Australian spin legend Shane Warne has raked up a fresh debate regarding laws that guide fielders. In a recent post on Facebook, Warne expressed his opinion that a boundary should be declared only when the ball touches the rope, irrespective of whether some part of the fielder’s body touches the line.
“My thoughts are, keep the fielding laws exactly as they are, but when a player slides or dives in an attempt to stop the ball hitting the rope, if some part of your body is touching the rope at the same time as your touching the ball it shouldn’t be 4, the ball must hit the rope ! Agree or disagree (sic)?” Warne wrote.
Warne’s opinion has left the house divided. Mohammad Kaif, one of the most athletic fielders in the Indian team at one stage, supported Warne’s suggestion.
“He’s made a very interesting point. With the advent of Twenty20 cricket, the pressure on fielders is tremendous,” said Kaif, who will lead Ranji Trophy debutants Chattisgarh this season. “The efforts they put on the boundary line is terrific, but frightening as well. They are at a very high risk of suffering career-threatening injuries. What if they twist their ankle while leaping for a catch on the rope? It could be devastating.”
Kaif felt the change will do justice to the fielder’s effort. “The fielder chases the ball all the way and if any part of his body touches the rope, it is declared as boundary. It is injustice to his effort,” he added.
“It also takes away the extra pressure from the fielders by ensuring that the boundary will be awarded only if the ball touches the rope. It will also bring down the risk of injury. Fielding will again become a joyful activity,” he said.
Another advantage is that it will reduce the time wasted while checking with the third umpire whether any part of the body touched the rope when in contact with the ball.
“There is so much time wasted as the third umpire has to see from all angles before arriving on a decision. It can be frustrating as a lot of time is wasted. I would fully back Warne’s suggestion,” said Kaif.
In October 2013, the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), in a bid to reward athleticism, amended its catching rule. “The ball then can be fielded or caught, as long as the fielder is never in contact with both the ball and the ground outside the boundary at the same time. So, on a second or third contact with the ball, the fielder can jump up from beyond the boundary and parry it back inside. He can do this as many times as he wants,” the rule stated.
Australian Glenn Maxwell, however, is not a fan of freak, mind-boggling catches on the ropes, despite pulling off one of the brilliant catches last year during Australia’s fourth ODI against England at Headingley.
Maxwell caught England’s Liam Plunkett in a single-handed effort on the mid-wicket boundary, but his momentum carried him over the line. In a desperate attempt, the Aussie batting star tossed the ball in the air before bouncing over the rope, only to come back again to complete a stunning catch.
“I think if you look at the basketball rule. You have to jump from inside to throw it back in, you can’t jump up in the air and catch it on the way back in. You’ve got to make sure your feet have landed inside the court and I think it should be the same in cricket,” Maxwell later told the media.
However, former India fielding ace Yajurvindra Singh is against any changes in the existing rules.
“I feel we will complicate the game further. I guess the followers are now used to this age-old rule and we should not tamper it. It is not unfair on the fielders. We have not heard anyone complaining so far,” he says.
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