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

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

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • dummy4fb 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

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • dummy4fb 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.