Saturday, 10 September 2011

Penalty ref - I mean umpire

Yes, yes even though the Rugby World Cup is underway, Fantasy Bob has found the horrors associated with Scottish football cutting across his field of visions this week.  There has been one word on everyone's lips and draped across the back pages of the newspapers all week.  Penalty!

We wuz robbed
In Scotland's match against the Czech Republic last weekend, Scotland found themselves in the unusual position of entering the final minutes of the game leading 2-1.  All self-respecting Scottish supporters are inured to this situation.  Something was bound to happen.  And it did.  A Czech player fell over for no discernible reason (as FB has previously noted, uniquely among sportsmen footballers' sense of balance seems very precarious).  The referee immediately awarded a penalty against Scotland.  The Scottish player deemed nearest the bouncing Czech (as Scottish reporters wittily described him) was immediately booked for his felony.  2-2.  A couple of minutes later a Scottish player fell over in similar circumstances.  No penalty was forthcoming but the yellow card was administered to the Scottish player in tribute to his comedy dive. 

FB has no view on these incidents which have inflamed the nation.  But they did set him thinking about the concept of penalties as they apply in cricket. 
Every cricketer knows that if the ball hits the a helmet when it does not contain the head of wicket keeper or fielder penalty runs ensue.  All wicket keepers go through the careful ritual of placing the unused helmet in a line precisely behind them, deemed the place least likely to be hit by the ball - precision is demanded and they spend many hard hours training in this essential skill.  Nevertheless it goes wrong - to Matt Prior against S Africa in January 2010.  But that is probably about the extent of most cricketers' knowledge of the penalty.

But in a sad reflection of the moral decline of the times in 2000 a range of other circumstances was described in which penalty runs are to be awarded.  In their wisdom the law makers who devised these may have had limited knowledge of lower league cricket and Fantasy Bob for some of the events

Penalty runs are awarded if a fielder fields with anything other than his person ie if he suddenly produces a baseball mit from his back pocket to take a blinding catch on the boundary - or if he uses his cap or other piece of clothing.  This suggests that if, on a very cold day, such as cricketers in Scotland rarely experience, a fielder has his sleeves drawn down to warm his hands and fields the ball in that state the penalty applies.  FB has seen cold weather cause fielders to do an anorak.  This raises another issue.  In a famous incident in a recent season a batsman was given out when the ball lodged in the pocket of the trousers of a close fielder.  FB wonders therefore what the decision should be if the ball were accidentally to lodge in the hood of the anorak.

And talking of anoraks, those wearing one while reading this nonsense will know that this fielding offence is the only instance of when penalty runs are credited to the batsman, and are not scored as extras. 
Pandey on boundary
 - 5 penalty runs
Deliberate distraction or obstruction of the batsman is also a penalty offence.   So standing at slip and letting rip in honour of the previous night's curry as the bowler's arm comes over carries a risk.  However you might get away with it - as many in the lower leagues have over the years - because if the distraction or obstruction precedes the batsman receiving the ball, the fielding team must receive a warning - it is only on the subsequent offence (presumably a testament to the strength of the curry in question)  that the penalty is incurred.  But if the offence occurs after the batter has struck the ball then the penalty is immediate.  So a shout of 'Look, there's Poonam Pandey taking her top off!' as the batter tries a quick single will incur an immediate penalty. 

But in lower league cricket there are many distractions facing the batter.  Many attempts to field the ball are of such comic quality that any audience would be transfixed.  Are these to be the subject of penalty awards?
If a fielder kicks or pushes the ball over the boundary with the objective of keeping the weaker bat on strike - that is a penalty offence.  This law has obviously been devised for different circumstances than are encountered in the lower leagues where putting a fielder, the ball and the boundary in any kind of proximity will lead more often than not to the ball being assisted in some way over the boundary.  Furthermore the  concept of a weaker batter when there are two rabbits is, to say the least, interesting and would need to be tested in the House of Lords.  Perversely, just standing watching the ball, or being wholly incompetent in fielding it, so that the batters can actually run an extra run is not a criminal offence.  This is just as well for both these approaches are standard practice in lower league cricket.

Daryll Hair awarding
penalty runs against
Pakistan for ball tampering
Finally a list of more heinous offences which can incur a penalty.  If the ball is touched by a fielder who has returned to the field without the umpire's permission; if the umpires decide that the fielding team have illegally changed the condition of the ball (see illustration of a famous instance of this), and if after being warned the fielding team damage the protected area of the pitch (itself an interesting concept in lower league cricket where all areas of the pitch are unprotected at all times - if indeed the pitch can be differentiated from the outfield) or deliberately waste time between overs.

Shocking though this list of offences is, Fantasy Bob considers it inadequate.  Left arm over the wicket bowlers should also incur penalty runs for all deliveries delivered with that wholly unsporting action.

David Shepherd
the penalty run signal
But it is not only the fielding side which is at risk, for batters can be penalised too.  Penalty runs are awarded for deliberately running a short run, or wasting time after having been warned or damaging the protected area of the pitch after two warnings.

Penalty runs always come in fives.  FB has never seen penalty runs awarded in any game he has played so this is something to look forward to, for, if the popular press is to be believed, the moral fabric of the nation is in tatters and it can only be a matter of time.   Even if the application of the laws above could be problematic in the lower leagues, FB feels he has a duty to address lapses in behaviour. 

The signal for penalty runs is to raise one hand gracefully to the opposite shoulder.  FB will be practising this movement hard over the winter.  Cricketers of Edinburgh, watch out next season.  Your best behaviour will be demanded.

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