A day after ruling that the controversial run-out of Jos Buttler in the IPL was clean, the MCC, the custodians of the game's laws, has clarified that Kings XI Punjab captain R Ashwin seemingly "paused too long" which was "not within the spirit of cricket."
Buttler was livid at being given run out and not being warned by Ashwin, who later stated that his actions were "instinctive", not deliberate and supported by the laws. In the following interview with ESPNcricinfo, Fraser Stewart, the MCC's cricket academy manager, explains the interpretation of the incident by the lawmakers.
When you saw the Buttler run-out on Monday, did you agree Ashwin was correct in his actions?
It was certainly one that has divided public opinion. We now have had a chance to review it in more detail and we think that Buttler was in his ground as Ashwin got into a position when the non-striker could reasonably have expected the ball to have been delivered. Ashwin seemed to pause to allow Buttler to go out of his ground and then obviously he put the wicket down; Buttler did not really make much of an effort to get back into his ground. It is one where we just felt the pause was just too long and therefore not within the spirit of cricket.
But that is an interpretation, right?
The spirit of cricket is an interpretation. We tried to make it as clear as possible in the law (41.16), but it is not like a run-out call where you have got a very clear in and out. We looked at the footage. We looked the way the ICC interprets the law. We can see why the (TV) umpire made the decision he did. The ICC's Almanack, which gives guidance or interpretations on Laws for the Elite Umpires, talks about the arm reaching its highest point and anytime until the arm reaches the vertical, the run-out can be affected.
These days, many non-strikers are looking at the batsman because the balls are smashed back so hard that they do not want to switch their focus from one thing to another. So Buttler was looking straight down the pitch. Had he been looking at Ashwin he would have probably seen what was going on and would have stayed within his ground.
The key moment was when the ball would normally have been delivered, and we think Buttler was just within his ground at that point. It was only then he carried on with his wander out and the release was delayed then the wicket was put down.
But Ashwin says it was instinctive?
We think on this particular delivery, Buttler was within his ground until the right moment.
The ICC's interpretation of the law defines the point of release as when the arm is at the highest point. Was that case on Monday?
His [Ashwin] arm didn't go up at all. And that's why under their advice, the umpire gave the decision he did. There was no delivery swing. Therefore Buttler left his ground too early. Whereas, if you look at perhaps Ashwin's whole body rather than just the movement of the arm, it gets a bit more difficult. That is the reason the ICC has that interpretation (in the ICC Almanack) because it is easier for the umpires to decipher, rather than judging where the whole body is in the process of delivery.
Ashwin told Buttler that he was only defending his half of the crease. So is he not right?
It's not really about defending any part of the crease. It all depends on when the non-striker leaves the crease. In 2014, when Buttler was run out in similar circumstances, he was way out of the crease. In this particular instance, we think Buttler had not left too early.
Was Buttler in the wrong by straying out of the crease?
He was probably foolish particularly having been out like that before. I have not verified the footage (entire over) of Buttler allegedly drifting out too far a couple of balls earlier. So maybe Ashwin was aware of what he was doing. So the message to non-strikers is, as it has always been, stay in your ground until you know the ball has been released because then none of this will happen. We don't want this form of dismissal, so it is for the non-striker to stay in his ground for long as the law requires. But also, as far as the bowlers are concerned, they cannot unduly pause too long to get the non-striker out of his ground.
The new variation to some of the laws - including law 41.16 - will come into effect from April 1. Yet, the wordings remain virtually the same. Do you agree the wording is vague?
I wouldn't say the law is vague. It is probably more prescriptive now than it has ever been. The game evolves and at MCC, we always keep these things under the microscope and we will always make sure the laws are fit for purpose. If we think the laws can be made better then we can do something about it, but we think the law is robust.
The spirit of cricket is an interpretation. We tried to make it as clear as possible in the law (41.16), but it is not like a run-out call where you have got a very clear in and out
Why not remove expected and make it plain point of release?
Because that was the old law before 2000, when bowlers literally were going right through their action and then carrying on and breaking the stumps behind them, which didn't seem fair.
Are you looking at amending the wording of the laws and aligning it with the ICC playing conditions?
The ICC's Laws and Playing Conditions are now aligned - they weren't between 2011 and 2017. We certainly want a uniform interpretation of this law. Obviously at the international level, matches are televised, but on a Saturday afternoon in club or village cricket, an umpire has got to make his or her decision based just on what he or she sees in a split second. So we need to ensure whatever laws we write are able to be carried out by an umpire without any recourse to technology.
So the ICC Cricket Committee has been okay with the existing version of the law?
This version of the law, referencing the expected moment of release, has been in the ICC Playing Conditions since 2011. In 2000, the MCC changed the law to one where the non-striker is safe to leave once the bowler enters into his delivery stride, which is the landing of the back foot.
The ICC felt non-strikers were getting too much of an advantage. So from 2011 to October 2017, the ICC regulation and the MCC's law were different. Under the laws, it was the back foot, but under the ICC regulation, it was the expected moment of release. Then in October 2017, the MCC changed the law to align it with the ICC Playing Regulations.
On April 1, the law will be tweaked slightly to cater to situations where the wicket is accidentally put down by the bowler, with the ball in hand, while still delivering the ball. In these circumstances, play will continue and it will be a no-ball under law 21.6. If there is an appeal for run-out, however, the umpire would need to adjudicate on that, with the ball becoming dead if the non-striker is dismissed.
Nagraj Gollapudi is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo