O runner, where art thou?

Following the ICC's ban on runners, we pay tribute to the hardworking breed of men who provided cricket with some of its quirkiest moments

Siddhartha Talya

July 4, 2011

Comments: 37 | Text size: A | A

Ridley Jacobs, Wavell Hinds (Jacobs's runner), Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and Marlon Samuels (Chanderpaul's runner) have a conference, West Indies v Australia, 1st Test, Bourda Oval, Guyana, April 13, 2003
Marlon Samuels, Wavell Hinds, Ridley Jacobs and Shivnarine Chanderpaul do their bit to fuel confusion in 2003 © Getty Images

Forgetful moment, Part I
Opinions are divided about the ban on runners in international cricket, but that the provision was sometimes abused, caused embarrassment, and was a source of comic relief cannot be denied. One such iffy instance was in an ODI between England and Australia at Trent Bridge, where Ian Healy, upon hurting his knee in a tight chase, requested a runner and was granted one by captain David Gower. In came Dean Jones, considered one of the quickest in the Australian team, though he soon found he had a competitor - the man he was running for. Forgetting his injury and that he had help, Healy scrambled back for a couple, almost outpacing Jones at square leg. Gower was not amused and sent Jones back. The drama didn't end there. In a game decided off the final ball, Healy sneaked a bye with two needed and sealed a tie.

Forgetful moment, Part II
The 2010 Twenty20 final between Hampshire and Somerset at the Rose Bowl summed up the chaos the runner rule had the potential to create. Daniel Christian pulled his hamstring while running back for a second off the penultimate ball of the game, and had to call in Jimmy Adams as his runner for the final delivery, with two needed. Christian swung at Zander de Bruyn off the final ball, missed, and stole a leg-bye, sprinting to the other end of the pitch in the heat of the moment, oblivious to the fact that Adams had done the same at square leg. Amid the mess, which included a strong lbw appeal, Somerset simply forgot they could have run Christian out at the wicketkeeper's end since he had left his crease. Though the game was a tie, Hampshire took the title, having lost fewer wickets. "It'll probably haunt me for a few years," said Marcus Trescothick, the Somerset captain, after the game.

No love lost, Part I
There's no love lost between Arjuna Ranatunga and some well-known Australians, and his spat with Healy in an ODI final in Sydney in 1996 marked an acrimonious end to a highly controversial tour. Ranatunga wasn't known to be the fittest cricketer of his time, and when he complained of "cramp", Healy was having none of it. ''You don't get a runner for being an overweight, unfit, fat c***," he was caught saying by the Channel Nine stump microphone. In a recent interview with the Age, Healy said: ''I saw what the physio was doing on his leg - nothing. Then Sanath Jayasuriya was padded up, the fastest man in world cricket, to replace the slowest man. So I blew up. There was no way he was as injured as he was making out. He was nine not out or something, and he said it was cramp.'' Last we heard, the pair had had dinner together in Brisbane.

No love lost, Part II
When Mark Waugh made his debut in 1990-91, it came at the expense of his brother Steve's place in the side. Almost five years later, with both having established themselves in the XI, Mark left his older twin to endure another brief phase of agony. As a runner for last man Craig McDermott, who had strained his back, in the fifth Test in Perth, Mark was expected to assist Steve to stretch Australia's score and complete a thoroughly deserved century, after having braved a tough spell of bowling for his first 50 runs. Things seemed on track, until, in a moment of mindlessness, Mark attempted an improbable single, realised his folly and turned back but was run out at the non-striker's end by Graham Gooch. Steve was stranded on 99, deprived by his younger sibling again.

Creating history
In 1836, Alfred Mynn became the first batsman to score a first-class century using a runner for the entire duration of his innings. The MCC had legalised round-arm bowling in 1835 and the year after, Mynn, facing his pace rival Samuel Redgate, injured his leg so badly that doctors later contemplated amputation. He missed the first day's action for North v South with his leg strapped up, made 21 the next day batting with a runner, fought through on the third with a swollen ankle that kept getting pelted by Redgate, to finish unbeaten on 125, with wild celebrations marking his 100th run. His next first-class appearance was two years later. Mynn's ordeal is said to have led to the introduction of leg guards in cricket.

Overworked runners
The ICC's runner ban is also a means of addressing the disparity between batsmen and bowlers. If you can have someone help you get 228 runs in a game, why wouldn't the bowler complain? In Lancashire's County Championship game against Warwickshire in 1982, Graeme Fowler, having suffered a thigh strain, inflicted a taxing ordeal on two unfortunate team-mates, who helped him score a century in each innings. David Lloyd ran 100 of Fowler's 126 in the first innings, and Ian Folley helped him out with 128 in the second. Folley, in fact, raised his own bat to acknowledge the appreciation for the landmark, to which he could stake an equal claim.

A helping hand
The sweltering Chennai heat took its toll on Saeed Anwar in Pakistan's Independence Cup clash with India there in 1997, and the resulting exhaustion and loss of fluid meant he had to rely on Shahid Afridi while scripting one of the great one-day innings. Anwar called for a runner at the end of the 18th over, but managed to preserve the fluency with which he had begun the innings. His timing remained immaculate, his assault against Anil Kumble in a 24-run over left a packed stadium stunned, and his stamina saw him through to what was then a record for the highest score in ODIs, broken 13 years later by the man who dismissed him in this game: Sachin Tendulkar. Afridi hung around for a while, and while his contribution was significant, Anwar managed 118 runs in boundaries.

England v Australia, 5th npower Ashes Test, The Oval , 23-27 August 2001
The Waugh twins in happier circumstances Paul McGregor / © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Playing on one's mind
That Australia could not get past VVS Laxman even when he was injured is a sign of how much of a nemesis he's been for them. They were on top in India's chase in Mohali last year, just two wickets away from a series lead, but Laxman, who had batted at No. 10 in the first innings due to a sore back, showed great endurance and resolve, hanging in with the tail to clinch a nerve-wracking one-wicket win. Batting with a runner, in a game of fluctuations, he kept his emotions in check, except for one instance. MS Dhoni had been run out after failing to spot Laxman's runner, Suresh Raina, who had almost got Laxman himself run out before the lunch break. When it came down to the last partnership, with decisiveness in calling the need of the hour, Pragyan Ojha, the last man, prevaricated and was at the receiving end of a tongue-lashing from Laxman. It was a rare transgression for Laxman, and one he apologised for, after the match was thrillingly sealed.

And then there were four, Part I
A perfect recipe for disaster, and an umpire's nightmare. One runner is a handful, imagine having two at the same time. It was probably a relief for those on the field, apart from the batsmen, that the partnership lasted only seven runs but Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ridley Jacobs, Marlon Samuels and Wavell Hinds did their bit to infuse some excitement into a losing battle against Australia in Guyana in 2003. Chanderpaul had been struck hard on the knee during his whirlwind century in the first innings, while Jacobs had damaged a groin muscle on the first day. Four batsmen consulting mid-pitch, and the umpires stepping in to decide who stands where, are sights that won't be seen again.

And then there were four, Part II
Another such instance, this time from county cricket and involving the late Bob Woolmer. In a Championship game at Dartford in 1983 between Kent and Middlesex, Woolmer broke his toe during the second half of a century in the first innings, and walked out at No. 11 with a runner in the second innings to set a fighting target. He joined Chris Cowdrey, who also had a runner, but the stand lasted just two runs, "rather to the relief of my colleague, Ken Palmer, and myself", said Don Oslear, the umpire in that game.

"No runners for cramps, full stop"
Andrew Strauss's decision to not allow a runner for Graeme Smith in the Champions Trophy in 2009 may have played a role in prompting the ban. Smith had scored a sparkling century in a big chase, but suffered cramps and duly requested a runner. Strauss, upon discussion with the umpires sent back AB de Villiers, who came in to run for Smith. Runners had been granted to batsmen for cramping in the past, but Strauss argued: "Cramping to a certain extent is a preparation thing. To a certain extent, it's a conditioning thing. I didn't feel that he merited having a runner at that stage." Abuse of the privilege could be one of the reasons for doing away with runners; inconsistency in its use is likely to have played a part as well.

Siddhartha Talya is a sub editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2011, 17:36 GMT)

Good. Runners raise the question- if you're too hurt to run between the wickets, why aren't you too hurt to bat? Imagine Beckham going "i'm too hurt to play... but I can take free kicks."

Posted by aapatankar on (July 5, 2011, 14:52 GMT)

Runners should be allowed. But the fielding captain should be allowed to choose the runner. This could mean the fielding captain is allowed to strategically choose the runner. Consider a fielding captain granting a runner to the batsman, but asking Arjuna Ranatunga or Inzaman to be the runner. Also if Sehwag was the batsman asking for a runner, the fielding captain could ask Tendulkar to be the runner so as to tire him out, etc. Something in there that would give the fielding captain a strategic advantage instead of just granting anyone to be the runner.

Posted by Stos on (July 5, 2011, 13:29 GMT)

I would advocate that, rather than abolishing them, a policy should be put in place dictating that if runners are to be brought on due to injury or something of the sort, each batsman on the pitch, including any without injury, must have one. On paper, this may seem like it helps the batting side, but if it were put into practice it would be more likely to have an opposite effect.

Posted by B.C.G on (July 5, 2011, 9:04 GMT)

What about substitute fielders?When was the last time Sachin fielded for an entire day in test/odi?????

Posted by blackie on (July 5, 2011, 4:07 GMT)

The photo of the four Windies players dressed in full batting gear plus bats made me bust out laughing, Gotta love this game. lol.

Posted by   on (July 5, 2011, 1:38 GMT)

This is a great move by the ICC given the fact that most of the cricketing laws are tilted more towards the batsman...and with the two bouncers rule coming into effect the game will be marginally be balanced out. Though lot has to be done for the plight of the bowlers. Great Move.

Posted by donda on (July 5, 2011, 0:24 GMT)

Cricket is no more Gentleman game, this decision is last nail in the coffin by ICC. Cricket cannot be back to normal any more. Bad luck for batsmen.

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 22:37 GMT)

awesome article. the 'comedy of runners'... was a treat to read. i was not aware of the guyana 2003 incident, when there were 4 WI players in the middle, but the situation must be quite silly.

Posted by Samirl on (July 4, 2011, 20:29 GMT)

It's a sad thing this doing away with runners. One of the last bastions of what used to be the basis of this great game being called a "Gentlemens game". Maybe stricter definitions could have helped avoid abusing this clause. Add to that - the funniest moments in cricketing history were provided by these runners.

Posted by MartinC on (July 4, 2011, 18:44 GMT)

I have to say I think sub fielders need more control than runners for batsmen. They need turnstiles onto the field not gates.

Posted by Charindra on (July 4, 2011, 17:23 GMT)

HAHAHA!!! I can only imagine what would have happened if this ban came into effect during Arjuna's playing days! He would have demonstrated in front of ICC headquarters! Awesome character :D

Posted by Kreacher_Rocks on (July 4, 2011, 16:39 GMT)

It is interesting how some players use a runner as a crutch and some others view them as anathema even for themselves. Players like Dravid have never taken a runner in spite of having spent more minutes at the crease than anyone else in tests (particularly in the subcontinental heat), and Tendulkar has only used a runner twice during his extremely long career - once during the 2003 World Cup match against Pakistan in Sharjah and once more against Pakistan in 2005 in the fourth ODI of Pakistan's visit to India. The first time he got out on immediately the next ball (at 98) and the second time he took the runner only after his century. Ponting I believe has never taken a runner either. Great players are great due to their physical conditioning. SRT also once told Manjarekar that he knows how much he is going to score in a ball before hitting it, so he plans accordingly - this advantage is gone with a runner, which is why he prefers battling cramps rather than using a runner.

Posted by rambo94 on (July 4, 2011, 16:28 GMT)

a superb article....all the info was funny and also worth reading.

Posted by CricEshwar on (July 4, 2011, 16:24 GMT)

No runners altogether is not a wise idea. One will not apply themselves 100% on the field fearing they may not be able to bat. I agree cricketers will be more fitness conscience, but most of the younger cricketers are already aware.

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 16:13 GMT)

The comment about physical fitness in football and hockey is an interesting one as both of those sports allow substitutions, for injuries or any other reasons. Hockey actually allows rolling subs.

Posted by Sarangarajan on (July 4, 2011, 15:56 GMT)

In all types of CRICKET, the winner is decided on the difference of runs.That being the case, to allow a runner for an 'injured' batsman, has been a big puzzle in cricket so long. Leave aside the misuse of this noble provison by all and sundry so long. Basically the exemption to allow a batsman to have a runner run for him to get RUNS which ultimtely decide the winner is a big joke on cricket. If one is injured,one should get off the field.It is atlest now ICC has realised this flaw and corrcted it. It is funny cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar are crying that it is not fair to disallow the runner.He then asks for bowlers drinks to be stopped on the fence! He should have done it when he was in the ICC technical committee.Some arguement

Posted by omeirzahid on (July 4, 2011, 15:49 GMT)

i think Super sub should be introduced back in the game to even things out. Major team sports have sub who replace if someone is injured or is fatigued? it will balance out the game especially if theres an unfortunate incident. Just a food for thought

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 14:25 GMT)

i disagree having runners have made several of histories great heroic events, batting with big injuries to get their respective teams home. also because now an injury = no batting some younger and less sporting players might try to purposefully injure players!

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 12:49 GMT)

I was there repeat...I was there in 2003 when there were those 4 for the WI.....It was chaos..but soooooooooooo funny just wished it had lasted longer.Pity alot of people were not there at de ol' Bourda Cricket Ground WI were on the verge of losing overnight so....

Posted by andrew-schulz on (July 4, 2011, 12:03 GMT)

What about Brad Hodge batting with a runner in a final against Queensland. The runner pulls a muscle, and Hodge gets another runner. That should certainly never have been allowed. Then we go back to 1958/59 where umpire Mel Mcinnes ended up with his back to the runner, so couldn't make a decision. One of the best umpires ever, but he's mainly remembered for that blue.

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 11:53 GMT)

Good article. would you get a runner for a cramp? i don't think so , we need a runner for any major injuries or when a batsman become completely impossible to make his run. but to give a runner to a tired batsman or a fat one, as this article says unacceptable. ICC needs to take some bold action if they want us to enjoy the game.

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 11:02 GMT)

I believe the substitute fielder rule is abused more than the runner one!

Posted by Match_Referee on (July 4, 2011, 10:52 GMT)

In that thrilling match at Mohali, we need to really appreciate Ricky Ponting for allowing Laxman a runner even though Laxman was playing that match already with a bad back. Even he played his earlier match in SL with the runner. Even though, in genaral, I am not a great fan of Ricky Ponting's behaviour, in that incident I really showed a good sporting spirit......

Posted by CricketingStargazer on (July 4, 2011, 10:02 GMT)

philipm3, the problem is that England and Wales are, sadly, increasingly unique in having thriving First Class programmes and steadily increasing attendances (recently I was at The Oval for the final day of a match and was amazedjust how many paying customers there were in the stands for a mid-table CC2 clash). In contrast, First Class and even Test cricket in many countries is now played in front of almost empty stands. It's hard for people in these countries to understand what County cricket means to the average punter. For them, if it isn't international cricket it is irrelevant despite the rich history of the First Class competitions in, say, India, Pakistan and Australia. Of course, the record books are carefully divided into "International:, "All First Class" and "Minor" cricket, but if your horizons stretch no further than T20 and ODIs, you won't even notice that. It's a sign of the times. County cricket "wasn't invented here".

Posted by ssenthil on (July 4, 2011, 9:13 GMT)

No runners for cramps, full stop - Strauss and Nowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww No runners for Injury also, full stop - ICC............... I agree with ICC, when bowlers can't bowl after Injury same treatment should be applied for Batsman also.

Posted by ShAh00 on (July 4, 2011, 8:48 GMT)

I guess, substiture fielders should also be banned. Both substiture runners & fielders out of the game, that leaves us 100% Fit Sportsmen in the ground, making physical fitness, stamina an integral part of the game, same like other sports (Football & Hockey). And to cover that, ICC should think about allowing 1 player replacement in a match, if any injury occurs well within 25 overs or a similar kind of rule. What do you guys suggest ??

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 8:44 GMT)

Well yah runners are banned no problem but there should have instead put a condition for runner. Only external injuries suffered "during" an innings can avail you a runner. In present rules, if a player gets injured during the inning itself, he won't be able to run which maybe unfair. Also, you see nowadays bowlers run to dressing room and relax (like Stuart after bowling a spell which should not be allowed rest and bring substitute on. Substitute should be only for injured players

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 8:37 GMT)

Why not ban the subsitute fielder also. If bastesman is penalised for a muscle pull same rule should be applied for fielding side too.

Posted by philipm3 on (July 4, 2011, 7:51 GMT)

@SpartaArmy. Erm, if you like cricket and are interested in the charm and trivia of the game who cares at what level it occurred? Yes, you aren't interested in county cricket, but many people are. Tell you what, how about Cricinfo continues to draw on all the rich history of the sport and you just skim over anything that doesn't sit within your personal (and limited) scope of interest? That way we don't have to be short changed because you can't see the point in it. Personally, I feel runners are one of the idiosyncratic elements that make cricket unique and fascinating - it's a shame that elements like this are shelved, seemingly because it makes it difficult for administrators to construct a water tight set of rules. I would say who cares if occasionally it disadvantages the bowling side? Surely an injured batsman should be easier to knock over than a fully fit one?

Posted by Sekhar_S on (July 4, 2011, 6:19 GMT)

Bangladesh Independence Cup 1998, India vs Pakistan league match. First 4 pakistan wickets fall in a hurry.In comes Inzamam who scores a 50 but not before cramping up and asking for a runner.A couple of balls later, Inzamam runs oblivious to the presence of a runner and when he tries to ground his bat, he is run out.

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 5:56 GMT)

great decision. many times some of the world records have been made because of this rule. what about putting those records in the second grade as handicaps

Posted by vatsap on (July 4, 2011, 5:43 GMT)

I think there was a test match in India's 85 tour of Australia. Both Gavaskar and Srikkanth had runners for sometime during their long partnership. Think L Siva was one of them.

Posted by jonesy2 on (July 4, 2011, 4:54 GMT)

funny stuff. i think its great that runners are not allowed anymore it was a ridiculous allowance in the first place.

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 4:44 GMT)

That ain't fair to ban runners. Runners are used only in case of physical inability of the batsmen. If a batsman has to leave in case of injury, then the bowlers will focus on injuring the batsmen. This leads only to aggressive play rather the native style of how cricket should be played. They have to reconsider this.

Posted by   on (July 4, 2011, 4:41 GMT)

Time to get rid of substitute fielders as well: Imagine someone like Virat Kohli coming in to substitute a fast bowler like Munaf Patel. With fielding being considered very important in modern game, this should not be allowed.

Posted by SpartaArmy on (July 4, 2011, 4:05 GMT)

Who cares what happened in county matches. It would be better if you limit the statistics to international matches.

Posted by nzcricket174 on (July 4, 2011, 3:46 GMT)

Whenever Jesse Ryder gets his runner out you knew a big score was on the cards.

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