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'Many factors' in over-rate rule saved Dhoni from possible ban

MS Dhoni escaped the trip-wires of the over-rate through the somewhat open-ended ICC rules that depend on "many factors on the ground" and their interpretation

MS Dhoni and Gautam Gambhir have a chat, England v India, 1st Test, Lord's, 4th day, July 24, 2011

Gautam Gambhir would have led India at Trent Bridge if MS Dhoni had been found wanting by the Lord's official scorer  •  AFP

India head into the second Test in Nottingham with much hanging over them: they trail England 0-1, their main strike bowler is battling to return from injury and their batting is looking to get into the groove. The one blessing is that captain MS Dhoni has defied widespread apprehension and cold calculation to escape the trip-wires of the over-rate in Tests through the somewhat open-ended ICC rules that depend on "many factors on the ground" and the interpretation of those factors.
A transgression at Lord's would have been Dhoni's third in a calendar year and would have led to an automatic suspension from the next Test.
At the end of England's innings at Lord's, India were found to be two overs short; that was the calculation of three independent sets of scorers, two of whom were present at the ground. A similar calculation by the official Lord's scorer would have meant Gautam Gambhir captaining the side at Trent Bridge. After the match, Dhoni said that he had been informed by the match referee that India had done well on the over-rate and he was in the clear.
ESPNcricinfo contacted the ICC and asked whether it was possible that the official scorers had taken a particular situation or event into account before arriving at their calculation that had India well within the rate required and if there were unconventional factors other than innings breaks, fall of wickets or inadvertent delays that had been worked into the calculation.
An official spokesperson said that the calculation for over-rates depended on "many factors on the ground on the day and the interpretations of those factors. These are always left in the hands of the match officials as they have a better grasp of the mitigating issues. The calculation is made over the course of both innings and the regulations provide that in calculating the over-rate, allowances must be given for, inter alia, all time lost due to circumstances beyond the control of the fielding team."
When asked whether India had been reminded of their over-rate at any point during the Lord's game, the ICC spokesperson said, "What we can say is that players are regularly reminded of the laws and regulations regarding time wasting and over-rates and they are always requested to be more proactive in improving the pace of play."
An official present at Lord's said that umpires could give due licence to captains depending on local circumstances. At Lord's, for example, new batsmen sometimes take more than two minutes to settle down. "You have to come down a flight of stairs and then walk through the Long Room and past the members into the stands. At times the batsmen take more time to settle down and can delay the play by doing various sorts of things."
The official stated that both teams were on par in terms of over-rates, though India may have been a minute faster, and that the official times varied across all the three Lord's "time-keepers" - the field umpires, the match referee and the official scorers.
The best way to complete the required number of overs, the official said, would require the change between overs to be around 10 seconds, which can save up to 16 minutes in a day. Protracted celebrations of wickets followed by a fielding change after the new batsman had got ready to play also led to more time being wasted.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo; Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor