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Explained: Cricket’s dilemma about short pitch bowling

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The chorus to ban short bowling from cricket is getting louder than ever before. Proponents of the ban point to the increased frequency of batsmen being hit on the helmet or upper body, suffering concussions, some of which go into depression, and fast-bowler resorting to short-ball tactics against incompetent batsmen from lower order.

But the game’s lawmakers, Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), are reviewing the existing laws defended the use of short pitch bowling and the laws pertaining to ensuring the safety of the batsman. The committee discussed the law and agreed unanimously that short pitch bowling is a core part of the game, especially at the elite level, ”said a press release from MCC. Despite the recent verdict, debates will continue regardless, both in support and in opposition.

What are the existing laws regarding the use of short pitch bowling?

The rulebook deals extensively with the use of short pitch bowling and formulates rules that put the safety of batsmen in the foreground. The Concussion Rule is the latest example of a more sensitive approach to ensuring batsmen safety and taking head injuries more seriously. The beamer has long been banned, including bodyline fields. In international cricket, bowlers can only bowl two balls per above shoulder height.

There are also other laws.

The first four subcategories of rule No. 41.6 are entirely related to bouncers. Law 41.6.1 states: “The bowling of short throws is dangerous if the bowler’s end umpire believes that, taking into account the striker’s skill, their speed, length, height and direction are likely to cause physical injury. inflict on he her. “

As follows: The bowler’s end umpire may consider that the delivery of short-pitch throws is unfair if they pass repeatedly above the head of the upright striker. The next two sub-clauses give hand umpires the authority to declare no-ball when short throws have become dangerous or unfair, and if the bowler still insists he can suspend him for the rest of the innings. Of course, like several other rules in the game, the laws are subject to interpretation, but the law is sensitive to the potential dangers of short-pitch bowling.

What are the arguments of the critics?

The tragic death of Australian batsman Phil Hughes, after being struck down by a bouncer who just hit him under his helmet, the cricket world has increasingly scared the bouncer. While such a fatal case has not yet been repeated, the number of batsmen hit on the helmet has increased. And every time someone throws themselves on the turf after being hit, there is a smoldering pain. Like it when Jofra Archer hit Steve Smith, who fell at Lord’s in 2019 as if they were polexed on the pitch. Several of his teammates admitted that they feared the worst for a fleeting second.

Then there was concussion-induced depression, as it happened with young Australian batsman Will Pucovski (though he had concussion even before getting slapped on helmets). Although Jonathan Trott did not have a concussion, he rolled over in the abyss of depression after passing through a crucible of Mitchell Johnson-instigated short-ball massacre. There have been numerous cases of broken limbs, broken jaws and confused faces. Cricket is not worth the violence, critics say. It’s time to take stock of the game and tone down the violence. Especially when it comes to junior level cricket where they are just learning how to handle short balls.

Why do they always bring up the rugby equation?

Other sports have calmed down, they say. Like the intensely physical contact sport of rugby, which has banned high tackles in the sport. Under the new standards, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the shoulder line, even if the tackle starts below the shoulder line, is illegal and subject to numerous penalties. The measure resulted in a 37 percent decrease in hoist-related concussion incidents in 2019 compared to the previous year. They do not intend to bring the tackle height below hip height to further rule out the risk of injury. So the broader argument is whether cricket is worth risking your life despite a massive improvement in the quality of protective gear and equipment.

What are the counter arguments?

High quality short pitch bowling is one of the oldest and most demanding challenges in the game. It’s the ultimate test of a batsman’s bravery, and almost all the other greats in this game were great short ball players. Some loved to counter like Viv Richards and Brian Lara, for some it was the staple like Ricky Ponting some treated people with monks discretion not because they couldn’t but they didn’t want to like Sachin Tendulkar and Sunil Gavaskar.

It is one of the most immersive combat in the game, a high quality batsman facing chin music, bending, weaving, swinging, crocheting or pulling. It is cricket that comes closest to boxing, closest to a contact sport. Its as much as a test of the batsman’s skill as his bravery.

They agree that bowling excessively short is indeed dangerous, but there are laws to address the extremes. But banning short pitch bowling diminishes the quality of the game (forget about charm and romance). It removes an integral bowler weapon, making the already batting-friendly game even more batting-friendly. Would batsmen be told not to strike directly through the air at the bowler, as the shot endangers the unprotected umpire and bowler?

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The battle between bat and ball gets even more skewed, risking incompetent batsmen to flow into the path of (false) greatness. Cricket cannot afford to further dilute its competitiveness, especially at a time when the quality of the game is not as high as it was in the mid-s to the last two decades of the twentieth century. It could even mean the slow death of the hit-the-deck bowlers.

What are their suggestions for avoiding batsmen being hit on the head?

One of the main reasons batsmen get hit on the helmet is their tendency to hook short balls on the forefoot, often in line with the ball rather than out of line, encouraged by the advanced technology of protective equipment. The first technique meant that if the batsman missed the ball, the ball also missed the batsman. In addition, most batsmen don’t duck or swing, and even if they are incompetent pullers or whores, they seem obliged to play the shot. It only causes disaster. Even the Hughes incident was due to his own misjudgment taken too quickly.

Pucovski is often caught in a dilemma between attack and defense. And they were knocked down not by someone with the terrifying pace of Patrick Patterson or Sylvester Clarke, but by someone operating in the mid-130s. So better discretion would have averted danger, no matter how harsh it sounds.

Therefore, rather than demanding a rule change extinguishing one of the most exciting facets of the game, young batsmen should be encouraged to develop good technique against short pitch bowling. Suggesting a ban on short pitch bowling is akin to cutting off the head for a nasty headache. There is, of course, risk. Which physical sport doesn’t do that?

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