May 5, 2013

Don't penalise fielders for touching the rope

If the ball doesn't touch the rope, it shouldn't be a four
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Consider this. A batsman sends the ball hurtling towards the boundary but a fielder comes sliding across the turf and pulls it in just in time. Since the on-field umpire is 60-odd metres away from the action, he calls the third umpire to investigate if it's a four or not. The replays show the fielder managed to keep the ball in but his toe grazed the skirting while he was in contact with the ball. The umpire signals a four because, according to the current law, the circuit is complete - the ball is touching the fielder, the fielder is touching the rope - though the ball itself hasn't actually touched the boundary.

How often does this happen? In almost every other match, these days.

According to the current law, a boundary is scored if (i) the ball either touches the rope or is grounded after the boundary, or (ii) the fielder, while in contact with the ball, touches the boundary or has some part of his person grounded beyond the rope.

When the ball is hit along the ground, it is the second point above that is unfair to the fielder, and like most laws, indirectly benefits the batsman. If the ball has not physically touched the boundary, why award the batsman extra runs? Why not let the fielder take measurable credit for the effort?

For someone who is risking injury, the demands on a fielder in this case are harsh and too many - he is expected to be a bodysurfer and a limbo dancer while also being a cricketer. When he slides on one leg, he has to keep an eye on the ball and his extended leg; when he dives headlong, one side of his body becomes a potential contact. It is hard enough to intercept a speeding ball, but worrying about contacts within a fraction of a second adds another level of difficulty. (On the other hand, a fielder is restricted to breaking the stumps with only his hands - not the whole body - to run out a batsman. Talk of the game favouring the batsman.)

The same logic can be extended to catches taken at the boundary. If a fielder's foot (or feet) brushes the inside of the boundary and is not well over the line, it's still a well-judged catch. So why penalise him?

In international cricket these days, a foam-triangle-encased rope with a paint marking underneath is standard as a boundary marker. The cameras spot the ball's position relative to the boundary better than ever before. Why not just focus on the ball rather than the fielder's errant limbs? The tweak to the law can make the third umpire's life easier too and save the time wasted in checking each camera angle and frame.

In the modern game, boundaries get pulled in - sometimes by a few yards - to favour batsmen. How about yielding an inch for fielders?

Devashish Fuloria is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on May 7, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    Its these conditions that make fielders so special.. they got to watch the ball, dive for the ball, keep looking at the boundary, keep an account of his legs not touching the rope and all these things make us think how crucial and difficult an ART fielding is.. that's what makes a brilliant fielding effort seem "brilliant"... Talk about balancing the game in favour of bowlers and fielders, then we got to change from smaller boundaries to longer ones, dead pithches to turning or bouncy (sportive n aiding wickets) rather than twisting and turning the rules. we can't say "make fielding also easy" as "batting has become easy".... Its only as long as the element of difficulty exists that the game will remain special. So lets hope for other ways like bigger boundaries and aiding wickets to make the game more interesting rather than making it easier..

  • on May 5, 2013, 2:54 GMT

    couldnt agree more. i think the fielder needs some leeway. but along with this comes the case of rope being displaced from position when the fielder comes in contact with it. which i am sure can be addressed with a painted ground under the rope.

    the proposal is already in place in Australia, although in an alternate way. vertical advertising boards about 2' in height are situated exactly where the conventional ropes are, and the fielder IS allowed to make contact with the ball and the board at the same time and keep the ball in play.

  • on May 7, 2013, 1:57 GMT

    @Wealwayslosethecricket/others: Read/Comprehend/Comment. If in doubt, Read again. Author is talking about fielder touching the inside of the boundary.

  • Raja.Khurram on May 6, 2013, 23:50 GMT

    One we were watching a match, and fielder touched the rope while the ball was inside boundary. My uncle made a remark that "Is this a boundary via conduction!?"

    Means, just like electricity passes via conduction, the boundary was also given via conduction. This is indeed absurd and should be discarded. A boundary should be given ONLY if ball lands outside the boundary.

  • on May 6, 2013, 12:45 GMT

    no i nt agree it will only create confusion so its simple like if it touch any part of ur body it shud b four or six

  • on May 6, 2013, 11:45 GMT

    This guy wants to make another unecessary change to the game. The law is simple and uncomplicated; leave the game alone!

  • Wealwayslosethecricket on May 6, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    There's nothing at all wrong with the current rule. There's no need to give the advantage to the fielder as long as the current rule is consistent. Besides, what would happen if a fielder takes a catch while standing over the boundary? Technically, the ball isn't grounded over the boundary, and if this law were implemented, the fielder could even take a catch standing in the crowd and it might still be legitimate.

  • BRUTALANALYST on May 6, 2013, 10:51 GMT

    No this is what makes boundary fielding exciting watching fielder also have to navigate the rope this is ridiculous idea.

  • sanman12 on May 6, 2013, 10:05 GMT

    The fierld of play is the field of play. If boths sides are playing by the same rules what seems the problem. When i fielder slides agains the ropes he moves the ropes what happens then how does one establish the previous boundry before it was moved by his or her body. It would be very contentious when that happens.

  • EdGreen on May 6, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Silly idea - soccer has got its knickers in a twist over off-side - and rugby union has too - the game and its player need simple rules that all understand and this is one.

  • on May 7, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    Its these conditions that make fielders so special.. they got to watch the ball, dive for the ball, keep looking at the boundary, keep an account of his legs not touching the rope and all these things make us think how crucial and difficult an ART fielding is.. that's what makes a brilliant fielding effort seem "brilliant"... Talk about balancing the game in favour of bowlers and fielders, then we got to change from smaller boundaries to longer ones, dead pithches to turning or bouncy (sportive n aiding wickets) rather than twisting and turning the rules. we can't say "make fielding also easy" as "batting has become easy".... Its only as long as the element of difficulty exists that the game will remain special. So lets hope for other ways like bigger boundaries and aiding wickets to make the game more interesting rather than making it easier..

  • on May 5, 2013, 2:54 GMT

    couldnt agree more. i think the fielder needs some leeway. but along with this comes the case of rope being displaced from position when the fielder comes in contact with it. which i am sure can be addressed with a painted ground under the rope.

    the proposal is already in place in Australia, although in an alternate way. vertical advertising boards about 2' in height are situated exactly where the conventional ropes are, and the fielder IS allowed to make contact with the ball and the board at the same time and keep the ball in play.

  • on May 7, 2013, 1:57 GMT

    @Wealwayslosethecricket/others: Read/Comprehend/Comment. If in doubt, Read again. Author is talking about fielder touching the inside of the boundary.

  • Raja.Khurram on May 6, 2013, 23:50 GMT

    One we were watching a match, and fielder touched the rope while the ball was inside boundary. My uncle made a remark that "Is this a boundary via conduction!?"

    Means, just like electricity passes via conduction, the boundary was also given via conduction. This is indeed absurd and should be discarded. A boundary should be given ONLY if ball lands outside the boundary.

  • on May 6, 2013, 12:45 GMT

    no i nt agree it will only create confusion so its simple like if it touch any part of ur body it shud b four or six

  • on May 6, 2013, 11:45 GMT

    This guy wants to make another unecessary change to the game. The law is simple and uncomplicated; leave the game alone!

  • Wealwayslosethecricket on May 6, 2013, 11:25 GMT

    There's nothing at all wrong with the current rule. There's no need to give the advantage to the fielder as long as the current rule is consistent. Besides, what would happen if a fielder takes a catch while standing over the boundary? Technically, the ball isn't grounded over the boundary, and if this law were implemented, the fielder could even take a catch standing in the crowd and it might still be legitimate.

  • BRUTALANALYST on May 6, 2013, 10:51 GMT

    No this is what makes boundary fielding exciting watching fielder also have to navigate the rope this is ridiculous idea.

  • sanman12 on May 6, 2013, 10:05 GMT

    The fierld of play is the field of play. If boths sides are playing by the same rules what seems the problem. When i fielder slides agains the ropes he moves the ropes what happens then how does one establish the previous boundry before it was moved by his or her body. It would be very contentious when that happens.

  • EdGreen on May 6, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    Silly idea - soccer has got its knickers in a twist over off-side - and rugby union has too - the game and its player need simple rules that all understand and this is one.

  • on May 6, 2013, 7:46 GMT

    When the boundary was the fence or advertising boards around the ground the ball had to actually go into the ditch/drain or over the fence to be a boundary. It should be similar football/soccer, if the whole ball hasn't touched the boundary marker, rope, cushion, whatever, then it's not a boundary.

  • David_Bofinger on May 6, 2013, 4:50 GMT

    I think the proposed rule would be harder to police by video than the present rule. Imagine a fielder taking a ball, running just outside the field of play while holding the ball inside, it'd be a nightmare for umpires. Whether the boundary moved, or whether there was daylight between boundary and fielder, is an easier test. We could try something hawkeye-like, but its accuracy would probably be poor.

    If you want a more accurate test on the boundary rope, with present rules and no delays, how about wiring the boundary to detect contact? Can't be that hard.

    The present rule often requires the fieldsman to stop the ball, let go, hit the boundary, get up, return to the field of play, pick up the ball and return. There's a lot of skill in that little dance and it's fun to watch. Let's keep it.

    As far as benefit to batsman and bowler, I think a few runs here or there, which after all cancel out, are not a big deal.

  • on May 6, 2013, 4:39 GMT

    Okay, so I'm totally in favor of giving bowlers and fielders some leeway in this era of heavily batsman-friendly rules. But this one was off mark ... by a wide margin! If we go by the same logic as the author, then a fielder should be allowed to claim a catch if he leaps up and catches a ball in mid-air and then the balls pops out as he crashes to ground? For every such catch missed, there is someone who is able to retain control of the ball. Similarly .. for every such boundary conceded, there are fielders who manage to keep it in without touching the rope. Nope. This one stays!

  • Udendra on May 6, 2013, 4:38 GMT

    really can't agree with this. fielders will start stopping the ball, while comfortably standing out of the rope!

  • Ravs1504 on May 6, 2013, 3:36 GMT

    .. i think it will possibly result in misuse of the rule eg.what happens when the fielder changes the position of the rope while fielding...even thought he stopped it but while stopping the rope has gone furhter back from its original position but the ball is now outside the rope if the rope has not been pushed back...

  • on May 6, 2013, 3:26 GMT

    If it ain't broke etc!

    Fine as it is.

  • on May 6, 2013, 0:26 GMT

    As one of the eminent commentator said it rubbish to rushing the line. give 4 if the player dives and stops the ball a minor portion of the ball brushing the line.

    THE BALL HAS NOT TOUCHED MEANS IT IS NOT 4. It should be that simple.

  • wgtnpom on May 5, 2013, 22:25 GMT

    riverlime - at lower levels (clubs, schools) the boundary often IS a white line. There is no need for a rule change - if the fielder or the ball touches the line, it's a boundary. A rope has advantages - it can move, so therefore it should be easier to spot if it's been disturbed. Agreed that a white line infringement would be difficult to determine from the centre of the field and a video referral would be useful - but you're unlikely to have that if you can't afford a rope.

    Rugby has a white line and you can't touch it.

  • on May 5, 2013, 21:12 GMT

    The game is more exciting if we keep it the way it is.... "Saving a certain four is an act of athleticism that needs to be rewarded" Sorry no... saving a 4 with your entire body behind the rope except your hands that throws the ball back into play is a FOUR and NOT a great piece of fielding!!!

  • riverlime on May 5, 2013, 20:49 GMT

    It's pretty simple to fix this problem. Just eliminate the need for a rope. After all, it used to be a short fence, that fielders used to sit upon on tiring days, before it was changed to a rope to encourage fielding skills. Now I think it should be changed to a white line, as in ALL OTHER FIELD SPORTS! then, it wouldn't matter if a fielder crossed the line as long as the ball was still in play. this is how it is in football.

  • wgtnpom on May 5, 2013, 20:46 GMT

    No. The fielder's job is to keep both the ball and himself within the field of play, and he can use any part of his body to achieve that. If you allow fielders to go outside the field of play to stop the ball doing so, that is actually an unfair advantage to the fielder. The boundary line belongs to the umpire - just like in rugby where if I score a brilliant try running the entire length of the field but put one toe even on (let alone over) the touch line, I'm in touch and it's no try. This is because I can control the ball with my hands as well as other parts of my body, as long as I don't do a knock on. In this respect cricket is similar to rugby (although in cricket I CAN knock on) but not to soccer where I can't use my hands or arms at all and therefore I have less options for controlling the ball, so to compensate I only have to stop the whole of the ball going over the whole of the line to keep it in play and I can go outside the field of play myself if necessary.

  • KK47 on May 5, 2013, 19:36 GMT

    Flawed idea. If implemented, fielding standards may degrade instead of improving along with making an already complicated game more confusing. At least now, the rule is simple to understand and follow for the umpires, players and importantly spectators. A simple way to aid fielding side would be to allow 2 substitutes who can be called in just for fielding. This way we add another much needed "clear cut" dimension to cricket and a spectator may enjoy the best of all disciplines on display. It adds another tactical edge and also has the capability to attract great athletes to cricket.

  • SivaSurapaneni on May 5, 2013, 18:35 GMT

    I agree and believe saving a certain four is an act of athleticism that needs to be rewarded. However, as somebody pointed out fielder should never be allowed to stand beyond the boundary and umpire can rule it as a boundary if he thinks fielder has deliberately stepped out of the boundary to stop the ball before it touches the boundary rope.

  • on May 5, 2013, 17:46 GMT

    "If the ball doesn't touch the rope, it shouldn't be a four."

    All I'd say is.. The rules and regulations, the amendments in the modern times, all have been favouring the batsmen.

    This is probably the first article I've come across where the need to help the fielders has been raised. Well.. I couldn't have agreed more.

    What I'd like to add to this is, the batsmen are allowed to get the side-screen shifted according to them, so that there isn't any difficulty in viewing the ball. The fielders, due to the direct sun rays, may drop catches. Here again, only the batsmen are benefited.

  • ASKhater on May 5, 2013, 15:14 GMT

    It is a wonderful article. As a bowler I started loosing my passion to cricket due to the tough rules like this. In addition to that I hate leg side wide when it is to close to wickets.

  • on May 5, 2013, 14:28 GMT

    What a an absurd article. Its a good rule that needs no changing whatsoever.

  • Ayesopen on May 5, 2013, 13:04 GMT

    @Tejas Pradhan. So how much of the rope is the fielder able to touch, Just the fielder's side or the whole rope? It seems to me that at some point there has to be a line that can't be crossed & the change the author is suggesting just moves the line from the inside of the rope to the outside.

  • skilebow on May 5, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    Disagree completely. Firstly I think there are many more things we should be worrying about in cricket. Secondly it takes a great deal of skill to keep yourself away from the rope and field the ball, therefore it increases the skill needed to field correctly, thereby increasing the skill of the game and hopefully thereby increasing the enjoyment of the spectators.

  • Chris_Howard on May 5, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    Agreed. It's always the batsman who gets the better deal in many rules.

    e.g. Mankadding shouldn't even be an issue - batsmen aren't shouldn't be allowed to leave the crease at all until the ball is released, and if they do, the umpire should call a "short run".

    In baseball a catch is valid even if it's taken outside the field of play (there's a stunning video of a college kid last year diving over a fence to take a catch).

    So all this carry on about it being unfair is moot. Unfair is when you stretch or break rules - like backing up early when batting. If the rule allowed the fielder to touch the boundary while stopping the ball, then there's nothing unfair about that.

  • passionatecricbug on May 5, 2013, 9:41 GMT

    Think this: if a fielder is standing beyond the boundary ropes and he gets the ball on one-bounce; he collects the ball and throws the ball back. Now the ball has not touched the boundary or anything except the fielder beyond the boundary? In this situation your proposal fails. If you say that your proposal stands only in the case the fielders limbs are touching the inside part of the boundary, then it is going to make the umpire's job more difficult than making it easy. The reason for that is many a times fielder puts a dive and the boundary rope is pushed beyond the underlying marker. Now the umpire has to determine whether fielder's limbs are inside the boundary or over & beyond it. This might be clear cut in many cases but in many others it will be very difficult and in some even impossible. Given the fact that even a single run erroneously awarded to one team can have deciding impact on the outcome of the game, I do not sincerely think we should change the current rules.

  • BobFleming on May 5, 2013, 8:55 GMT

    I'm sorry, but this idea is totally irrational. At present, the laws are at least consistent in as much as any breaking of, or contact beyond, the boundary is four or six. And fundamentally, if the fielder has crossed the rope, they have failed in their attempt... changing this particular law would be a little like saying a goal in football should not count because the goalkeeper got a finger on it. The extra difficulty of controlling the body and the ball is also what makes truly great pieces of fielding really special... a late lift of the trailing leg, or a falling fielder flipping the ball back within bounds. All this alteration would achieve is make life easier for average fielders.

    Oh, and by the by, Law 28 (The Wicket is down), part a. section v. allows a fielder to put down the wicket with any part of the arm holding the ball. Not just the hands.

  • on May 5, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    Well.. the fielder has 60m to stop the ball.. what's the need of an extra cm?

  • regofpicton on May 5, 2013, 7:50 GMT

    This proposal is a poor idea. A clear case of trying to fix a rule that isn't broken, and the effect is to mess up a rule that is currently clear and consistent. If the rope is tpo be part of the field, would staning on the rope or even with one foot outside the rope Ok for taking catches? I hope not.

    There was a brief moment a few months back when a catch taken by someone jumping from a position started outside the rope was officially accepted, but it seems sanity soon prevailed there. I cannot see now anyone wanting to mess the present clear rule on the rope. Good thing too!

  • jackthelad on May 5, 2013, 7:34 GMT

    Where the ball is when it is stopped or caught is what matters; it is, as the article rightly argues, a nonsense when good fielding is penalised because a foot brushes the boundary rope. Bring back proper whitewash lines and the Umpire's decision, if cricket in its short forms is to be considered real cricket.

  • YorkshirePudding on May 5, 2013, 6:09 GMT

    Totally agree with the comments of Vinay Patel (May 5, 2013, 2:52 GMT).

    I would also argue that if this was introduced, then the bat is not an extension of the arm in cases of run outs/stumpings such that the batsmans foot has to be on or over the crease at the point the stumps break to avoid a not being out. It could also then be logically argued that the Glove is nolonger an extension of the bat, thus cannot be out gloved.

    In effect why fix something thats not broken.

  • on May 5, 2013, 4:56 GMT

    To people who are saying that fielders can be placed in the stands because of this... What the author is trying to say is that they are just allowed to touch the rope but not actually go beyond it!!!

  • N.Sundararajan on May 5, 2013, 3:39 GMT

    N. Sundararajan from Chennai : Brilliantly stated ! I cannot agree with you more ! Especially I like your lines " breaking the wicket only with his hands, and not the body "--- and also the line " why not give a few inches to the fielder? "

    Hope the ICC will take note and make it more sensible as suggested by you.

  • VishwaRao on May 5, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    This rule change would create confusion. For instance, fielders would start using the advantage by stopping the ball being well beyond the boundary or having themselves partly inside/outside. Where would you draw a line indicating the fielder was well within the rights to stop it? This is the reason you call it a boundary isnt it? The so-called boundary should remain where it is with or without a fielders intervention.

  • Toescrusher on May 5, 2013, 3:28 GMT

    This article will go long way on repealing the fielding laws.

  • on May 5, 2013, 3:22 GMT

    This means if a fielder goes 2 meters out side the boundary and catches a ball it will still be 'OUT' not a 'SIX'. Or if it is a one bounce shot, it will still not be a boundary!! Baffling!!! The current law is rational!

  • on May 5, 2013, 3:05 GMT

    Very good point, especially when back before the ropes, fielders could lean on fences to take catches.

  • manishwa on May 5, 2013, 2:59 GMT

    Not exactly a well thought out argument. In previous years, Australian grounds didn't have ropes. You could lean on the boundary wall and take a legitimate catch. So why did they change the rules? Simply because if one goes by Mr. Fuloria's suggestions - a fielder can be placed in the midst of crowds - he can take the catch and throw the ball into the ground, or to a fielder within the ground.

  • on May 5, 2013, 2:52 GMT

    ...because the fielder is given the space of the field INSIDE the rope to stop the ball? Because touching the rope means you have gone OUTSIDE the allotted space given for a fielder to do his/her job? Even if the ball isn't itself outside the boundary the fielder is still using space that they aren't given to save runs.

  • on May 5, 2013, 2:52 GMT

    ...because the fielder is given the space of the field INSIDE the rope to stop the ball? Because touching the rope means you have gone OUTSIDE the allotted space given for a fielder to do his/her job? Even if the ball isn't itself outside the boundary the fielder is still using space that they aren't given to save runs.

  • manishwa on May 5, 2013, 2:59 GMT

    Not exactly a well thought out argument. In previous years, Australian grounds didn't have ropes. You could lean on the boundary wall and take a legitimate catch. So why did they change the rules? Simply because if one goes by Mr. Fuloria's suggestions - a fielder can be placed in the midst of crowds - he can take the catch and throw the ball into the ground, or to a fielder within the ground.

  • on May 5, 2013, 3:05 GMT

    Very good point, especially when back before the ropes, fielders could lean on fences to take catches.

  • on May 5, 2013, 3:22 GMT

    This means if a fielder goes 2 meters out side the boundary and catches a ball it will still be 'OUT' not a 'SIX'. Or if it is a one bounce shot, it will still not be a boundary!! Baffling!!! The current law is rational!

  • Toescrusher on May 5, 2013, 3:28 GMT

    This article will go long way on repealing the fielding laws.

  • VishwaRao on May 5, 2013, 3:38 GMT

    This rule change would create confusion. For instance, fielders would start using the advantage by stopping the ball being well beyond the boundary or having themselves partly inside/outside. Where would you draw a line indicating the fielder was well within the rights to stop it? This is the reason you call it a boundary isnt it? The so-called boundary should remain where it is with or without a fielders intervention.

  • N.Sundararajan on May 5, 2013, 3:39 GMT

    N. Sundararajan from Chennai : Brilliantly stated ! I cannot agree with you more ! Especially I like your lines " breaking the wicket only with his hands, and not the body "--- and also the line " why not give a few inches to the fielder? "

    Hope the ICC will take note and make it more sensible as suggested by you.

  • on May 5, 2013, 4:56 GMT

    To people who are saying that fielders can be placed in the stands because of this... What the author is trying to say is that they are just allowed to touch the rope but not actually go beyond it!!!

  • YorkshirePudding on May 5, 2013, 6:09 GMT

    Totally agree with the comments of Vinay Patel (May 5, 2013, 2:52 GMT).

    I would also argue that if this was introduced, then the bat is not an extension of the arm in cases of run outs/stumpings such that the batsmans foot has to be on or over the crease at the point the stumps break to avoid a not being out. It could also then be logically argued that the Glove is nolonger an extension of the bat, thus cannot be out gloved.

    In effect why fix something thats not broken.

  • jackthelad on May 5, 2013, 7:34 GMT

    Where the ball is when it is stopped or caught is what matters; it is, as the article rightly argues, a nonsense when good fielding is penalised because a foot brushes the boundary rope. Bring back proper whitewash lines and the Umpire's decision, if cricket in its short forms is to be considered real cricket.