The Sri Lankan tour of Australia had its own set of ‘blow hot and blow colds’. At one point it was the Lankans who were running for cover, after being hit by a demonic posse of Aussie seam operators with their Boxing Day goods. The next moment the home lads are hiding their heads in [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Law is not an ass; yet should we make one of it


The Sri Lankan tour of Australia had its own set of ‘blow hot and blow colds’. At one point it was the Lankans who were running for cover, after being hit by a demonic posse of Aussie seam operators with their Boxing Day goods. The next moment the home lads are hiding their heads in the sand – even running scared of their own shadows, leave alone those of the visitors.

What I mentioned above took place between players who are applying their inherent skills in the game of cricket. But, there are some occurrences which have taken place and go above the authority of the players in spite of them being directly involved in the game. The post-rain saga during the Sydney ODI was such an incident.

The Sydney ground covers resembled a ‘mini skirt’.

The Australian Daily, The Age, reported the incident in this manner:

Sri Lanka will complain to the match referee after Sunday night’s farcical finish to the fourth one-dayer in Sydney that denied Mahela Jayawardene’s team a golden opportunity to wrap up a rare series victory against Australia.

The Sri Lankans were left bemused at a world-class venue such as the SCG not being able to handle 90 minutes of steady drizzle which forced match officials to abandon play due to the state of the outfield.

”It’s disappointing because at the SCG, I would assume that a ground of this magnitude you should be able to get a game in. Maybe they should do what we do back home — cover the entire ground,” Jayawardene said.

‘‘I think we can probably write to the match referee (Javagal Srinath) because obviously the interpretation we got three months ago in the New Zealand series was different. It was deemed that we’d only stop play if it was dangerous.”

Curator Tom Parker said the water did not sink far enough into the ground due to the rain being too light, while the lack of wind delayed the drying process.

Of most concern to the umpires was the effect on the ball and the need for it to be replaced after every over.

”We played New Zealand three months ago and the interpretation that we got in that series was quite different to what we got today. We’ve played in Pallekele (in Sri Lanka) with a lot of rain and during the ICC World Cup as well,” Jayawardene said.

”I think you need to find a bit more consistency, and that’s something that we’ll probably write and put it across to them.”
What we at this end are musing about is the consistency of the law. The law of cricket is clear. It reads as — 3.5 Law 3.8 – Fitness of Ground, Weather and Light and Law 3.9 – Suspension of play for adverse conditions of ground, weather or light.
Laws 3.8 and 3.9 shall apply subject to the following:

Umpire Erasmus suspending play at Sydney.

3.5.1 If conditions during a rain stoppage improve and the rain is reduced to drizzle, the umpires must consider if they would have suspended play in the first place under similar conditions.

If both on-field umpires agree that the current drizzle would not have caused a stoppage, then play shall resume immediately. In these circumstances the provisions of Laws 3.9 (b) (i) and 3.9 (c) (i) shall not apply.

11.2 Law 11.2 – During the match
Law 11.2 shall be replaced by the following:

The pitch shall be entirely protected against rain up to the commencement of play and for the duration of the period of the match.
The covers must totally protect the pitch and also the pitch surroundings, a minimum of 5 metres either side of the pitch and any worn or soft areas in the outfield.

11.3 Law 11.3 – Covering bowlers’ run ups
Law 11.3 shall be replaced by the following:

The bowler’s run-ups shall be covered to a distance of at least 10 x 10 metres.

With the existing law, Mahela’s contention of covering the entire ground does not hold weight. Yet, there are other clauses, we learn.
Ashley de Silva, Director Cricket Operations at Sri Lanka Cricket, took us through another path. He said that prior to every series, the match referee sits with the two captains and the umpires and discusses the modalities of the pending series. The matters discussed at this meeting then supersede the rest.

We at this end are quite oblivious to what occurred in their closed door meeting. Yet, we feel this is a grey area which is left open for occurrences of this nature to arise.

Well match referee is the ICC at a given match. We do not think any country is going to cover the whole ground voluntarily, because it is labour intensive, time consuming and expensive. So, the directions have to come from a person of authority. If the match referee can take a stance in Sri Lanka the same should be applied even in Australia, even if it is first world super venue. If the SCG cannot take a 90-minute rain, and that too a light shower, there is something radically wrong somewhere.

We understand that the vagaries of weather are always beyond our control. But, what the ICC could do is to take the above into consideration and make sure that the game goes on. What made the authorities to say that in Sri Lanka the entire ground must be covered? Could it be that the ICC high rankers were of the opinion that at the Lankan venues the drainage system as bad and covering the entire ground was the solution that they could arrive at.

Now it is proved that the Sydney Cricket Ground, which is supposed to be “World Class”, cannot take a light shower. It is why I suppose prior to the series such a scenario was not discussed. This is why (as the above picture shows” that the pitch was dressed up in a mini-skirt or the minimum ICC requirement.

Now the ball is in the ICC’s court. There should be a new clause added to Law No 3.8. Laws pertaining to the game should be consistent.
Finally cricket is also a sport which is fed and nourished by spectators. In return if the game is not going to be feeding the spectators with what they require, then the whole scenario is bound to collapse.

I also have a strange feeling that if it were the umpires who had the final say, they would have done this to balance the huge glaring blunders they made during the Australian innings.

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