@Ben_Wisden 3 minute read
A successful DRS review taken by Rajasthan Royals captain Sanju Samson has exposed a loophole in the dead ball law.
His side were deprived of a leg bye in their IPL 2022 clash against Kolkata Knight Riders due to an umpiring error, with Samson reprieved after being erroneously given out lbw. However, RR were denied what would have been a routine single, had the correct decision been awarded to begin with.
The incident came in the 17th over of RR’s innings, bowled by New Zealand quick Tim Southee. Samson, batting on 53 off 46 balls, aimed a swipe at a leg-stump slower ball, but missed, with the ball hitting his pad and rolling away. Samson was given out lbw but reviewed, with ball-tracking technology projecting that the delivery would have passed by the leg-stump, had Samson’s pad not been in the way.
With no fielder intercepting the ball, Samson and his batting partner would have been able to complete a leg bye without risk of a run out. But the IPL’s playing conditions put paid to any extras. According to Clause 3.7 of Appendix D of the IPL playing conditions, which deal with DRS, “If following a Player Review request, an original decision of ‘Out’ is changed to ‘Not Out’, then the ball is still deemed to have become dead when the original decision was made. The batting side, while benefiting from the reversal of the dismissal, shall not benefit from any runs that may subsequently have accrued from the delivery had the on-field umpire originally.”
This is despite, if the opposite reversal takes place, the instant of the ball becoming dead changing. “If an original decision of Not out is changed to Out, the ball shall retrospectively be deemed to have become dead from the moment of the dismissal event. All subsequent events, including any runs scored, shall be ignored,” the playing conditions state.
There is also an inconsistency with different types of umpiring mistakes. Say a batter is given wrongly out lbw, with replays revealing an inside edge, but the ball is shown to have travelled directly from the bat via the pad to a fielder, without bouncing. In this instance, the batter will be given out caught, with the ball not considered dead from the moment the ball hit the pad, as it would have been had the batters attempted a single.
The law does make sense on some levels. When a batter is given out, the fielding side’s focus is on celebration, rather than on stopping any potential runs if the decision is overturned. A batter being out and the ball simultaneously being live would be a strange state of affairs.
However, the current state of play is also not ideal, with the same delivery having the potential to return two different results, with the batting side only deprived by an umpiring mistake. Imagine a team needing four to win off the last ball of a World Cup final, the ball finding the rope off the pad, but the runs not counted because an umpire erroneously gave the batter ‘out’. It is beholden on the authorities to find a solution, and one is available.
Should the umpire wait for the ball to be dead by other means before making his decisions throughout the innings, a passage of play could be concluded so that, if an ‘out’ decision is overturned, the runs scored before the ball became dead could still be counted. In the MCC Laws, “the ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the bowler’s end umpire that the fielding side and both batters at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play”. So, in the above instance, the ball would have hit Samson’s pad, KKR would have appealed, but the umpire would refrain from making a decision until any potential runs had been completed. There is also a potential benefit here to the fielding side, with them able to attempt a run out before seeing the result of their lbw appeal.
There are some objections that this is too great an imposition on umpires, who will have to turn away from a lifetime’s habit of giving a decision as soon as it is reached. But in football, the success of assistant referees on not flagging for any offside calls until a passage of play concludes shows that an old official can learn new tricks.
It would only take a tweak to avert a potentially major controversy at some point down the line, and if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no playing condition too obscure to affect a landmark cricket match.