Obstructing the field has always been a controversial rule in cricket even with the rulebook being quite clear on the definition. And it earned a whole new grey area on Wednesday after a debatable decision during South Africa’s batting against West Indies in the ICC U-19 World Cup. South Africa opener Jiveshan Pillay was given out for obstructing the field of play after what seemed like an inoccuous decision to hand the ball back to the West Indies keeper.
Facing West Indies pacer Jarion Hoyte, Pillay mistimed his cover drive and edged the ball back on to his pads. The ball started to dribble towards the stumps but stopped in its path before dislodging the wicket. The South Africa batsman then tapped the stationary ball with his bat, picked it up and threw it back to the West Indies wicketkeeper and captain Emmanuel Stewart. The West Indies skipper then talked to the two standing umpires before the call went upstairs. After a long wait, almost five minutes, the decision came as ‘OUT’ which raised plenty of eyebrows.
The decision resulted in a divided field with former Australia player Lisa Sthalekar quick to show her displeasure. “Can’t believe what I am seeing @ICC #U19WorldCup,” she tweeted. “WI appealed for handling the ball. The ball had stopped rolling & the player picked it up.”
Meanwhile, South Africa’s senior team captain Faf du Plessis found the decision ‘an absolute joke’ and certainly not in the spirit of the game.
The rule in question, however, justifies that the decision should have been ‘Out’. According to Law 37.4 (Returning the ball to a fielder), “Either batsman is out Obstructing the field if, at any time while the ball is in play and, without the consent of a fielder, he/she uses the bat or any part of his/her person to return the ball to any fielder.” As per the new law, introduced last year, handling the ball rule applies before the striker has “finished playing the ball”, while obstructing the field applies afterwards.
So which side of the fence do you stand on as far as the decision is concerned?