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Gill, Shanto debate ‘deliberate wide’ to deny Virat; new law can’t defend umpire | Cricket


Gill, Shanto debate ‘deliberate wide’ to deny Virat; new law can’t defend umpire | Cricket

There was an unexpected – and to a certain extent – even unnecessary series of events that unfolded in the last 15 minutes of the India vs Bangladesh World Cup 2023 match at the MCA Stadium in Pune on Thursday. That India would end up on the winning side was clear a long time ago but Virat Kohli’s desperate attempts to reach his century by denying as many as three singles – he kept the strike for 19 straight deliveries – drew attention. Kohli did get to his century with a six but the drama had only begun.

Shubman Gill and Najmul Hossain Shanto
Shubman Gill and Najmul Hossain Shanto

A couple of balls before that six, Bangladesh left-arm spinner Nasum Ahmed fired one down the leg side when Kohli was on 97 and India needed two to win. On-field umpire Richard Kettleborough decided not to give it a wide, much to the dismay of many. We will come to this debate later. First, let’s talk about whether Nasum deliberately tried to bowl a wide to deny Kohli a century.

India opener Shubman Gill was asked about the same in the post-match press conference after India beat Bangladesh by 7 wickets to join New Zealand at 8 points after 4 matches. Gill said he wasn’t sure. “Surprised with what? The decision or the attempt? I don’t know if he intentionally tried to bowl wide or he was just trying to keep it tight and then went away,” he said.

When cameras panned towards the Indian dressing room immediately after that non-wide call, there was whole-hearted laughter from Gill and Kuldeep Yadav. Gill almost had the same look while answering the question. The same, however, was not the case with Bangladesh batter Najmul Hossain Shanto, who was leading the side in place of an injured Shakib Al Hasan. Shanto was asked twice by two different journalists whether he or any other Bangladesh cricketer passed on instructions to Nasum to intentionally bowl a wide to Kohli when he was nearing his century.

“No, no. There was no such plan. It was a normal plan. No bowler had the intention to bowl a wide ball. We tried to play a proper game,” he said.

Shanto repeated the same when he was asked again, this time with a bit more firmness in his voice. “No, no, no. It wasn’t intentional. So, we wanted to play a proper game, so it was not intentional.”

New wide ball law not enough to justify Kettleborough’s call

Now let’s come back to umpire Kettleborough’s decision. It was not as simple as it appears to many. The reason behind this is the change in law last year. The previous law only took into account the final position of the batter at the time of the bowler’s release. If it was wide to him in that position and also in his normal stance then the umpire would declare it a wide.

But due to the constant movement from batters to put the bowler off even before the latter reached his delivery stride, lawmakers MCC decided to make certain tweaks to tilt the balance back towards the bowlers. The new law states that the batter’s final position won’t be absolute. If he has shuffled inside or has moved wide and then come back to his normal stance at the time of the release of the ball then all of his movements will be taken into account. And if the umpire feels that any of the batter’s positions would have allowed him to make contact with the ball, then it is not a wide.

What happened in Kohli’s case? He did shuffle towards the stumps slightly when Nasum delivered the ball. So, Kettleborough might have thought his movement before the ball was delivered was enough to deny the wide call. The debate here is, whether Kohli’s movement was significant enough for the ball to hit his pads if he hadn’t moved inside. It’s a marginal call but one would have to believe that it would still have been a wide had Kohli stood his ground. In this case, it might be a bit difficult to give the benefit of the doubt to umpire Kettleborough even after taking the new laws into account.

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