This was an unusual situation, in that it required the umpire to interpret two laws - Law 37, in Yusuf's case, and before that, Law 42.5, on deliberate distraction or obstruction of the batsman, in Wayne Parnell's case. Assuming that umpire Kulkarni considered the provisions of both laws, he ruled in Parnell's favour on the first occasion and against Yusuf on the second.

Yusuf had pushed a yorker down the pitch and was trying to take a single. In an attempt to get to the ball, Parnell ran across, almost into Yusuf's path. As he approached the batsman, Parnell stuck both his hands out and in the process, touched Yusuf. Was that an attempt to deliberately obstruct Yusuf? Or was it just a reflex action in response to a possible collision? It did affect Yusuf, in that it slowed him down. Did it distract him enough for him to inadvertently kick the ball away?

In Parnell's favour, his eyes were throughout on the ball, and not on the batsman, as he ran across. What the umpire had to decide was whether the outstretching of the hands constituted a deliberate obstruction. We have to assume he decided it wasn't, or else, a dead ball would have been called and Yusuf's case would not have been taken up.

In Yusuf's favour, his eyes did not seem to be on the ball when he kicked it away, something one would usually do when one intends to kick an object. His team-mate Ryan ten Doeschate pointed out the same. "We get into trouble if we comment on any umpiring decision. They seem to make the decision and that is where they draw a line under it," ten Doeschate said. "We are very disappointed by the decision in the change room. The one thing you need to look at is where Yusuf's eyes are. And he is not looking at the ball, which makes it very hard for him to know where the ball exactly is. So if the umpire is saying he has kicked the ball, he has to know where the ball is. All I can say is, we are pretty disappointed with the way he got out."

What could have gone against Yusuf is the manner in which he kicked the ball. You run with straight feet and if the ball happened to roll in his path, it would have meant a straight, involuntary kick. But Yusuf 's foot was angled at the point of impact, like a footballer's is. Now that, standalone, suggests intention. But was it instead an involuntary follow-up to his slowing down, which was a result of Parnell's hand movements? The umpire did not think there was a link.

It is the umpire's call whether obstruction, by batsman or fielder, is deliberate. After assuming that he absolved Parnell on that account, he was within his rights to rule against Yusuf. He probably placed more emphasis on the angle of Yusuf's kick than his eyes not being on the ball, though one cannot conclude that was reasonable proof beyond doubt.

Donald said the umpire got it right. "When you see it from the side, it looked a bit innocuous," Donald said. "When I looked at it on the replay, it was clearly an attempt to nudge the ball away. I think the intent of Yusuf Pathan was to actually kick the ball away and I think that rule is a big lesson for any cricketer when you think that you can either get in the way of the thrower or maybe just get a boot on it, whether it is intentional or not. When I watched it, it was a good decision by the third umpire. It was spot-on, and ultimately, that won us the game, but not clear thinking on his [Yusuf's] part, I reckon."

This is what Parnell tweeted. "Just to clear the air regarding Pathan incident. I didn't give him out, the third umpire did. I play the game hard but I play it fair." One can only assume umpire Kulkarni gave Parnell and Yusuf a fair trial.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 18, 2013, 9:42 GMT

    @harmony111 I saw the incident live too...when you walk or run you lift your foot and do it...you dont drag it...YP was clearly dragging his foot...you dont have to put your eyes on the ball to see where it is you can have a fair judgement of it, if it is in front of you.

  • Prateek on May 17, 2013, 0:47 GMT

    I saw the incident live and numerous replays immediately after the incident. It was obvious that Yusuf kicked the ball intentionally. Not just that he also started to swing his bat seemingly to hit the ball away but stopped the motion midway as it was not needed. Parnell didn't obstruct him. I am sure it just happened instinctively in the desperation to save his wicket but in my mind right decision was reached.

  • Dummy4 on May 16, 2013, 19:39 GMT

    Parnell did not contribute to Yusuf being in his predicament. The contact he had with Yusuf was not enough to impede the run. Yusuf would have made his ground easily, but Das was not running, therefore Yusuf was going to be Run Out.

    It is easy to blame Yusuf, but it was a move born of desperation. I felt for him. He had to do something so he kicked the Ball. That is when Das took the run, when Yusuf removed the threat.

    The Umpires had no choice to find that the batsman kicked the ball to prevent himself from being run out. Law 37 was rightfully applied. Common Sense has to prevail.

  • Tanveer on May 16, 2013, 18:08 GMT

    Decision was bad, both the parties were guilty 3rd umpire made very quick decision in this case, replay also suggested Parnell was guilty first then Yusuf, it was crunch game and important one for KKR, decision should have made considering both Parnell pulling Yusuf tshirt and Yusuf kicking the ball, we would have got fair result after that.

  • Rupesh on May 16, 2013, 17:28 GMT

    To me it does not look deliberate at all. Yusuf was in two minds after seeing that Tiwari is not running. Whether to go back or to keep running. After slowing down he decided to keep going and hit the ball with his first stride after that, when he wasn't looking at the ball. Most people, including Yusuf, don't run with their feet pointed straight forward, they are always at an angle. If it was deliberate, it was extremely well planned (to look forward) and disguised, which seems very unrealistic.

  • Harmon on May 16, 2013, 16:26 GMT

    In the video Parnell's hands are clearly seen to be in contact with YP just before YP kicks the ball away. One might say that in some cases of trying to field the ball avoiding physical contact is impossible. If that is Parnell's defense then why were his hands not moving towards the ball? You must be seen as doing something for X if your defense is X. Why did Parnell not dive to stop the ball? Chronologically, it was Parnell's act of obstruction/distraction that happened first and YP's kick happened after it. If the movement of Parnell's hands towards YP (and not towards the ball) is accidental (even though Parnell knew where the ball was) then surely YP's kick too should be deemed to be accidental since his eyes were not on the ball. Also, Parnell's defense can't be that he did not know where YP was --- there is a huge diff between a ball of 4 oz and a man of 170 lbs.

    Had Parnell's act been called it would have become a dead ball. All in all, a very poor example of umpiring this.

  • Naresh on May 16, 2013, 9:36 GMT

    A DEAD BALL should have been called. It happened so quickly. It takes two players to cause that obstruction. I dont think Pathan wanted to kick the ball - he was more worried about tramping on it and falling. Parnell had also appeared to have obstructed Pathans pathway. So in deciding at a crictical juncture of the game a neutral path should have been chosen.

  • Dummy4 on May 16, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    it was intentional he placed his foot intentionally and gentally, he didnt run over it he pushed it...

  • MASOOD on May 16, 2013, 8:55 GMT

    It all happened in a flash. All of us have to repeatedly see numerous replays number of times to come to a decision. It happened in the HEAT OF THE MOMENT. Yusuf ran, Parnell converged and slightly tugged his T-SHIRT making Yusuf swirl slightly and another point I might add is maybe Yusuf wanted to avoid treading on the ball while running as it might damage/fracture his ankle/leg. Ryan and the other KKR players including fans beleive that Yusuf never saw the ball. In Theory- The decision has cost KKR a chance in the playoffs and a chance to defend their title. Bottomline -PWI stole a victory and they should be thankful that the match was played at Ranchi not at the Eden Gardens or ...:-)