Run out controversy: England citing spirit of cricket while disregarding laws of the game is laughable

Much Ado About Nothing, a play written by the British writer William Shakespeare, is a comedy in which a woman is falsely accused of something she did not do. Ironically, what’s unfolding in Britain in the aftermath of a legitimate run out dismissal during the third and final Women’s ODI on Saturday between hosts England and India can also be perfectly described in the same four words, Much Ado About Nothing, and it’s as tragic and comedic as the play.

In the 44th over of the England innings, with 17 runs required off the remaining 39 balls and just one wicket left, England’s Charlie Dean backed up too far before the ball was delivered and the Indian bowler, Deepti Sharma, dislodged the bails at the non-striker end. Field umpire referred the decision to the video umpire and Dean was adjudged out.

But for some, the dismissal was against the Spirit of Cricket (SoC) and they, including several England players, both men and women, criticised the dismissal.

England men’s team pacer Stuart Broad called it a “terrible way to finish the game” on twitter. Wicketkeeper-batter Sam Billings said, “Just not cricket”.

England women’s team all-rounder Georgia Elwiss found it “ridiculous” while former bowler Alex Hartely questioned if that was “the only way India can win this game?”.

Indian players and their supporters, meanwhile, have used the rule book that allows such dismissals.

“You did the right thing. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise,” said former India opener Aakash Chopra. “Would running less to win be in the spirit of the game?” asked renowned commentator Harsha Bhogle.

India women’s captain Harmanpreet Kaur backed Deepti and said, “It is an ICC rule and you always take those chances.” Deepti claimed that they had “warned her (Dean), she left the crease early on several occasions. We even told the umpire. We were well within the rules.” The rules don’t require any warning before the dismissal is effected, though.

England regular captain Heather Knight, who is recovering from a hip surgery, contradicted Deepti’s claims saying “no warnings were given… But if they’re comfortable with the decision… India shouldn’t feel the need to justify it by lying about warnings.”

This mode of dismissal has always been legal under article 41.16.1 of the Laws of Cricket, but for a long time it was classified as ‘Unfair Play’. The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the custodians of cricket laws, recently removed it from the ‘Unfair Play’ section and reclassified it as a routine run out. The International Cricket Council has also notified that from October 1, it will also adopt MCC’s changes.

Article 41.16.1 of the Laws of Cricket says, “If the non-striker is out of his/her ground at any time from the moment the ball comes into play until the instant when the bowler would normally have been expected to release the ball, the non-striker is liable to be Run out. In these circumstances, the non-striker will be out Run out if he/she is out of his/her ground when his/her wicket is put down by the bowler throwing the ball at the stumps or by the bowler’s hand holding the ball, whether or not the ball is subsequently delivered.”

The MCC once again put the onus on the non-striker. “MCC’s message to non-strikers continues to be to remain in their ground until they have seen the ball leave the bowler’s hand. Then dismissals, such as the one seen yesterday (Saturday), cannot happen,” MCC said in a statement on Sunday.

If Deepti’s act can be termed as sharp practice, Dean’s act was clearly illegal.

According to a twitter thread (https://bit.ly/3ShDzFA) by Peter Della Penna (@PeterDellaPenna), Dean “left her crease early 73 times” during her stay in the middle. That’s not a mistake, but a deliberate attempt to take unfair advantage.

England supporters trying to build their argument based on an abstract idea of SoC while disregarding something as concrete as a clearly defined law is both laughable and a sad reflection on their inability to take a loss.