In the World Cup match between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in New Delhi on Monday, Angelo Mathews went into the game’s record books as the first batter in international cricket to be dismissed “timed out”. The incident occurred at the fall of the fourth Sri Lankan wicket, with Mathews unable to face his first ball within the stipulated two minutes due to a problem with his helmet strap.
Expectedly, the incident has stirred controversy regarding the interpretation of the law and the failure to uphold the “spirit of cricket”. Strictly speaking, Bangladesh may have abided by the law that states: “After the fall of a wicket or the retirement of a batter, the incoming batter must, unless time has been called, be ready to receive the ball, or for the other batter to be ready to receive the next ball within two minutes of the dismissal or retirement. If this requirement is not met, the incoming batter will be out, timed out.” The “spirit of cricket” debate is often a matter of convenience used, for instance, to unfairly stigmatise bowlers who run out the non-striker for leaving the crease. In this instance, Sri Lanka’s anguish is understandable. This was not like the running out of a non-striker where the batter stands to gain an advantage by leaving his crease early. Mathews has pointed out that he was at the crease one minute and 50 seconds after Sadeera Samarawickrama’s dismissal, only to find his helmet strap broken. Should he have carried on batting without a helmet and potentially risked his safety? By initiating the appeal, Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan was misusing a law meant to penalise batters who deliberately delay their entry as a time-wasting tactic. As on-field arbiters of cricket laws, the umpires could have realised that and used their discretion.
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