Fantasy Bob Blog: LBW
Fantasy Bob plays cricket for Edinburgh club Carlton.
His regular Blog can be found by clicking HERE
Fantasy Bob has been following an interesting series on the CricInfo website in which writers are asked to nominate one law to change to make cricket a better game. One recent article has suggested that a batsman should be out LBW if he is hit outside the off stump and the ball would have hit the wicket, even if he is playing a shot. The rationale is good – the bowler has after all beaten the batsman.
For the cricketer such as Fantasy Bob in the lower leagues any simplification of the LBW law should be welcome but would this help? In many lower league matches it would actually be helpful for the captains to agree at the outset of the match whether any part of the LBW law will be considered part of the game for the next 100 overs. Many matches are less enjoyable than they should be because one team seems to think that LBW does not apply whereas the other does.
But where the captains agree that the LBW law should apply it still presents a challenge. For umpires in the lower leagues are representatives of the batting side and the LBW law presents these temporary officials with their greatest challenge.
Would this proposal help? The law as it stands states that a batsman cannot be out if he is hit outside the line of off stump and no stroke is offered and the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps. Since in lower league cricket the concept of a stroke can be somewhat obscure, this can lead to difficulties. And its relevance is frequently overstated.
Possibly the most animated dissent that FB has ever had to endure as an umpire was when he gave not out to a batter who padded up outside off. The bowler was incandescent in his assertion that no stroke had been offered. FB had to agree, but pointed out that the probability of the ball hitting the wicket was zero - or less. Like the previous 30 deliveries the ball bowled was a big away swinger and was well on a trajectory aiming for second slip - not that there was a second slip, but you get the point. For the bowler this counted for nothing against the fact that NO STROKE HAD BEEN OFFERED. FB's view also particularly offended those fielders who thought themselves best placed to make a judgment on the ball's line - point and midwicket. From them the buzz went round the field and persisted for several overs. NO STROKE HAD BEEN OFFERED.
So the law change might have helped there – except that the ball was not going on to hit the stumps. And this is another tricky area. It requires visualisation - an inbuilt Hawkeye able to make 3 million calculations in a nano second. This can be difficult for some part time umpires who have no concept of a straight line, or who have no depth perception or who may struggle to see the other end of the wicket. Sometimes the lower league umpire may not actually be watching the ball – although in FB’s experience that has never prevented them making firm decisions.
But if he watching intently, there is uncertainty over whether the ball will hit. Height is an issue. It is FB’s understanding that the stumps stay the same height throughout the match. Sometimes this escapes the notice of the part time umpire. Many times FB’s own appeals have been dismissed on grounds of height, implying that the stumps had had suddenly become 2 feet shorter than they were when he started his run up.
FB finds excessive appealing tiresome. In another incident that provoked a gentlemanly exchange of views on the field, FB denied a bowler the umpteenth appeal when hitting 2 feet outside the leg stump with the light hearted response 'you must be joking'. FB was disappointed to discover that that the bowler, a serious minded young man, did not share FB’s sense of humour and forcefully advised him of this fact with a series of nautical epithets. A further series of epithets followed when FB no balled the next delivery.
So LBW in the lower leagues can be a minefield. It is not likely that CricInfo’s proposed change would make it any easier for anyone. Nor would the wholesale adoption of DRS evidence, for in the lower leagues this only comes in the form of junior members’ i-Phone videoing from mid on.
It may be that that if captains want the LBW law to apply they should agree simply to adopt the 3 strikes and out approach. Get hit on the pads 3 times and off you go………………….many readers will think that is the rule already. It is certainly an approach apparently taken by many umpires.
The laws can change but ultimately in lower league cricket everything depends on the judgment and good sportsmanship of the players. The ICC has said that the UDRS has ensured that over 97% of decisions are correct. Of course in lower league cricket these factors ensure that 100% of decisions are correct.