December 22, 2012

Go back to the back foot

That'll reduce the number of illegal deliveries bowled, improve over rates, and give umpires more time to spend on the important decisions

In 1962 the no-ball law was changed to a front-foot one from one that previously used the back foot as the guide. This was the administrators' answer to the perceived problem of dragging, where bowlers occasionally delivered the ball with their front foot in advance of the batting crease while still adhering to the back-foot regulations.

Prior to the law change, in 529 Tests there had only been 15 instances of 20 or more no-balls (not scored off) bowled in a match. There have been more than 1500 Test matches since that momentous change and no less than 803 instances where the no-ball count has reached that same level.

A company would be delighted with such a percentage increase in sales, but all that cricket administrators have done is diminish the game.

The front-foot no-ball law has added considerably to the number of illegal deliveries without ever looking like eradicating the problem. Apart from the fact that they should never have adopted the front-foot law with all the evidence and expert opinion opposing it, the administrators have shown little inclination to revert to the eminently more sensible back-foot adjudication.

By going back to the back-foot no-ball law, there would be a number of positive side effects on the game.

The number of illegal deliveries would be significantly reduced, but when one is delivered it would actually amount to a penalty against the fielding side. The extra time presented to a batsman by an earlier no-ball call, would result in some big hits - which would excite the fans and act as a deterrent to bowlers. The reduction in the number of no-balls would also improve over rates and hopefully eradicate overtime, which is a tedious blight on the game in addition to being a sore point with television networks.

The front-foot law detracts from the time the umpire has to focus on the striker's end for a possible decision. A return to the back-foot law would allow umpires more time to focus on the decision-making process, which should bring improved results.

Because of the awkward angle from which the umpire views the bowler's front foot, the current law creates no-balls. With the advent of increased television scrutiny the umpires are also forced to watch the front line closely, which must surely decrease the time left for focusing on the business end when fast bowlers are operating. All this scrutiny for a bowler overstepping by a few millimetres, which is generally the case, has virtually no effect on the delivery at the batsman's end.

If a back-foot no-ball law were adopted, television would have little reason to focus on the front-foot placement. The side-on run-out cameras could then be used to monitor footage and ensure that draggers aren't gaining a foothold in the game, thus eradicating the only objection I've heard to the reintroduction of the back-foot no-ball law.

However, please don't hang by the neck waiting for this law change to occur.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 25, 2012, 8:16 GMT

    But that brings dragging back in to the equation.

  • Dummy4 on December 24, 2012, 3:04 GMT

    This is a law to which I have not paid much attention, but it appears to strike a nerve with many. As a relatively impartial observer, I think that the purpose of the rule is to ensure that all deliveries are made from the same distance from the batsman - with some percentage tolerance either way. The back foot version leaves greater leeway from bowler to bowler depending on the bowler

  • Dummy4 on December 24, 2012, 1:24 GMT

    you don't have to change the rules again because a few fools don't understand they have keep a portion of their truck tray behind the line!!!!they have been practising this for their whole lives and come match day they still overstep!!!it's simple .... don't overstep or you'll be called.

  • Cricket on December 24, 2012, 0:42 GMT

    @Stuart Davy To refer to the rules of cricket laws whatever its origin is pompous and the term implies it has backing of the legislature and judiciary which clearly it doesn't. Lord Hawkes's seems to have a Utopian view of the world where rules are broken but change the name to laws and cricketers won't break them.

    By straining to gain a perceived advantge of a fraction of a millimetre and thereby overstepping is easily remedied by the bowler - make sure the front foot lands on or behind the line. I don't think there are any cricketing 'laws' that refer to bowlers owing the crease so that would merely be a commentator's opinion rather than a bowler's right.

  • mike on December 23, 2012, 23:17 GMT

    It will be well worth it if channel 9 loses broadcasting rights to cricket so as to never hear Chappelli whine abt the damn no ball rule ever again. Easily the most tedious topic in cricket today. And to Alan Thomas. I've checked the no ball stats on the 58/59 series. In matches Rorke played Australia were no balled more often than England. Overall the no ball stats were negligible for the whole series, numbering fewer than 20 from both sides over 5 tests. Looks like Eng didn't get a raw deal after all eh? You'll have to find another excuse as to why your "team of the century" got blotted 4 nil.

  • vasisht on December 23, 2012, 19:00 GMT

    @wellrounded87-bowlers have to actually concentrate more on their bowling than landing their foot.And bowling is more of an art like any sport rather than a mechanical body action.In an art,people get carried away with their spontaneity. Its not always a bowler predetermines every action of his and tries to get it right.For example,trying to bowl in a crunch situation,there is an automatic increase in the adrenalin and effort which may make the bowler still land his back foot in the same area but his front foot might drag to much more length than it was during normal situations.Hence,we need to encourage the free flowing art and not restrict them.It is one of the reason I feel there is a lot of sense in the back foot rule.Having bowled fast bowling myself,I think that till the bowler lands his back foot,the whole process can afford the mechanical approach.But to be a good bowler and produce a good ball,one need to allow the natural instinct to flourish.

  • Dummy4 on December 23, 2012, 13:23 GMT

    It would also encourage a side-on bowling action

  • Jonathan on December 23, 2012, 13:20 GMT

    What bowlers actually need to learn is to keep their foot behind the line *in the nets* as well as on the pitch.

  • Dummy4 on December 23, 2012, 11:59 GMT

    The Gordon Rorke fiasco in 1958-59 was not a failure of the back foot no-ball rule, it was more of a case of the umpires not doing their job. The back foot no-ball rule required the bowler to have his back foot behind the bowling crease line when he bowled, of course this meant that some taller bowlers could stretch their front foot up to twelve inches beyond the popping crease (gaining an unfair advantage) but this was allowed by the rule.

    On the other hand Gordon Rorke frequently had his BACK foot several inches over the POPPING crease when he let the ball go which meant that his front foot was around a quarter of the way up the pitch. Now that is clearly a no ball, yet the Australian umpires in that series were not no balling him. Yet the same umpires were no-balling Trueman and Statham who were metronomical in their run up and delivery and were hardly ever no balled before or since.

    The question is, can umpires be that incompetent?

  • Dummy4 on December 23, 2012, 8:18 GMT

    Sorry, it'sthewayyouplay, but you're incorrect there. Lord Hawke was the first to describe cricket's 'rules' as laws on the ground that rules are made to be broken whereas laws are not. The manual for the 'rules' of cricket as issued by Lord's are titled 'The Laws of Cricket'. Chappell referring to Laws is quite correct.

    As to the no ball law, I disagree. There may not have been many no-balls in the day, but I've seen lots of old footage, and with the back foot rule, with the drag, bowlers where delivering the ball a foot beyond the batting crease, which is why the law was changed in the first place. I agree with one commentator, I can't recall whom, that the bowler should 'own' the batting crease so it should only be a no ball if the foot is beyond the front of the crease, rather than the behind. That is, if the bowlers foot lands on the line, it is a legal delivery.

    As you see, itsthewayyouplay, a legal delivery. Legal to the Laws of Cricket, that is.

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