Cricket regulations that could do with a tweak

No free hits

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

Aakash Chopra

January 14, 2013

Comments: 52 | Text size: A | A

Virender Sehwag was bowled of a free-hit from Lasith Malinga, Sri Lanka v India, tri-series, 3rd ODI, Dambulla, August 16, 2010
No penalty for losing your wicket off a legitimate delivery? © AFP

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

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Posted by SarfBD 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.

Posted by McGorium 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.

Posted by SridharKalyan 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.

Posted by kapsy 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.

Posted by MinusZero 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

Posted by   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.

Posted by   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

Posted by   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..

Posted by pawaramol22 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.

Posted by Sameer-hbk 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!!

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 18:19 GMT)

Could not agree more Aakash ! It is lop-sided. Even from the spectator's point of view it is no fun to watch a batsman scoop a free-hit when you know he can't be out caught in the deep.

Posted by ColourPenguin on (January 14, 2013, 17:32 GMT)

why not give the batting side 3 runs for bowler's front foot no-ball ?

Posted by PPD123 on (January 14, 2013, 16:16 GMT)

We all agree that some of the rules in cricket is their to favour the batsmen, but that is was is dictated by the commercial dynamics. ODI and T20 will only keep its followers if it remains a spectacle. Then there are demands from TV & Satellite folks to have matches that last the distance, as they will have to recover the money that they have invested. People come to watch 4s and 6s being hit. Imagine a match where one team gets rolled over for 125 in 35 overs and then restricts the other team to 110 in 30 overs. While for the purists it would be an excellent match to watch, but for the folks who are shelling out the money it would be a shocker due to lost revenue. Even for the paying spectator in the stadium, majority would like to see and ODI for 99-100 overs and not a result in 60-65 overs. These innovations like the free hit and leg side wides are done to make this shorter versions more entertaining for the paying customer. Thats the reason tests have been left as is. move on...

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 16:11 GMT)

The way the nudges and half-hearted push were going to the boundary in the i Ind- Eng match...i want to go back to old fielding rules.

Posted by StaalBurgher on (January 14, 2013, 15:36 GMT)

This is why T20 and ODIs are and will remain rubbish.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 15:34 GMT)

Coming from a test cricketer, this is a surprise (not to mention so many comments blindly agreeing to it)! While I do agree that the rules are skewed towards bowlers, free-hit rule is certainly not one of them. There's been statistical data showing the reduced number of front-foot no balls since free-hit rule was introduced, and that can only be better for the game. The argument that batsmen are not punished for "inside edges or for missing the ball" - is pretty lame, given that neither are bowlers punished for a long hop fetching a wicket. Besides, a bowler has six legitimate chances to dismiss a batsman, a batsman as only one legitimate stint at the wicket. If you really want parity there are far more pressing issues: dissolve the powerplays, let batsman figure out how to score no matter what the field and don't make the boundaries shorter...

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 15:29 GMT)

The fielding side already suffers a penalties for a no-ball... in that the batting side get a free run, plus any runs scored and a batsman can only be out in a limited number of ways, any one of which very rarely occurs. So why should they suffer a double penalty, in that the batsman gets a free hit and also cannot be out, again except in a limited number of ways..again which hardly, if ever, happens. Going slightly off track.. add to that the fact that a batsman cannot be out LBW to a ball pitching outside leg stump, nor to one pitching and hitting the pad outside off stump if the batsman plays a shot.. it definitely appears that the game is loaded in the batsman's favour.

Posted by tickcric on (January 14, 2013, 15:04 GMT)

To give the 'devil' its due FH has reduced the instances of over stepping considerably. But the serious problem, like you said is that the game is getting disproportionately skewed in favor of the batters. The boundaries are been shortened even as the quality of the bats are improving. As if not content with that the outfields are been deliberately kept as unmanned as possible! All these along with tailor made pitches to favor the batters... Every sport is a contest, contest between teams/ individuals. One great thing about cricket is that it is not just a contest between two teams but also between two very different kinds of skill - batting & bowling. By favouring batters at the cost of the bowlers & hence diminishing the bat-bowl contest actually changes the game for the worse. I for one would actually like to see sporting wickets for T20 games. I want 6's as well as perfume deliveries! T20 needs to be blitzy cricket (batting, bowling or fielding) & not become a video game!

Posted by test_cricket_is_real_cricket on (January 14, 2013, 14:58 GMT)

a better alternative is for the free hit to stay, and remove the 1-run penalty for the no ball... that way it also penalizes the bowler, and gives batsmen time to take advantage of the no-ball... i dont agree with limited overs rules tending to favour batsmen, after all a bowler just needs to bowl 10 good deliveries, while a batsman needs to play 300 deliveries well....

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 13:36 GMT)

No balls are reduced after Free Hit rule.. But I would rather have 2 runs penalty for no ball than a free hit next ball..

Posted by Ibra95 on (January 14, 2013, 13:19 GMT)

Cricket is in favor of the batsmen: wides, no balls, free-hits, etc. Put some rules favoring the bowlers, like if the batsman makes a mistake, penalize him or something like that, give A chance to the bowlers! :)

Posted by TheCricketeer on (January 14, 2013, 12:54 GMT)

Guys, Cricket is now a professional game. TV pays the bills. Free hits are entertaining. That sir, is all I have to say on this matter!

(Well - alomst all - I think the ICC are doing a good job of keeping test cricket free of any gimmicky rules - this is the place for the purist. But you gotta bring i the masses to pay the bills and things like free hits create moments of excitement in the game!)

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 12:45 GMT)

All the comments seem to miss the mark completely. Almost like a front foot no-ball. Akash makes a very good point that quite correctly points to the free-hit ball that is disallowed from fetching a wicket. That free-hit delivery is legitimate hence the bowler should be able to earn his wicket of this legitimate ball. All the comments talk about the actual no-ball delivery. Akash's suggestion applies to the free-hit delivery.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 12:43 GMT)

Agreed Aakash, your views are totally correct. Cricket has always been a cerebral sport. It is not elitist, no matter how much the English tried to make it that. Today, the sport suffers trying to compete for a global share on the basis that it must entertain through big hits, big bashes, etc. So it is dumbed down to cater for the 'masses' by being baised towards the batsmen. But when the measures over-step, it only results in batsmen not being able to withstand the rigours of Test match cricket. As entertaining as T20 cricket is, we must also ensure that it cannot be just about 'home runs', it also has to produce cricketers who can make the step up to test match cricket, as well as introduce fans to the sport so that they also begin to enjoy test match cricket as well. The free hit ruke exposes the incorrect bias in the rules.

Posted by 123cric on (January 14, 2013, 12:02 GMT)

Keep the rules simple. make it a back foot no ball rule that will also give the umpire more time to make correct calls rather than focus on no ball. Rules these days are loaded in favour of batsman.Atleast in Test matches they should not limit the number of bouncers. flat tracks solid bats fast outfelds all these factors make cricket one sided and in favour of batsman.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 12:02 GMT)

I disagree. The batsman doesn't have enough time to gain full potential of a no ball. Free hit should stay. The batsman can get out with a free hit through run out. It also reduces the amount of no balls bowled overall. The excitement during a free hit is such great feeling for spectators in the ground and also the stadium. Especially with display and sound affects on TV and at the ground. This is limited over cricket we are talking about. It's all about those little exiting feelings that make it a great day out or experience watching a match on TV. Keep test cricket at it's purest form, but lets have some fun in limited over cricket.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 11:15 GMT)

Some really pathetic rules by ICC. I'd suggest:

(1) Abolish free hit rule (2) Reinstate the 5 fielders outside the circle (3) Two bowlers can bowl 12 overs in an innings (4) 2 bouncers per over rule remains

Really hate to see the game siding only batsmen.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 10:58 GMT)

Akash Chopra has never once impressed me with his writing, so I didn't expect something that I'd agree with from him. To remove free hits is like to shoot the messenger. I believe the fields should be allowed to change because it favours the batsmen disproportionately and the bowler stepping on the line should not be given a no ball because there is little difference between on the line and behind it. But free hits have to stay because batsmen can't properly take advantage of no balls because they hear the call too late.

Posted by visht20 on (January 14, 2013, 10:36 GMT)

There's a good point you've made Aakash. The game is totally in favor of the batsman with so many flat pitches around the world that give absolutely no chance to the bowlers to test the skill of the batsman. The free hit is just like rubbing salt to a wound which the bowler has conceded by bowling a no ball. Another rule i don't understand is when a batsman dives to get into the crease and his bat is grounded before it crosses the line and unfortunately the bat just pops up in the air when the bails were taken off although more than half of his bat is just hovering inside the crease. Isn't it unfair that the batsman could have easily made his ground if he didn't had a bad fall during the dive? I think its a point worth thinking about.

Posted by Faridoon on (January 14, 2013, 10:35 GMT)

Penalizing bowlers is a fair deterrent for not committing the offence again. But it is not necessary that the bowler's penalty should always benefit the batsman in the shape of a freebie.

Why not treat no-balls like beamers. You bowl one you get a warning, you bowl another and you can't bowl any more in the match. This should be the case in limited overs cricket. Maybe tests can allow 3 no-balls in a day. That would surely curb the occurrence of no-balls, which is the intended purpose of penalizing them.

Posted by azzaman333 on (January 14, 2013, 10:12 GMT)

I disagree. Anything that helps reduce the number of no balls is a plus.

Posted by Nerk on (January 14, 2013, 9:44 GMT)

@ Yarms - like the idea, with one minor change. To penalise the batsmen for making a tiny margin of error, the bowler should get a free ball. He gets to bowl at the stumps without the batsman interfering. If the ball hits the stumps, he is out. Put some balance back towards the bowler.

Posted by sandeepkm on (January 14, 2013, 8:47 GMT)

Completely agree with Akash. Typically, no balls are a matter of a small degree of overstepping. The free hit where no one can change the field gives the batsman an inordinate advantage and makes that delivery a farce. Even if the issue is that sine the batsman gets little chance to react during the actual no ball, he should be able to penalize the bowler, I suggest that the way t do it should be a penalty of higher no. of runs (say 2 or 3) for each no ball or by treating the no ball in a manner similar to the beamer with, maybe, a greater degree of tolerance: say 4 no balls in an innings and you cannot bowl for that innings. That will immediately make all bowlers careful.

Posted by ListenToMe on (January 14, 2013, 8:30 GMT)

I do not agree with the right of a bowler or whether the ball is legitimate or not. What we want is the rules should be made to make the game more interesting. In that way what Akash said is correct. Already ODI is a batsman's game. For 10 batsmen, effectively there are 5 bowlers. Most of the ODI wickets are batsmen friendly. So an average batsman can score 30-40 runs easily. The balance, in my opinion should be that a maximum of 250 can be scored by a team losing 10 wickets. If the rules are imposed which can create such a situation, then the game is interesting. Otherwise, it is always boring to see 15-35 overs. The power plays could be made between these overs. The free hit can be changed so that the batsman can get out as usual, but he can get double the runs for what he scores of that ball. So the free hit ball will become a "tempting" ball which can cause the batsman to take risk and there by losing his wicket or get a maximum of 12 runs if he hits a 6.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 8:28 GMT)

and also penalize batsmen for making loose shots and put rule in favour of bowlers

Posted by luckyguy0007 on (January 14, 2013, 8:26 GMT)

Aakash has a point. It seems to be a fundamental flaw. What about penalizing bowler by awarding 4 runs to opposition rather than 1 run. This will enable bowler to take wicket of next legitimate delivery. It will surely take out some fun though as watching free hit is fun...I don't think there should be anything like "batsman to take advantage of the illegal delivery" as some posts mentioned...No ball is bowler's mistake and he should be penalized by awarding runs to opposition...Batsman need to play every ball as if it is legitimate delivery

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 7:27 GMT)

If the bowlers didn't bowl no balls, the rule would be a toothless tiger. If the point of the rule is to reduce the number of no balls, then it is a good rule. It seems to work. The artivle clearly indicates the author's lack of understanding of the rule's purpose. To claim it brings the game out of balance shows a lack of understanding of the very word "balance". As long as the rule is consistent throughout the game there is balance. The exact point of the fulcrum is irrelevant. If this is what you are paid to do, get another job or give your money back. The very fact that there is a limited overs for of the game shifted the balance. The fact that the LBW rule disallows wickets when the ball pitches outside leg stump, disadvantaging leg spinners over off spinners shifts the balance. Who cares as long as both teams understand the rules, they won't wanjt to overstep.

Posted by Yarms on (January 14, 2013, 7:23 GMT)

How about a radical thought. If free hits continue for the sake of the batsman and the viewers.. How about deducting 4 runs for a dropped catch thus peanalising the batsman for a mistake! Could lead to some interesting scenarios in the case of last ball finishes!

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 7:08 GMT)

Nice thought , My suggestion would be to keep the " free hit " on after the no ball but do not consider the one extra run for that same ball.

Posted by ACricketBrain on (January 14, 2013, 6:59 GMT)

Agree with you Aakash that the free hit rule is unfair. The bowler is already penalized one run for the no-ball, the batsman cannot get out on a no-ball, any runs scored count, and the ball is bowled again. Thats deterrent enough for a bowler not to bowl a no-ball. The free hit rule may be fair if the runs scored off the no-ball (an illegitimate delivery) also did not count. The original rule was fine.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 6:50 GMT)

The reason for the rule is pretty simple, Aakash. In most cases, the batsman cannot take advantage of the no-ball call. So, he is given that opportunity off the next ball to take a risk. Makes complete sense.

Posted by DoubleDs on (January 14, 2013, 6:03 GMT)

Sorry, but this is an article?

It's about 12 words!

In any case, the no-ball-free-hit rule is a means to an end. I wonder if it would be difficult to rustle up the stats on the number of no-balls before the free hit rule, and those after.

Aside from being a fearsome deterrent, it is fun for the viewer.

Posted by sony_sr on (January 14, 2013, 5:33 GMT)

Making mistakes is human. But once you understand its a mistake you should try to clear it at the earliest. Free-hit is a ridiculous rule. It needs to be removed as early as possible.

Posted by ygkd on (January 14, 2013, 5:26 GMT)

The silliest bit about it is that the batsman who benefits from the free hit isn't even the one who faced the ball that was called in the first place if it went for 1 or 3, and the laws of probability say that sometimes it will be the first ball that batsman faces! Talk about a gift to get off the mark! I really can't see the point of it.

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 4:19 GMT)

its all bit fun - the rule is same for everyone, so you cannot say it is unfair. Saying the game is biased to batsmen - it is change of times. 20 years ago, 4 runs per over was on par - now it is changed to 5-6 depending on the pitch. end of the day crowd wants to see runs not dot balls. the rules dont dictate the game, only the audience does. I personally prefer, low scoring matches like last Ind-Pak ODI but thats a rarity nowadays and its a different topic. it needs a different skill to bowl when you know you cannot take a wicket and should dry up runs. Also, the bowler has only him(her)self to blame for overstepping as it happened way too often before this rule. All in all, it adds fun to what is a 4 or 7-8 hours game and dont think it should be removed. Create a better pitch and bigger grounds - it is the root cause of bowlers demise.

Posted by Pat_Muld on (January 14, 2013, 3:12 GMT)

2 things: The first is that if you remember back to the early 2000's over rates in ODI cricket were appallingly slow. In the main, because bowlers were over-stepping more than ever. It was this problem that caused the rule to be introduced. Secondly, any no-ball that is bowled, back in the day, could be punished then and there if the back-foot rule was in place. The batsman had time to hear the call and adjust to slap the ball wherever they pleased. I think reverting to the back-foot rule COULD be a pretty sensible idea. But at the end of the day it's really not that hard tho stay behind a little white line! IS IT!?

Posted by   on (January 14, 2013, 3:01 GMT)

agree with you aakash. The game t20 is and odi these days is batsmen friendly because of countries producing flat tracks to play on and the recent field change law . its completely BS

Posted by Suganth.T on (January 14, 2013, 2:55 GMT)

From where did the thought came. Excellent.

Posted by luks on (January 14, 2013, 2:52 GMT)

Maybe, all bowlers should bowl the free hit ball underarm, like Trevor Chappell, to register their protest at the unfair rule. After all, if I cannot get a batsman out when bowling a particular ball, then why would I want to bowl it with full effort?

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Aakash ChopraClose
Aakash Chopra Aakash Chopra is the 245th Indian to represent India in Test cricket. A batsman in the traditional mould, he played 10 Tests for India in 2003-04, and has played over 120 first-class matches. He currently plays for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy; his book Beyond the Blues was an account of the 2007-08 season. Chopra made a formidable opening combination with Virender Sehwag, which was believed to be one of the reasons for India's success in Australia and Pakistan in 2003-04. He is considered one of the best close-in fielders India has produced after Eknath Solkar.

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