January 14, 2013

No free hits

Allowing a batsman to play a legitimate delivery without the fear of losing his wicket goes against the fundamentals of cricket

The free-hit rule in limited-overs cricket, where a batsman is allowed a free pass following a front-foot no-ball, goes against the fundamentals of the game, which is that the bowler has the right to take a wicket off a legitimate delivery and that the batsman must fear losing his wicket off such balls.

The basic premise of cricket is that an error has consequences, but as a batsman if you make a mistake on a free hit, you will escape punishment.

The no-ball law penalises the bowler for missing the popping crease, even by a tiny amount, by calling the delivery illegitimate and in turn depriving the bowler the chance of getting a wicket. As long as that's acceptable, allowing a free hit to the batsman off the following delivery is unfair.

We don't crack down on batsmen for inside edges or for missing the ball completely, unless, of course, that leads them to legitimately lose their wicket, so why punish bowlers?

Let's not make the game more skewed towards batsmen than it already is.

Cricket is at its best when there's balance between bat and ball. Changing this rule will bring back some parity on the pitch.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sarfin on January 16, 2013, 12:19 GMT

    Agreed. If you over step, the ball is not counted and you are penalized. That's enough and fair. Why punish twice for one mistake? If you allow free hit, then cancel any run scored from a miss-hit.

  • Arun on January 15, 2013, 16:56 GMT

    @sweetspot: The purpose of the no-ball rule isn't to enable the batsman to take advantage of an illegal delivery (any more than he would a legal one), so that's a specious argument. The no-ball rule is intended to prevent a bowler from dismissing a batsman using unfair methods such as overstepping, chucking, changing the point of delivery (over vs. round the wkt). Having immunity from dismissal off a no-ball is punishment enough for the bowler. There's no need for a run penalty for a 1mm overstepping of the crease. That rule is already harsh as it is. Free hits just rub it in even more.

  • Sridhar on January 15, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    Not just the FREE-HIT, there are many such rules that are blatantly skewed to favor the batsmen. Just take a look at some of the 'greats' - and their batting records sorted by scoring patterns during 'power-plays' and outside them. It will be glaring how the artificial fielding restrictions have helped some of them amass the runs they did. Similarly, most batsmen go scot-free playing from outside the batting crease, while bowlers' infringement causes double-jeopardy (as discussed by Akash Chopra here)!! Finally, they even tried to bring in the ropes by more than 5 meters, so that silly hoicks can become huge sixers!!! It has ceased to be CRICKET long back; it is now only a stage-managed circus to cater to entertainment-starved yelling crowds.

  • n on January 15, 2013, 5:07 GMT

    Being somewhat a cricket purist, I didn't like the "free hit" rule in the beginning. As long a sit remains in the shorter formats, I don't really have a problem with it. However, Aakash is right about cricket being a batter's game. Once it becomes equally in favour of bowlers, not only will games become quicker, there will be more frequent action and results.

  • Harvey on January 15, 2013, 1:49 GMT

    There is no rule to say that the bowler must have his foot nearly over the crease on all deliveries. They can easily go a foot back and make no difference at all to their delivery. There is no excuse for a no ball

  • Dummy4 on January 15, 2013, 0:53 GMT

    Could not agreed more here. It takes down hardly to run in , run good and land the ball on those prescribed areas, especially when the batsman stands with the best protective gear available. Yet, a small lapse of concentration or a foible in arriving at the crease takes the ball round the fence for a walk. I'm not against to the mini format, but, it changed the attitude of all. Respect bowlers, respect the rules. After all, cricket is not all of batting.

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2013, 22:41 GMT

    To make the game even: 1. Batsman edging the bowl should give a catch to a fielder on the next ball. 2. Batsman coming out of crease to hit the ball, if misses, should leave the crease the next ball too. 3. Batsman missing the ball should leave stumps wide open to the bowler on the next ball. Hahaha

  • Dummy4 on January 14, 2013, 19:56 GMT

    its a penalty for bowling a no Ball, and to be fair to batsman, they cant really get the benefit of No ball because being front foot call, there is less time for them to react , even if they can hear it in all the noise, especially if they are facing 140+ kph speed. only benefit was if they play poor shot and get out, then they are saved. so the next ball allows them to get some benefit of the mistake. dont like free hit, dont bowl no ball!! remember, batsman are generally allowed 1 mistake per innings so once in a while, let them get benefit of some one else's mistake too..I am a bowler and i believe this is fine, if I dont want to give free hit, I will not bowl no balls..

  • Amol on January 14, 2013, 19:35 GMT

    I concur!! Allowing a batsman to play a legitimate delivery without the fear of losing his wicket goes against the fundamentals of cricket and it is unfair to bowler.

  • sameer on January 14, 2013, 18:22 GMT

    At the risk of sounding almost crazy (which I still might), a solution might be to neither award extra run for the no-ball nor give a free hit next ball. Since the delivery is deemed "not legal", just call it a dead ball. But that might mean bowlers will take a chance with the front foot endlessly. So, give them three chances in any Limited Overs Game. If they do it a fourth time, they simply cannot bowl their remaining quota of overs. I think that is punishment enough, not just for the bowler, but also the fielding captain and it should motivate more bowlers and the coaching staff to get their act together. But i do agree with those here, who are saying there are bigger things to worry about.

    I really would like to see one cricket ball (Dukes or SG or Kookaburra) and also one ground size fixed. Especially the latter, which specifies a "minimum boundary radius from the center of the playing surface for that individual match". Otherwise some of the current grounds are a joke!!