Should Proteas have been allowed to replace JP Duminy?
South African Test cricketer JP Duminy. AFP PHOTO / FILES / Greg WOOD
In the end, the first Test at the Gabba petered out to a draw, albeit with the odd moment of tension.
But both times Australia was in the field it was aided greatly by the fact that it needed only nine wickets to terminate the South African innings.
Had the match gone down to the wire on the final day it would have been a sense of great ire for the Proteas that they were depleted personnel wise.
But, all they could have done was shake their heads in frustration because the match officials had no leniency to change their plight.
Law 2.3 states that “a substitute shall not be allowed to bat, bowl or act as wicket-keeper”.
It is a law that has been codified forever and a day.
But does that mean it should remain in that form?
The injury to JP Duminy occurred after the cessation of a day’s play when he tore his Achilles tendon during the warm down.
And therein lays the possibility for a farce developing at some point.
Should injuries that occur away from the field of play, or serious illnesses, be looked upon in a different light to injuries that are incurred on the ground?
For many a year cricket fans have questioned why it is that substitutes are not allowed to fulfil the roles assigned to a member of the selected XI.
In most other team sports substitutes are allowed to assume the full duties of injured or ill players.
Cricket has long chosen not to go down that path.
There may well be an argument for maintaining the law as it stands with respect to injuries that are incurred on the field of play.
But are we not courting a potential farce if there is not a common sense rule applied to injuries that occur outside the normal realm of the game?
What would happen to the validity of a Test match should three or four players be injured in a car accident going to or from the ground or when they were heading out to dinner after a day’s play?
While their injuries may not be severe, should they be of an extent that rules them out of the remainder of the match, do we really wish to see a 7 v 11 contest.
And what if the players concerned were all of the same ilk?
The Australian team during its recent pomp had its own little subset – the ‘Fast Bowling Cartel’ or ‘FBC’ as its members referred to it.
It was not uncommon to see the likes of Glenn McGrath, Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie head out to dinner as a group when they were all in the same side.
If the same band of brothers still exists in the current team, and Peter Siddle, James Pattinson and Ben Hilfenhaus all ventured out together only to end up bruised and battered as a result of an accident, the cricketing aftermath would be hard to swallow.
A ‘pace’ bowling attack comprising Rob Quiney, Mike Hussey and Ricky Ponting backed up by Nathan Lyon and Michael Clarke would not exactly get the competitive juices flowing.
I may be wrong, but I reckon the said match would become a farce.
Nowadays, elite level sportsmen are often the targets of intoxicated members of the public after hours.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a player who has been assaulted allowed to be replaced by a fully active substitute?
JP Duminy will not play again for at least four months due to the unfortunate occurrence after the first day’s play at the Gabba.
It wasn’t as if he was play acting.
I propose that the match referee be given the power to adjudicate on the role allowed for a substitute where his inclusion in the match results from an off-field injury to a teammate.
Should the match referee deem that there is a genuine case for the injured player to be replaced by a substitute who can take a full role in the remainder of the match it should be a case of replacing like with like.
Duminy, for instance would have needed to have been replaced by a player whose primary role in the squad was a batsman who may or may not be able to bowl a little, as is the case with Duminy.
Replacing him with the likes of specialist leg-spinner Imran Tahir would be a no-no.
I think fans want to see a fair fight – XI v XI.
Therefore, I reckon it’s time for the MCC to revisit the substitute law with regard to players who are dealt a poor hand off the field during a Test match.
After 21 years as a sports broadcaster with the ABC, since mid-2011 Glenn Mitchell has been freelancing in the electronic and written media. He is an ambassador for mental health in Australia, and tweets from @mitchellglenn.