Over 52.4 of the Indian first innings: Bhuvneshwar Kumar plays Dasun Shanaka through the cover area. Dinesh Chandimal chases. Puts in a dive well before reaching the ball. Even as the fielder running around from third-man picks up the ball, Chandimal gets up, shapes to throw and then pulls out.
Over 56.6 of the Sri Lankan first innings: Mohammed Shami, bowling like a dream, gets one to nip back in and hit Dilruwan Perera on the back pad. Looks out. It’s given. Perera starts to walk off, seems to glance in the direction of the dressing room, turns around, reviews, the ball is found to hit him just outside off. He’s safe.
It’s Eden Gardens, the first Test of a three-match series. The Sri Lankans benefit on both occasions – just marginally, perhaps, in the first instance, but in the second, while Perera only goes from 0 to 5, he helps Rangana Herath add 43 runs for the eighth wicket. On both occasions, an ICC rule appears to have been breached.
Appears to, because Chandimal did pull out of the throw and one can’t be absolutely 100% sure that Perera changed his mind based on instructions from the dressing room. Sri Lanka Cricket, and Herath, claimed later that there were no signals from the dressing room – and that is the official word on it, even though the TV commentators said they saw something of the sort.
As an aside, while I am ready to buy the assertion that there was no cheating on the part of Perera, I can’t believe he turned around because he heard Herath conversing with the on-field umpire, as one of the suggestions has been, unless they were screaming their lungs off.
All the same, by the book, both were infringements – the way I saw it, at least. And Nigel Llong, the umpire at the bowling end both times, failed to call them right. Of course, Joel Wilson, the other official on the field, could have held Llong’s hand a little, if he had an opinion. [It’s only fair to add that both gentlemen had a great game otherwise.]
What do we have then? One rule that’s absolute garbage – fake fielding – and another that, to my mind, can be improved drastically: The process of asking for a review. There is no fake fielding, as some have argued in recent months, only smart fielding, which is what Chandimal attempted there. Virat Kohli, looking characteristically angry in the dressing room, wanted five for it, and his team should have got it in keeping with the rules – a rule that should really not be there in the first place.
It could be argued that the right thing happened – if unwittingly – on both occasions. In the second case, we got it correct in the end without wasting time. Is that not the objective?
Here’s what the law, as put down by the ICC, says: “If the umpires believe that the captain or batsman has received direct or indirect input emanating other than from the players on the field, then they may at their discretion decline the request for a Player Review. In particular, signals from the dressing room must not be given.”
The problem here is in the deliberate ambiguity, an old lawmakers’ staple. Words like ‘believe’ and ‘discretion’ leave room for (mis) interpretation.
Think back to earlier this year: Steven Smith looked towards the dressing room and the umpire immediately used his ‘discretion’ to ‘believe’ that Smith was expecting “signals from the dressing room”, and asked him to leave the field.
The umpire then, too, was Mr Llong. The difference was that Smith turned around from mid-pitch after a consultation with his partner, Peter Handscomb, and was quite blatantly asking for help. A “brain fade”. In Perera’s case, there was the possibility that he had genuinely changed his mind after turning back towards the change room. Or so Llong thought. Smith would have been out anyway. So the right call came about there. And Perera was not out, so all well there too.
Therefore, why not allow the “signals from the dressing room”?
Sanjay Manjrekar called it right from the commentary box there. If cricket wants the right decisions as often as possible (reviews in hand, etc), then surely a quick check with the boys from the team balcony – within the stipulated time – should be allowed.
Two possible breaches of the law there in the Eden Gardens Test – one law that should go pronto and one that needs a serious relook. Leave it up to interpretation, and Smith will be a cheat and Perera innocent, or naïve, “still learning”, as Herath remarked.
While on the subject of the Kolkata Test and things not quite going the way they should have: Suranga Lakmal’s neck guard flew off (not the first time I’ve seen it happen) when a bouncer from Bhuvneshwar Kumar hit him in the grille.
I know the neck guard is only clipped on and flew out on impact in Lakmal’s case. Ergo, if the ball hits it directly, even if it dislodges, it would have done its job first. The theory is all well and good, but this flimsy thing just does not inspire confidence, does it?