Sunday, December 16, 2012

Cricket Umpiring

No balls and Wides

“It ain't that people are ignorant that causes so much trouble; it's just that they know so damned much that just ain't true. - Josh Billings

Applying this to cricket in general and umpiring specifically, proves that many a true word is spoken in jest!

Each Saturday in the LFNCL we have a variety of people umpiring matches. All have different cricketing experiences and (hopefully) some knowledge of the Laws. Some are playing in the match, some are local volunteers. Some are dragooned in to it, some enjoy it, some see it as a necessary evil to be endured. Not surprisingly we sometimes wonder at some of the decisions given.

Two anecdotes from last season may illustrate this. Firstly concerning Law 42.6 Dangerous and Unfair Bowling - Subsection (b) (i) and (ii).

A local cricketer told me about a game he was playing in. The bowler came in to bowl. It was a full toss. It passed the striker above waist height and hit the top of middle stump. (I have seen this before, no matter how unlikely it sounds!)

The umpire at the non-striker's end called a no-ball under Law 42. The game continued - but after the game and in the pub, the players were discussing the situation, because they genuinely were not sure if the correct decision had been reached.

I asked if the bowler was a slow bowler. Under Law 42 the ball must pass the striker over shoulder height if the bowler is a slow one - not over waist high. It was a slow bowler he informed me. Was the decision correct? Not as the situation was described. The batsman should have been given out. This looks like a case of just not knowing the Law.

Those of us who have played and umpired for a long time will remember when the no ball call was made by the square-leg umpire. Not now. It's the umpire at the non-striker's end who makes the call, but wise umpires will look at square leg for an indication of the height of the delivery from their colleague. If the square leg umpire had been consulted in the above case perhaps a better decision might have been reached.

Case two – whilst umpiring a LFNCL match I was behind the stumps at the non-striker's end. The bowler, who happened to be a slow bowler, bowled a legal delivery (not a no ball) but it was very wide of the striker's off stump. The striker moved out to meet the ball. He did not attempt a shot but let the ball pass the stumps where it was taken by the wicket keeper. He then stood staring at me in a perplexed manner. When a run was taken and he found himself at my end he said something like, “Surely that must have been a wide?”

I tried to explain the Law to him, but he was in no mood to listen. Eventually, and after an exchange of emails on the subject, he informed me that the delivery in question would have been called a wide on 90% of Norfolk grounds. I responded that in that case we are in big trouble.

Law 25 Wide Ball 2. Delivery Not a Wide – The umpire shall not adjudge a delivery as being a wide (a) if the striker by moving, either (i) causes the ball to pass wide of him . . . or (ii) brings the ball sufficiently within his reach to be able to hit it by means of a normal cricket stroke.

This is one of the Laws that does make sense! For example, in my scenario above, suppose the batsman had attempted to hit the ball, got an edge and skied it to extra cover? He's out, of course. A ball cannot be a wide if you hit it!

Now, stop and think. Have you ever seen a professional cricketer chase a wide one? Probably not as the risks far outweigh the possible advantages. You cannot get two bites of the same cherry. If you chase the wide one and hit it, you can either score runs or get out. Is the risk worth the possible reward? Your choice, but having made the choice you cannot expect the umpire to ignore the Law and call a wide if you move and bring the ball into play.

Notice that I left out Law 25 1. Judging a Wide. Judging a wide is subjective. When umpires are appointed, it's possible to believe that consistency will be the watch-word. When players are doubling as umpires consistency is a probably a forlorn hope. Get on with the game!

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