The cricketing world may have been denied future glimpses of a unique bowling action - the bowler rotating 360 degrees in his run-up, just prior to delivery - after a signal of dead ball from the umpire. The incident occurred on the third day of a CK Nayudu Trophy (four-day domestic tournament for India's Under-23 state teams) match between Bengal and Uttar Pradesh in Kalyani, on the outskirts of Kolkata.
During Bengal's second innings, UP left-arm spinner Shiva Singh - a member of India's victorious team at this year's Under-19 World Cup - jogged in and completed a 360-degree turn before delivering the ball. Umpire Vinod Seshan promptly signalled dead ball, to the bemusement of Shiva and the UP fielders.
ESPNcricinfo understands that the game came to a brief halt as Seshan discussed the incident with his on-field partner Ravi Shankar before telling Shiva and UP captain Shivam Chaudhary that a repeat offence would force the umpires to continue deeming the balls as 'dead'.
Weirdo...!! Have a close look..!! pic.twitter.com/jK6ChzyH2T— Bishan Bedi (@BishanBedi) November 7, 2018
Shiva told ESPNcricinfo that this was not the first time he had bowled in this peculiar manner. He claimed he had tried the 360-degree style against Kerala in the Vijay Hazare Trophy (senior 50-overs tournament) last month, and was not pulled up by the umpires.
Shiva said he felt his action was perfectly fine and that the bowler - like batsmen, who are permitted to switch-hit - should be allowed an element of surprise. "I use different variations in one-dayers and T20s so I thought of doing the same because the Bengal batsmen were developing a partnership," Shiva said. "The umpires said dead ball, so I asked "why are you calling it a dead ball?"
"I delivered this 360-degree ball against Kerala in the Vijay Hazare Trophy as well, where it was fine. Batsman always go for the reverse-sweep or the switch-hit against bowlers. But when bowlers do something like this it's deemed a dead ball."
The comparison, however, is wrong, according to Simon Taufel, the former Elite Panel umpire, who finds a difference in "intent" between a bowler turning 360 degrees in his run-up and a batsman playing the switch-hit. "The intent of the reverse action is different," Taufel told cricketnext. "One is necessary to play the shot, the other is not in order to maintain the same mode of delivery."
Taufel said he agreed with Seshan's interpretation of the incident saying Shiva's action was unfair. "The umpire is entitled to call and signal dead ball under Law 22.214.171.124 (unfair play) or 126.96.36.199 (deliberate attempt to distract/deceive/obstruct). It's up to the umpire but one would have to ask why the bowler did this and have to assume the only reason would be to distract or put the striker off. Doesn't seem right or fair to me. If it is his normal bowling action then maybe a different outcome."
Responding to the situation, the MCC, cricket's law-keepers, said in a statement that it was up to the umpire to interpret the facts at hand: "Unless the 360 degree twirl was part of the bowler's run-up for every ball, the umpire may need to consider whether he/she feels that the twirl was done in an attempt to distract the batsman in some way. This is particularly so if there was no apparent advantage to be gained from the twirl, unlike, for example, the bowler varying the width of the release point or the length of his/her run-up, which are entirely lawful.
"If the batsman is distracted, he/she is entitled to withdraw from his/her stance and, if the umpire feels there has been a deliberate attempt to distract, then the procedure in Law 41.4 will be followed, including the awarding of 5 Penalty runs.
"If the striker has not been distracted, play can continue as normal unless the umpire intervenes and calls Dead ball...
"The umpire in this example felt that Law 41.4 had been breached, but it is not clear from the footage or reports whether or not he awarded 5 Penalty runs to the batting side." ESPNcricinfo understands no penalty runs were awarded.
One of the Bengal batsmen said he had faced Shiva's 360-degree ball in the past as well. "I know Shiva and I've played him before, and he has uncanny ways of distracting the batsman," the Bengal player said. "But I wasn't fazed by it. The umpire did call it a dead ball and he explained to the UP captain and bowler that under MCC's latest laws, if the bowler turns around in that manner, then it's a disturbance or distraction to the batsman. And he told the captain that every time he bowls that ball, it would be deemed a dead ball. The UP captain argued for a few minutes and play continued thereafter.
"Shiva is a spinner who is capable of bowling a bouncer because of his strong left shoulder. He has a couple of different actions - sometimes he doesn't lift his non-bowling arm. Sometimes he walks up to the crease like a zombie, but he's got good control over them. But even when Shiva turned around and bowled, I wasn't aware of the distraction rule and if he bowled more than once, I would be totally cool to face him. But the umpire was clear on his action being a "distraction" to the batsman, so Shiva did not repeat that action."
Shiva's inability to continue with the 360-degree style did not affect the result of the game. UP inflicted an innings win over Bengal in three days, with Shiva taking four wickets in the match.