Steven Finn’s knee

With a recall for Steven Finn looking very likely for the Calcutta Test, there will almost certainly be more discussion about his recurring problem of kicking the stumps in his delivery stride. It’s something that has gone from a mild curiosity to almost a controversy after Graeme Smith claimed during the summer that it was a distraction and the umpire called a dead ball. Since then the ICC drafted in a playing condition for the T20 World Cup that the first instance would be a warming and anything further would be a dead ball. Since this has tended to penalise the batsmen more than the bowler (assuming it’s roughly random it is far more likely to impact a run-scoring delivery than a wicket-taking one) there have been suggestions that a version of ‘advantage’ should be called or even an outright no-ball.

But both the ICC’s response and the calls for a harsher punishment are silly. Finn is not the first bowler to occasionally kick the stumps and whilst it most certainly is something he would be well advised to stop doing it, there is no need for the ICC to come up with a new regulation about it. If it is a distraction then the batsman can inform the umpires and risk losing out on a scoring shot or they could pull out as they would do for any other distraction. They do so quite late for other distractions without any problem. But whether or not it really is a distraction is something that entirely rests with the batsman at the crease; none of the batsmen before Smith seemed to have a problem with it and whilst I am sceptical that he did either that should not really matter. If the batsman says it’s a distraction then the umpires need to take him at his word, but it is a mistake to draft in a blanket regulation covering all batsmen as clearly not all of them find it problematic. Giving a ‘warning’ is even more ridiculous. If the batsman is distracted and gets out because of it then why should it be different if it is the first instance or the second instance?

What I suspect, however, is that the warning is an artefact of the apparent thinking of the ICC and several others that this is supposed to be a punishment for the bowler so he gets one warning. This also explains the suggestion that there should be an advantage or a no-ball. But they all completely miss the fact that the bowler has done nothing for which he should be punished! He has contravened no laws and as is evidenced by the large number of times it has happened before this episode he has not gained an unfair advantage either. It would be as ridiculously unfair to punish the bowler for kicking the stumps as it would be to call a no-ball every time someone walked in front of the sightscreen. There is no merit to the notion that if the batsman gets a run it was not a distraction, but if he gets out it was. Batsmen get out without being distracted all the time and they cannot have this both ways. It’s either a distraction and therefore a dead ball or it isn’t, but it is certainly not like the bowler overstepping and gaining an unfair advantage by bowling closer to the stumps.

If the Indian batsmen lose runs to dead balls and are not happy about it then they should tell the umpire they do not find kicking the stumps to be a distraction. If the umpires call it anyway then it is a) a mistake by the umpires and ICC, not the bowler, and b) something I am sure the BCCI will change in no time at all.

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