Wednesday, 16 March 2011


Bell saved by the bell
FB looks forward to how lower league umpiring will be transformed this coming season by the UDRS framework seen in the Cricket World Cup and the 2.5m rule in particular. 

In the lower leagues inhabited by FB, being on the front foot, even 6 inches from the crease, is always a convincing reason for an umpire to deny a perfectly good appeal.  Streets and years ahead of the ICC.

Readers will be familiar with the fact that in these leagues it is the batting side who share out the umpiring duties.  It would be fair to say that there is demonstrated an ever widening range of abilities.  Many struggle to count to 6.  Some take great pride in a highly inventive set of signals - most of which would have coastguards scrambling the lifeboat service were they seen on the deck of a ship.  Some opt to stand because they are hugely fed up of the constant chat in the pavilion and wish some peace for contemplation.  They are the ones who will respond to appeals with the vague  mumble, 'Sorry I wasn't watching' a confession which has saved as many a stumpee  as 'Couldn't see for the sun in my eyes'.

But it is the LBW law presents these temporary officials with their greatest challenge.  The law is on the face of it deceptively simple - if the ball is going to hit the wicket then the batsman is out.  But this requires a visualisation - an inbuilt Hawkeye able to make 3 million calculations in a nano second.  This can be difficult for some people who have no concept of a straight line, or who have no depth perception or who may well struggle actually to see the other end of the wicket.  As if these debilities did not make the simple principle challenging enough, the law makers have added some complications. 

The ball cannot pitch outside the leg stump.  Unfortunately the batsman is usually obscuring leg stump so there can be a bit of a guess involved.  Oh, that there were those purple bands down the wicket that are on the TV replays.  The comfort of this part of the law that it rules out appeals from most left arm bowlers unless they can really straighten it Akram style.

The next complication is that the ball must be hitting in line.  Unless of course it hits outside offstump and no stroke is offered.  Since in lower league cricket the concept of a stroke can be somewhat obscure, this can lead to difficulties.  The greatest dissent that FB ever had to endure as an umpire was when he gave not out to a batter who padded up.   The bowler was incandescent in his assertion that no stroke was offered.  FB had to agree, but pointed out that the chance of the ball hitting the wicket was zero - or less. The words hell ball and snow might have entered the discourse in an appropriate order. Like the previous 30 deliveries the ball bowled was a big away swinger and was well on a trajectory aiming for second slip - not that there was a second slip but you get the point.  For the bowler this counted for nothing against the fact that no stroke had been offered. FB's view also particularly offended those fielders best placed to make a judgement on the ball's line - point and midwicket.  FB had to show strong moral resolve to maintain his not out verdict.

Height is another dodgy concept for a ball can be rising or falling at the point of impact.  However the stumps stay the same height throughout the match which can escape the notice of the part time umpire.  Many times FBs own appeals have been dismissed on height grounds implying that the stumps had just been screwed a further 2 feet into the ground from when he started his run up.

FB finds excessive appealing tiresome.  In another incident that provoked a gentlemanly exchange of views on the field, FB denied a bowler the umpteenth appeal when hitting 2 feet outside the leg stump with the light hearted response 'you must be joking'.  FB was disappointed to discover that that the bowler, a serious minded young man, did not share his sense of humour and forcefully advised him of this fact with a series of nautical epithets.  A further series of epithets followed when FB no balled the next delivery.  But there is nothing to be done to stop appealing at every ball pad contact since many umpires transparently adopt the 3 strikes and out approach.  There are some critics who suggest this is a practice that extends well into the upper reaches of the game.

In general FB is given out LBW once or twice a season.  Regrettably, these dismissals are always to balls swinging wildly down the leg side and obviously they would fall were the UDRS available to him. But UDRS does not apply in lower league cricket because the average phone camera firing from the square leg boundary provides uncertain evidence.  Besides, it is likely to be switched off or out of battery when the most pressing decisions would stand to be reviewed.

So we are left to the judgment and good sportsmanship of the players.  The ICC has said that the UDRS has ensured that over 97% of decisions are correct.  In lower league cricket that good judgement and sportsmanship ensure that 100% of decisions are correct.

Graham Gooch was LBW a record 50 times in Tests, 23.92% of his dismissals.  But the record holder, in terms of proportion of dismissals, is W Indies Daren Ganga who was triggered 25 times in his 84 dismissals - 29.76% 

Ganga - World LBW champion
 - but he hit this one


  1. brilliant!

    Even at Shivaji Park, Bombay in games even lower than the lower leagues of Scotland, I don't remember a single game being marred by an umpire giving a bad LBW call.

    LBW as a mode of dismissal was not in the vocaulary.

    A batsman is out LBW if the umpire raises his / her finger. It ought to be as simple as that. Entirely up to the umpire's discretion, mood, etc etc.

  2. Many thanks - perfectly correct - FB is ashamed he failed to mention mood which can be an important factor in decisions - as can revenge.

  3. Most entertaining, Bob! But so was the fact that when I was Div 1 rep some years ago, two teams gave only one lbw each in the whole season. Wouldn't Goochy love to playing in our leagues!

  4. Many thanks. Yes FB has also observed that there are clubs who operate under a strict quota system.