From time to time a topic on the Readers` Forum will  generate   some debate and, often, there are a range of contrasting views expressed.   These  usually cover a broad gamut of opinion – from perceptive to ‘ well wide of the mark’! 

So, it is important to  be aware of what the Laws of Cricket say on the subject. 

With the shorter formats of the game – T/20,  T/10, the new Hundred -  becoming  more of a focus in  modern cricket,   it is clear that ‘dot balls’  are regarded  as a minor victory for the fielding side  and a ‘negative’ for the batsmen.      

As a result of this, there has been a marked increase in non- strikers ‘jumping the gun’ and trying to  gain an unfair advantage for themselves.  Yes, in the past, when the game was usually played in a more ‘gentlemanly’  fashion, a non-striker could still  be  Run out in this way.   And there was – indeed – a convention that  the bowler could   stop before delivering the ball and issue a friendly warning to the errant non-striker,  well out of his ground, that if it happened again he/she (the bowler)  would put down the wicket and appeal. 

Another ‘convention’ springs to mind.   The batsmen are running and a fielder`s throw accidently  hits one of the running batsmen,  or his/her  bat, and the ball deflects off into the outfield.  Sometimes,  the batsmen decline to take the extra run on offer,  although there is nothing in Law to prevent them so doing.   But what if that run is the run  required to win the match ? ? Conventions are a double-edged sword !!   Conventions only work, if both teams/captains are the good guys. 

UMPIRES DO NOT HAVE DISCRETION.   THEY MUST APPLY THE LAWS.   (or the relevant  Competition Regulations).  

Those posters who suggested that this is the way to play cricket today, may well ask themselves why we had to introduce the new “Law 42 – Players` conduct”, providing the option for players to be  removed from the field of play for a limited period, or permanently, for a much  more serious offence.     Sandpaper hidden down a fielder`s trousers, grossly offensive ‘sledging’, brawling on the field of play, etc, etc.     The way the  game is played nowadays has changed  irrevocably,  and the Laws have to be framed in such a way that there is no ambiguity.

So, back to the argument.   In the latest Code of Laws  - 2017,  MCC  decided to  clarify this non-striker situation,  by including in Law 41-  “Unfair play”, a new section -  41.16. “ Non-striker leaving his/her ground early”.   

This Law makes it absolutely clear, that if the non-striker leaves his/her ground before the bowler delivers the ball, he/she is liable to be Run out.  The non-striker is acting unfairly , or to put it  more bluntly is cheating,  in an effort to gain an unfair advantage.      The old idea,  that the bowler is  the bad guy is clearly de-bunked here.    It is the non-striker who is at fault.  

Consider the other end of the pitch.    If the striker leaves his ground, misses the ball and is Stumped.   Should the wicket-keeper not  have put down the wicket and given the striker a friendly warning !!

It may be of interest to the readership to know  that the Laws also restrict the improper early movement of a runner, acting for an injured batsman.      Obviously this is much more uncommon scenario.   

See,   new Law 25.7  - “Restriction on the striker`s runner”  .    This Law makes clear that the runner (who will be running from the square leg position),” may not leave his/her ground until the ball reaches the injured striker or passes the popping crease, whichever is the sooner”.    

 Clearly, if the runner does leave his/her ground  early, it is impossible for the bowler to be able to Run out the runner.    So, this situation is monitored by the striker`s end umpire.   He/she will , when the ball reaches the boundary  or the batsmen have completed one run, Call & signal Dead ball, and then the  Bowler`s end umpire will  disallow any runs scored (except Penalty runs, not including the ball hitting the helmet on the ground behind the `keeper) and return any not out batsman to his/her original end.