What if it had been Kohli, not Gayle?

Watching Cricket

with Garfield Myers

Monday, June 10, 2019

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I remember being quite confused on the first afternoon of the third Test between West Indies and England in St Lucia earlier this year.

Back then, Ben Stokes, having lost his wicket, left the field and entered his team's dressing room, was called back to bat.

As told by Stokes at day's end, he was taking off his protective gear when word came that he wasn't out after all. That was because the bowler Alzarri Joseph had delivered a no ball — overstepping the front crease.

The television umpire had alerted the standing umpire regarding the no ball, after seeing the television replay.

I was confused because I thought there could be no return for a batsman once he had left the playing area, even if he had been wrongly given out.

What I learnt there and then, was that the relevant cricket law had been amended in 2017 to allow the umpires to recall a batsman — even if he had left the field — if it was determined that the dismissal resulted from a “misapprehension”.

The proviso is that this has to happen before the next ball is bowled.

All of which now begs the question: with all the technology available to the television umpire, how could Chris Gayle have been given out last Thursday to a delivery that should have been a free hit?

Of course it never should have gone to replay technology in the first place. As is crystal clear, Mitchell Starc's delivery prior to the Gayle dismissal wasn't a marginal no ball, which reasonable people could forgive an umpire for missing.

It was a massive no ball. Starc's front foot had over-reached the line by several inches. Now, I know umpiring is difficult, especially when you are dealing with someone of Starc's extreme pace.

Think about it: The umpire has to register that the bowler has not breached the return crease with his back foot, then make sure the front-foot hasn't breached the front line, then look up to see what happens at the batsman's end. But most of us can't help feeling that such was the extent of Starc's front foot breach, the umpire's arm should have instinctively shot out, even as he yelled “No Ball!”

That said, how is it that it took minutes, long after the cricket had moved on, for realisation in the television room that something had gone wrong?

I keep wondering what would have happened, or indeed, if such a thing could have happened, had this been a top batsman from one of the 'Big Three' countries. Imagine for a moment if it had been Virat Kohli dismissed in such a manner. Maybe they would have had to call off the Cricket World Cup!

It just goes to show the correctness of the saying attributed to 'donkey' in Jamaican folk culture, that “di worl' nuh level”.

Of course, the wider context was that so many marginal decisions — including that last lbw call against Gayle — went for Australia, against the West Indies.

One Australian scribe really annoyed me. He suggested that Starc “deserved” the wicket of Gayle even though the wicket-taking ball should have been a free hit, because he bowled so well to the West Indies opener.

Presumably then, had Gayle survived and gone on to make a big score it would have been undeserved.

Such self-serving nonsense can make the blood boil.


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