All sports are governed by sets of rules, and these must be adhered to by all the participants, otherwise the game descends into chaos and anarchy.
There has been some comment on the CricketEurope Ireland Readers Forum recently, concerning an important relegation match in the North West Cricket Union, and what exactly happened, and what should have happened.
I have been asked to explain what the officials and the players do in such a situation.
The game of cricket is played under a Code of Laws prefaced by a Preamble ‘The Spirit of Cricket’, and a set of Playing Regulations . These set out how cricket is played and who is responsible for what.
These are - briefly – as follows :-
Respect is central to the Spirit of Cricket. The Players must accept the authority of the umpires. The umpires are the sole judges of fair and unfair play, but the major responsibility for ensuring fair play rests with the captains.
Fitness of the ground for play :- It is solely for the umpires together to decide whether the ground conditions, weather or light are acceptable for play to start or continue.
Disagreement and Dispute:- Where there is disagreement or dispute about any matter the umpires together shall make the final decision.
So, those are the ‘bare bones’ of how a cricket match proceeds. What sets cricket apart from most other sports is the enhanced responsibility of the team captain.
If a player should step out of line for any reason, the umpires will deal with the matter through his/her captain.
For example, if there is an act of serious dissent, or – heaven forbid - an act of violence, (a Level 3, or a Level 4 offence) by a player, it is his/her captain who will be summoned by the umpires and directed to remove the player directly from the field of play.
My knowledge of the events of this particular match are second hand, as I was not present, but I will go through it as it has been reported to me.
It appears that from the start the home team wasn`t keen to play, fully aware that by not playing they would avoid the automatic drop.
Clearly the visitors were desperate to play as they had to win the match to stay up. Over to the umpires – Decision time number one !
Their job was to follow the Laws and regulations to the letter and with absolute impartiality – not an easy task in this situation. It is very important that they keep the captains fully informed , but that they avoid getting into conversations or debates with the players.
They should make their inspections alone - away from the players, come to an agreed position, and then inform the captains. I understand they decided on an hour’s delay.
In an ideal situation the home club should have been making every effort with the ‘drying up’ – forking any wet areas, applying sawdust and using any machinery that might be available (super sopper etc) . The umpires should keep an eye on these proceedings , but keep well away from both sets of players.
The umpires must have been satisfied after the hour`s delay, that play could proceed. They would have done the calculations about lost overs, and bowlers` limits (if that applied) and get play underway.
Neither side has any input into this decision – there can be no further complaints or comments. Apparently the opening bowler fell down delivering the second ball of the first over, and complained that he was unable to run up properly and wouldn`t continue.
Decision time number two, for the umpires :- This situation has to be managed – it is not an impasse. They should summon the captain and advise him to get his team to continue with the match.
If the opening bowler was refusing to continue bowling, the captain would have to get another bowler to replace him and finish the over. (Calculated as one over each in the bowler`s limits).
At that stage it would be appropriate to remind the captain that if play did not resume, the umpires would have no choice but to award the match to the other side, because of a refusal to play.
This is an important staging post in arriving at a’ refusal to play’ – the difference between one bowler not wanting to bowl, and the team and their captain refusing to continue with the match.
This unhappy state of affairs will now have to be dealt with by the Governing Body, - the NWCU. The umpires did their job, two teams turned up, spectators turned up, and one team decided not to play / continue a game of cricket. Bringing the game into disrepute springs to mind.
**Update: Ballyspallen protested to the NWCU, but this was rejected. They have now appealed the decision and it will be heard in due course.**