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Dhoni stepped over the mark but the no-ball rule must change

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18th April, 2019
9

The sight of MS Dhoni walking onto the field to dispute the umpire’s decision during the middle of an over in the IPL last week was unfortunate and possibly unprecedented.

Yet despite his unsportsmanlike conduct, the significance of his actions during Chennai’s match against the Rajasthan Royals has hopefully woken the ICC up to a problem that’s existed for many years.

The waist-high no-ball rule has not only been policed inconsistently but it’s also debatable whether waist height makes sense as the measuring stick for whether a ball should be deemed legal or not.

Chennai’s MS Dhoni

Chennai’s MS Dhoni was fuming after a controversial decision last week. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

The other sad reality that the Dhoni incident clearly exposed is that the ICC hasn’t moved quickly enough to ensure umpires use the available technology to be more consistent when calling no ball or not.

This comes despite the fact that very full yorkers are often attempted during the crucial final overs of matches and the umpire’s judgement when the ball gets up near the waist can have a huge bearing on the outcome of the match.

In the case of Dhoni, until Mitchell Santner hit Rajasthan’s second-to-last ball out of the park, it seemed likely that the umpires’ failure to call no ball would cost the Chennai Super Kings two important IPL points.

Under cricket’s current regulations, no balls are meant to be called when deliveries stray over the waist height of the batsman standing upright at the popping crease.

Providing such a generous margin of error for bowlers seems to encourage bowlers to aim for yorker length but lean towards being fuller rather than shorter.

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If they accidentally bowl something around knee height, it’s viewed by many bowlers as being a much better result – especially late in the innings – than missing their length the other way, resulting in a more comfortable half-volley length.

When the ball is delivered at around 150 kilometres an hour, the surprise element of the ball not bouncing and then coming straight for the batsman’s body can make the full tosses extremely difficult to hit, particularly for tail-end batsman and even specialist batsman early in their innings.

Like in CSK’s match this week, it’s become almost accepted that when the ball is delivered in the uncertain zone for umpires, they often prefer to make no decision even though their failure to call a no ball can often decide the game.

In their defence, these are difficult calls to make in real time.

However, all the more reason that the ICC should act quickly to change this law and encourage the Decision Review System to be used to support their new law.

A good start would be for them to change the height that balls are required to be delivered.

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The stump height of 71 centimentres at the popping crease seems to be an appropriate level because for most batsmen that level falls quite a lot below their waist line.

The tools available to the umpires via the DRS would also make this a height that could be policed very quickly and consistently.

Dhoni’s actions last week have put the spotlight on the no ball law.

If Dhoni’s CSK team had gone on to lose their match against Rajasthan, that incident might have presented an even better example of why this law must change.

Let’s just hope it doesn’t take an inaccurate important call in the World Cup final to finally persuade world cricket’s leaders that a significant change to the no ball law is needed.

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