Saturday, January 28, 2012

Run fat boy run!

Taylor limps off retired hurt
Friday, 27 January 2011; morning session, day 2 - only test versus Zimbabwe: New Zealand captain Ross Taylor hobbles off McLean Park, Napier, after a subdued but considered 122 against a Zimbabwe side still looking to qualify for an ICC test ranking.

As a New Zealand cricket supporter, that should be music to your ears, but for Ross Taylor who was walking off lame. Forced to retire hurt with a torn calf, Taylor will miss the rest of the Zimbabwe tour, if not the early stages of South Africa’s visit to our shores. It was also the first time, in New Zealand at least, that the error of the ICC’s decision to implement the no-runner rule came into focus, though in this instance it is unlikely to have a large effect on the final result. 

In essence, no, in actuality, the changes to the runner rule mean that at international level at least, an injured batsman is forced to either hit out or limp off - no runner is allowed so his wicket is lost. In Taylor’s case, he would likely have left the field anyway, but what if he had simply strained his calf as opposed to tearing it? What if Taylor had been on 22 instead of 122, and New Zealand were four or five down for under 100? Would the same indifference to the new rule have been shown then?

Prior to the introduction of the no-runner rule late last year, an injured batsman could call for a runner and continue his innings albeit that the opposing captain had to agree; generally that was little more than a formality. The ICC thought it was being manipulated and abused so changed the rule, yet the same power brokers previously implemented the 15 degree rule so now you have to throw a baseball pitch to be called for chucking! Double standards? An off spinners most deadly delivery is now the one that is delivered with a bent arm and goes the other way – has that not been abused as well?

A case for pinch runners?
There’s plenty of evidence that the runner rule has been exploited for years, but should a change exclude genuine injuries? Our own Jesse Ryder regularly took advantage of the loop holes in the rule, but not once did another captain show any leadership and question the runner’s use. There are numerous other offenders, Arjuna Ranatunga chief amongst them, who faked an injury and got a runner to compensate for their lack of physical prowess and couch potato fitness. Ranatunga would often get a serve from opposition players - I recall Ian Healy giving him a little Aussie mongrel in a spiteful ODI. However, Healy was happy to use a runner a couple of times in his career. Nothing unusual in that, but did David Boon, his physical equivalent, come to the crease? No, Dean Jones appeared in the middle - a thoroughbred replacing a Clydesdale?

The ICC’s decision was forced on them by a captain finally denying a batsman a runner. If such leadership had been shown more regularly, would those stretching the rules have tried so often? Many of the issues were caused by ill-prepared players getting cramps and asserting they needing running help – Andrew Strauss put an end to that.  He refused South Africa’s Graeme Smith, already having scored 100, a runner for cramp in the 2009 Champions Trophy, and more power to him. But as an isolated incident, his decision no doubt forced the ICC’s hand. Would it have caused the same change in the corridors of the ICC if Shakib Al Hasan had refused Brendan Taylor the same opportunity?

Cricket pundits the world over have varied views on the new rule – bowlers generally approve, batsmen not so much. Given how much the game has swayed in the batsmen’s’ favour in the past two decades that’s understandable. Jesse Ryder is not a fan. Given the comments of both John Wright and Ross Taylor his path back to international cricket could be a long one – no side can afford to carry an injury prone batsman anymore. But, does the no-runner rule unfairly disadvantage the batting side? Yes. If Taylor was in the early stages of his innings when the injury occurred and was unable to run, New Zealand have effectively lost his wicket. It also robs the paying public of entertainment; if injured players don’t retire hurt they can often do little else but stand and swing –I can turn on ESPN and watch the MLB if that was what I wanted from sport.

And to address the protestations of the bowling fraternity, no you don’t get a replacement, but in the modern game how many in the stands come to watch you? Bowlers with the genius of Warne, Marshall, Akram and Ambrose have largely disappeared from the game – none but a small minority would bring me, or other spectators, through the gates.

Players will always find loopholes in crickets laws, it's human nature – the 15 degree bowling law illustrates that, but should we penalise those who are legitimately injured? Should we force an injured batsman to retire and his side effectively lose a wicket? If he stays it's hardly a great watch when all he can do is try to bludgeon boundaries without any thought of running (much like T20, which given its current success might be what authorities want!) – that’s not what I want to see at test level. And if none of that resonates with you, surely the mayhem and confusion that ensued when runners were in the middle made the game a more interesting spectacle – comedy on the sporting stage?

1 comment:

  1. Don't get me started on chucking. As a former umpire to a reasonably high level, I was flabbergasted by the ICC's bending of the rules (and the elbow). It is totally outside the spirit of the game, and was nothing more than a sop to the Asian bloc, and a "defective" Sri Lankan in particular.

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