From the Viewsroom

Let the LBW rule stand

Venky Vembu | Updated on May 12, 2020

Ian Chappell’s proposal for a tweak of cricket rules is best left alone

Australian cricketer Ian Chappell’s suggestion to amend the rule governing ‘leg before wicket (LBW)’ dismissals echoes, in spirit, another Oz sporting legend’s recommendation for livening up the game. Just as Don Bradman had, at the height of the Bodyline series in the 1930s, favoured a tweak of the LBW rule to disincentivise dour ‘pad play’ by defensive batsmen, Chappell has called for changing the law in a way that would reward stump-attacking bowlers — and very likely induce “screams of horror” from “pampered batsmen”. According to Chappell, “The new LBW law should simply say: ‘Any delivery that strikes the pad without first hitting the bat and, in the umpire’s opinion, would go on to hit the stumps, is out regardless of whether or not a shot is attempted’.” Currently, batsmen cannot be adjudged LBW to balls pitched outside the leg stump.

Some of the reasons Chappell advances in defence of his proposal have merit: the blanket immunity that batters enjoy against LBW from balls pitching outside the leg stump is unfair. And discouraging ‘pad play’, Chappell suggests, will incentivise attacking batsmanship and make the game more lively.

Cricket’s rules are always being mutated: the LBW rule has undergone many iterations. And although the advent of technology has made for better umpiring, there are still elements of the rules that confound. As with most things in the world, cricket is not without imperfections. Even so, the case for embracing Chappell’s proposal is weak. As cricket statisticians note, Test cricket (where match-saving ‘pad play’ is more common) is no longer entirely a batsmen’s game: of 39 Test matches played last year, 35 produced results; four others were rain-affected. Over 65 per cent of Tests concluded in under four days. Test cricket no longer needs to be souped up with rule tweaks to ‘save’ it from boredom. Like an outswinging delivery tempting a batsman to nick, Chappell’s proposal is best left alone.

The writer is Associate Editor with BusinessLine

Published on May 13, 2020

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