Friday, 3 August 2012

Finn's Knee

Dead Ball
Fantasy Bob did not witness the incident of Finn's Knee at Headingley yesterday when umpire Steve Davis determined a dead ball when Steve Finn disturbed the stumps at the non-striker's end in his bowling action. Had the ball not been so disallowed, Smith would have been out caught at slip.

In a statement later the MCC said that the umpire's decision was made in accordance with law 23.4(b)vi which states that the umpire shall call dead ball when, 'The striker is distracted by any noise or movement or in any other way while he is preparing to receive, or receiving a delivery. This shall apply whether the source of the distraction is within the game or outside it. The ball shall not count as one of the over.'

This was not the only ball to be called dead during the day for Finn was demolishing the stumps at his end like a man possessed. But Graeme Smith was so distracted by the others that he clumped them for four - not that the runs or the ball stood. But the MCC statement acknowledged this point and said that they would review this law.

It is as well they do.  They should also consider taking evidence from FB who knows a thing or two about dead balls.  For if this rule were strictly applied in the lower leagues that Fantasy Bob inhabits, no ball would ever be deemed other than dead, so distracted are all the batsmen by a range of factors within the game or outside it.  Indeed FB has never knowingly faced a ball without being distracted.  Sometimes he is distracted by the fact that it is a straight one, indeed these seem to be the most distracting of all balls.  He finds too late in his career that they were all properly dead balls.  Had his umpires properly read the rules like Mr Davis, there is no telling the number of runs he might have accumulated.

In lower league cricket umpires generally throw themselves with some enthusiasm into signalling dead balls when the situation demands - when the bowler drops the ball in his run up, when he falls over in his run up, or when he just stops because he too has been distracted. It is obvious to all that no ball has been bowled but the umpire goes into an energetic St Vitus' dance in which his arms become a flurry and the risk of back injury is extreme.  Umpires get particularly agitated on windy days when the bails are blown off, until the umpire decides that he's tired himself out with all that arm waving and the bails are lodged in his pocket for the duration and everyone hopes that there is no run out with the stumps having to be hauled out of the ground in a manner consistent with the laws. 

But the Finn incident gives a new factor that the lower league umpire has not previously considered. Cries of Howsat? on Edinburgh's Meadows this weekend which last week would have elicited the raised finer may well be met with the crossed arm signal. 'Caught behind you think?  No sorry the batsman was obviously distracted by the sound of [delete where applicable] the traffic passing, the traffic not passing, the sound of bongo drums, the sound of the Lady boys of Bangkok warming up on the adjacent space, the sight of the Lady boys of Bangkok warming up anywhere,  the siren of the police car, the police chasing a group of hoodies across the ground, anyone of twenty two mobile phones which might go off at any moment with gratingly inappropriate ring tones, the screams of hoodies set upon by police but asserting their right under the European Convention, any other not listed above. 

FB has encountered many a bowler with Finn like tendencies to demolish the wickets in their bowling action.    Over many years he has come to recognise that he too is at risk.  Bowlers can shoulder charge the umpire as part of their action, or whip him in the face with a leading or trailing arm.  Those who barge with the greatest venom are frequently those who in coming on to bowl have given FB very specific instructions as to where to stand.  FB now realises that this is not for the purpose of ensuring that he is not in their way - just the opposite.  He is carefully positioned into the exact spot where the bowler can mow him down.  So great is the risk with some sides that FB has considered wearing body armour for his umpiring spells.  A strange variant of this happened this season when FB was asked to stand well to the side of the stumps to avoid being mowed down - the bowler then appealed for LBW at every turn with FB at an angle of 45 degrees to the stumps.

If lower league umpires applied law 23.4(b)vi, matches would never finish.  It is therefore as well that the MCC review it.

But all this is a distraction - proof, if proof be needed of the state of FB's mind at the crease.  Not out distracted.

Finn's Knee - not a remake of Eric Rohmer's charming  1971 film.


  1. Seeing his stumps demolished regularly by a straight one must indeed be distracting for Fantasy Bob and the rules should certainly be looked at here. As for the dangers of umpiring, one solution might be do dispense with the bowler's umpire or, come to think of it, on-field umpires altogether. After all, with almost everything going virtual these days, webcams, stumpcams, Hawkeye etc FB could have a leisurely afternoon with his feet up in the pavilion, supervising the match within reach of the empire biscuit tin. Just a thought.

    1. FB would fear that in your envisaged future the empire biscuits might be virtual too. After due consideration he thinks that the occasional buffeting by a misdirected bowler is worth ensuring that they remain the real thing.