MCC loses its mind over Steven Finn’s knee

The MCC today made an absolutely ridiculous decision to institute a law so that as of 1 October of this year if a bowler kicks the stumps in his run up it will be a no-ball. This is in response to the ongoing ‘problem’ of Steven Finn doing just that. But the affair has been blown wildly out of proportion and this new law is utterly misguided.

Finn is far from the first bowler to regularly to kick the stumps in his delivery stride and his habit of doing so is far from a new one. The issue only cropped up last summer when Graeme Smith claimed that it was a distraction. Whether or not that is true can never be known, though given the very large number of times it had already happened with no complaints from batsmen it seems rather unlikely. Still, Smith was within his rights to say it was a distraction and in that case he should pull out of the shot and the umpire should call dead ball. That is all well and good and as long as it all happens before or just as the ball is bowled there should be no problem.

But then the umpires and ICC mysteriously decided that despite Smith being in an overwhelming minority in finding the bails distracting, they were going to start calling kicking the stumps a dead ball almost every single time. Except sometimes they weren’t and they weren’t ever going to make it clear when they were or weren’t. What ought to have happened and what still ought to happen is nothing. If the batsman is distracted let him pull out, but otherwise play on. Given how often the resulting ball goes for four it seems they aren’t generally too put off. It is a simple solution to what is really an exceedingly minor issue. There is no need to penalise the batsmen certainly and if they are truly distracted they still have recourse. The matter need not go further.

It is good that the MCC decided to deal with the uncertainty surrounding the issue, but deciding to punish the bowler for committing no crime is insane. There is no advantage gained by the bowler in hitting the stumps; he is not releasing the ball unreasonably close to the batsman nor at an unreasonably large angle. If it is distracting then the batsman already has the means to ensure that no advantage is gained by the bowler. (And if the batsman truly is distracted, then that is a matter for a dead ball, not a no-ball. It is just like someone walking behind the sightscreen.) This is another law tilting the scales in even more in favour of the batsmen and with no rational justification at all.

One person who will be delighted at this is Smith. Never in his wildest dreams could he have hoped that his little bit of gamesmanship last August would be this effective.

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