Rules for Injury time and review on ‘Timed out’: crying need for spirit of cricket.

Sanjoy Roy.

November 17, 2023, 09:31:13   

Rules for Injury time and review on ‘Timed out’: crying need for spirit of cricket.

The lessons of this ODI world cup cricket are many and multidimensional warranting some serious thoughts and deliberations by the experts of ICC for the upkeep of proper spirit of cricket as it is fast spreading and played in different parts of the globe. The number of viewers for cricket is galloping rising to 2.5 billion fans or more as per a recent estimate. However, some pain-staking incidents that happened in this edition of 2023 ODI world cup have forsaken the hearts of many cricket lovers. In this article, an attempt is made to bring into light the incidents remained in back-stage over the years but now resurfaced.  With the changes over time, emergence of new playing conditions and competitions getting stiffer, the cricket rules and regulations need to be strengthened and re-assessed to plague the incidents impairing the spirit of cricket and ethics of cricket immensely. Although many changes are incorporated in the cricketing rules and regulations like the introduction of concussion substitute and banning the use of runners for batters , limited use of short balls, certain flaws still remain unaddressed affecting the results of close matches due to Duck-worth Lewis Par score formula, Decision Review System called Hawk Eye system for Leg Before Wicket decision particularly the matter of Umpire’s call that have ignited serious resentment calling for review by some cricket experts because these matters impacted the fortunes of some teams and these could easily reverse the match results if the rules had been most explicit. This article dwells on two matters that remained in obscurity are (1) injury time on which hardly the learned TV commentators have spoken their minds but most relevant and (2) the controversial issue of ‘Timed out’ occurred in a match sparking huge debate about the implication of such ‘out’ and the applicability of rules.

 How batters can disrupt the morale, mental strength and momentum of performances of the opposing team players and how the playing condition and environment can be brought in their favour while chasing runs through the acts of serious illness are discernible from Pakistan vs Sri Lanka match, Afghanistan vs Australia match. Thus it is now much realized that clear rules are absolutely necessary in coming days regarding the time lost during matches for injury of players and their recovery. Cricket is gentleman's game and there are many rules in vogue, but not implemented yet. Thus it would be wrong to assume that these will not be applied in future as situation goes on changing. Now, some players and teams deliberately break the spirit of the game for the purpose of winning by exploiting the loopholes of rules or absence of any rule. Due to the lack of discretionary power of umpires, some players are taking undue advantages.  The course and results of the matches between ‘Sri-Lanka and Pakistan’ and ‘Afghanistan versus Australia’ had given birth the question of bringing into light some specific rules and time to be allotted for a batter for recovery while falling ill batting second under conditions when situations go changing with the passage of time particularly when dew becomes a dominant factor inflicting the fate of matches. 

What was seen in the Sri Lanka vs Pakistan cricket match, was mirrored and replicated in the Afghanistan vs Australia match except the degree of robust hitting. Against Sri Lanka, viewers witnessed the illness filled Rizwan-show and in Afghanistan vs Australia match, it was Maxwell cast –illness crammed batting mayhem show. To some extent it surprises to believe that how can an ill-person bat for such a prolonged period of time and attain the Himalayan task. Question arises whether this was really so or the act of showing serious illness was a guile to pause the momentum of game and divert the attacking mode of opposition. There were many similarities in these two episodes. Thus,  it is believed that a morbid drama in the name of ‘cramp’ has been staged in the pursuit of the great run chase in  the two matches by two great players , to some extent willfully. The heroes of the two teams must have played luminously and brought victory in their favour. But how can someone disbelieve that it was not a strategy as they had been showing serious illness and not in position to run and chase and they sought the assistances from medical team incessantly , spent extra time on the field, asked medical person inside the ground and in turn disrupted the opposition team's mind, momentum and planning . The way Rizwan and Maxwell were showing illness, it was contemplated that they would leave the field. But they did not leave the field. They had taken time after time, taken time in the name of getting fit for playing a number of times. If it is observed meticulously, it can be seen that the nature of the victory of the two teams was similar and both the team were far behind in one stage. Both incidents occurred while chasing runs. Dew fell on the field on both game days. So the two great heroes fell ill on the field, many assistants including physios came, and took extra time which indirectly allowed more dew to fall on the field so that batting becomes more easy and the bowlers cannot hold the ball or  bowl well as per plan. In the match against Afghanistan and Australia, hardly any swing or spin is found visible after 25 overs in both matches, once dew started falling and getting heavier. The balls had been coming straight to the bat. The bowlers could not control the ball. The ball was going fast to the boundary due to slippery nature of ground. None of the four spinners could bowl well after 25 overs. 

It is agreed upon that Afghanistan bowlers’ had inexperience,  captaincy below par , they dropped catches and Maxwell's adventurous ruthless batting steered Australia to an unthinkable victory, but it would not be wrong to say and assume that the moves of Maxwell and Rizwan were not strategic given their nature of falling illness on the field and the subsequent  running and continuous  bizarre batting in last course justify the claim that the players exhibited more than what the actual illness had been and seeking repeated pauses were strategic move. There are many evidences that many players had left the field after falling prey to cramping, when their teams were close to victory. In Colombo in the year 2002, the year in which Sri-Lanka and India became joint champions of the ICC Trophy, South Africa's Gibbs suffered such cramp but he left the field when he was 118 in the semi-final match against India. South Africa was in good shape at that time when he left the field. But, later on, the Indian bowlers turned the game in their favour by bowling incredibly well. Thus suggestion is made to the ICC to look into these instances of injuries, examine the matters and formulate rules regarding the maximum injury time for ailing players in the field to recover.
Otherwise it would be recurring phenomenon in the days to come. A player will fall sick on the field and a huge team will enter the field, take prolonged time pausing the speed and momentum of the bowlers and disturbing the mindset of opposition players. Situation worsens and gets complicated for the fielding teams when dew is a big problem as found in the two matches mentioned herein. As a result, the playing conditions fast become unfavourable to the fielding team. Repeated pauses hamper the mental conditions of fielding team extensively inflicting the momentum, zeal and motivation that the fielding team gained before such temporary pauses.  Everyone is aware of the impacts of dew in cricket grounds particularly in India and this part of world where holding or gripping wet cricket ball becomes very stupendous task and challenging for a bowler once it touches the dew-spread ground causing  the bowlers unable to bowl well and the fielders in collecting the ball quickly etc. All cricketers particularly  those used to play under lights  are aware of dew-effects and conditions and they  try to buy more time through many pleas to delay the game and try to take the game as depth as possible so that they can play more easily with wet balls on a dew-affected ground. Thus falling ill or showing some exaggerated illness may be a strategy in matches where the batting second team finds them in difficult situation. If the situation of above two matches are recalled, it can be seen that both Rizwan and Maxwell fell ill on uncountable number of occasions requiring time for their recovery and in every occasion after their recovery, they had struck the ball outside the boundary on several occasions and this processes continued till the match had been won by their respective team. 

 Thus it is humble call to the ICC to look into the matter seriously and they should set a maximum injury time limit beyond which no player falling ill inside the ground while batting would be allowed to recuperate inside the ground by calling medical team and others as it shatters the interests of fielding team most. If ailing players recovers within this time, he will be able to bat or bowl or he will have to leave the field. In football, the referee does not allow any player to recover in the field like the scenario witnessed in some matches in this world cup. Picking up momentum again and again is difficult thing and intelligent players always try to pressurize the opposition team through this trick and bringing pause in difficult situation has been old tactics employed by the team lagging in the match and applied by many teams in different games as well. But there is a limit in the stoppage time except the cricket; this cannot be allowed for longer time to happen. Time has come for ICC to bring this injury time in their domain of thought for the future of cricket and more particularly to inhibit the practice and ploy of disturbing the speed of games through the display of excess illness or cramping etc.  Secondly, the attention of ICC is drawn to the controversial match between Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh. Although it would be worthwhile not to discuss much regarding the decision of ‘Timed out’, recent revelation and submission of video footage by the Angelo Matthews to ICC that he encountered the helmet malfunction 05 seconds before the expiry of stipulated 2 minutes while fourth umpire had reported that Matthews encountered the equipment malfunction after two minutes has warranted a review on ‘Timed out’ matter impelling the ICC experts to spell out circumstances when such ‘timed out’ case would come into action given the changes occurring in the cricket as a whole. If circumstances needed, the on-field umpires should be given discretionary powers in respect of such incidents not covered under the rules so that sprit of cricket and ethics of cricket do not missing.