The International Cricket Council (ICC), in its infinite wisdom, has brought about a few changes in the rules of the game. We say cheers and huzzah to that! It’s not quite the Jan Lokpal Bill, but there are some changes that are more than just noticeable. The use of two new balls in one-dayers instead of just one and powerplay allowed only in the middle of the innings (and not towards the end) should get average bowlers and batsmen respectively happy. The theological debate over the Decision Review System (DRS) has thankfully ended with technology allowed to be a big help for umpires making difficult calls. That the Hawk-Eye technology in the DRS has been rejected in favour of Hot Spot thermal imaging doesn't point to the latter being better than the other but probably one set of contractors being favoured over the other. But the real major change — and frankly we must now take back our cheer and huzzah — is the prohibition of the runner.
As anyone familiar with Sukanta Bhattacharya’s poem ‘Runner’ (although chances are you’ll know Walt Whitman’s The Runner considering that it’s more de rigeur to know a famous 19th century American poet than a famous 20th century Bengali one), the man who runs lies at the heart of the world of sports and physical prowess. (Bhattacharya’s ‘runner’, though, was essentially a mailman, who ran to bring news and missives as swiftly as possible.). In cricket, the runner’s mythical status is akin to that of Vasudeva carrying the infant Krishna across the Yamuna. In cricketing terms, the injured batsman unable to run quickly between the wickets is the Krishna. With the new rule, the sedentary batsman is stranded. Or, is confined to the dressing room. Howzat for fair play and nobility?!
The ICC masters point to the rampant misuse of runners. The corpulent and the slow — Yuvraj Singh and VVS Laxman randomly come to mind — have done well with fast runners in the middle. Cricket being more of a mind game than a physical one, whatever was wrong with using runners? In any case, the tragedy of being run out even when one isn't running was one of the finest metaphors of life that cricket provided. Until now. A pity.