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South Africa v England

England mid-innings dressing room signals prompt debate

by Wisden Staff 2 minute read

Dressing room signals intended for England’s players during South Africa’s innings in the final T20I of the series in Cape Town prompted debate as to whether coaching staff should be able to communicate with their players mid-innings.

Images shown by the host broadcaster saw members of England’s backroom staff displaying a combination of letters and numbers from the team balcony during the South Africa innings.

Test Match Special statistician Andy Zaltzman tweeted that he thought that such signals shouldn’t be permitted. “In my opinion, there should be no communication between dressing room/coaching staff and players during play,” wrote Zaltzman. “One of the challenges of cricket is that, as far as possible, captains/players have to solve problems and make decisions unaided.”

In a later tweet, he added: “I’m not saying England did anything against laws/rules/regulations with their signs, but I don’t think it should be allowed. Unless they’re playing an intra-squad chess match and are communicating moves.”

On the other hand, former England captain Michael Atherton saw no problem with the move. Speaking during the interval on Sky Sports Cricket, he explained that England analyst Nathan Leamon used similar tactics in this year’s Pakistan Super League with Multan Sultans.

“They were doing exactly the same then, live signals to the captain Shan Masood,” said Atherton. “He’s a bright kid, knows what he’s about but [they were] just offering him information – he doesn’t have to take it. Sometimes he might, sometimes he might not; Eoin Morgan, exactly the same.

“I’m okay with that. Way back in the World Cup of 1999, [South Africa coach] Bob Woolmer was feeding stuff real time to [South Africa captain] Hansie Cronje in the ear piece. You can say, ‘what’s the difference really?’ Except that earpieces are not allowed or weren’t allowed then, I don’t think that’s changed. There’s nothing to stop signals being sent.

“I think in the PSL they were doing hand signals, here they were obviously doing it slightly differently. There’s a lot going on, though, at the end of a T20 innings. A blizzard of sixes there [the end of the South Africa innings], I’m not sure Eoin Morgan would have been looking too much up to the balcony.”

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