The dictionary defines ‘law’ as the collection of rules imposed by authority. This clearly states that the authority is the final matter in any case where the law is to be applied. In cricket, the ICC is the final authority on laws on the game, and the umpires just have to follow the rules laid out. Taking all these into consideration, the two on-field umpires were absolutely right in bringing the teams off for poor light on the last day at The Oval. But then again, was it a ‘fair’ end to a brilliant day’s play?
A big crowd, which had been frustrated by rain the previous day, were surprised by some pleasant weather and some proactive play from both sides, as a result of which a victory for either side was possible. And then, after an incredible day of cricket, it all came to naught. With just four overs remaining and 21 runs to win, England’s batsmen were called off the field. It was dark yes, and the meter reading was much less than the one taken on the earlier day, which served as the benchmark. But how worse would things have got in four overs’ time?
The farce at The Oval begs the big question again – shouldn’t common sense prevail over laws at times in the game? Cannot the ICC have a provision in the rule which says that umpires can reverse the rules in extreme circumstances like the one of Sunday, which robbed the spectators of a spectacular finish to The Ashes? While we cannot blame the umpires, the players could help out by being more sporting. Michael Clarke set up the game nicely on the final day, but Australia’s time-wasting tactics just because they were losing the game stood out like a sore eye.
The decision to hand over the decision of bad light to umpires has been a smart one, but they haven’t been given enough power to look out of the rulebook when needed. Had the game been played under old rules, the light would have been offered to the England batsmen, and the hosts would probably have gone on to clinch the Ashes 4-0. The rule wasn’t always fair but did deliver results at times. Remember there was a Test between England and Pakistan which finished in complete darkness in Karachi back in 2001. England won because they were offered the light, and took it despite hardy being able to see much.
The 2007 World Cup final was another major example of how following the rules blindly can lead to a farce. With 63 needed off 18 balls, Sri Lanka were offered the light and accepted it. Australia had even begun celebrating, but just to follow the rules, Australia and Sri Lanka were asked out come out and finish off the game in complete darkness. Neither team was pleased since there was nothing to achieve – Lanka were never going to win and Australia had no chance of losing. Such are the times when mundane laws need to be redefined.
--By A Cricket Analyst