Just in case you haven’t seen the video already, do take a look. The footage of the stumping gets over in the first minute and change, and that’s what I want you to take a look at.
Note the fact that Bairstow seems to mark his presence in the crease with his foot before walking off to converse with his batting partner. Which, of course, is when the wicket keeper throws down the stumps, and appeals for the dismissal of the batsman. All this was done in one smooth motion by the ‘keeper, and was done before the umpire declared the ball dead. If you really want to get into the weeds, here, knock yourself out.
Now nobody (not even the England cricket team!) is arguing that Bairstow wasn’t out. He was. Should the ‘keeper have stumped him is the first question. And given that he did, should the Aussies have appealed? That’s the second question. This is where the spirit of the law, and the intent of the batsman come into play.
First question first: should the keeper have thrown down the stumps?
“Well, why not?” is a perfectly legitimate response in this instance. Is there anything in the rules that stops him from doing so? No. Is the MCC considering changing the rules to prevent keepers from doing so in the future? As far as I can tell, no.
So the keeper could have thrown down the stumps as far as the rules are concerned. Ah, but should he have?
Well, is there precedent? That is, have other batsmen gotten out in this fashion before? And the answer to that question is yes, they have. Our very own Shrikanth got out in his debut match just this way!
Should Bairstow have been warned before being dismissed in this fashion? That is, should the Australians have warned him at least once in advance? I don’t see why, and I do not understand why it is necessary to warn a batsman before the batsman is “Mankaded” either. Or whatever the updated, politically correct term for it is these days.
So yes, the stumps could, and should, have been thrown down.
Second question second: should they have appealed? Or should they not at least have withdrawn the appeal?
Bairstow wasn’t attempting to take a run, or charging down the wicket in order to hit it out of the park, so there was no “intent”. And if there was no “intent”, is this not unfair, or against the spirit of the game? Do we change the rule to say that the batsman cannot be stumped in this fashion? If so, how exactly do we phrase the law?
It doesn’t matter if there was intent or not, that’s my take on the issue. If these are the rules as they stand – and they are – then one should be able to apply the rules when called upon to do so. Why call upon the umpires to apply the rules? Well, because that’s what the rules are there for! To be applied when a doubt arises.
Or put another way, it is outcomes that matter, not intentions.
Does intent never matter? Well, yes, it does. A friend brought up the movie Drishyam. Spoiler alert, so please read the next paragraph only if you’ve seen the movie, or don’t intend to watch it.
The central concept of the movie works only if you buy the idea the girl killed in self-defense. Imagine that case coming up in court, or ask yourself if you have even a little bit of sympathy for Ajay Devgan’s character. If you do, it’s because of the fact that you are giving more weightage to the intention (self-defense) than the outcome (the death of the boy).
My response to this point would be that Bairstow wasn’t outside of his crease “with intent”, sure, but neither was he engaged in protecting his life! He was simply being careless at best, and doing the job of the umpire at worst. Why do I say he was doing the job of the umpire? Because it was he who was calling the ball dead, instead of the umpire, by marking the pitch with his foot. Not his call to make, and the ‘keeper challenged his right to do so.
The umpire upheld that challenge, making to Bairstow the point that lies at the heart of central policy.
Outcomes over intentions!
My thanks to Mihir Mahajan and Murali Neelakantan for engaging discussions on this most delightful of topics, and my thanks to the English and Australian teams for being the teams in question. It helps that neither of the teams involved was India, and it also helped that I don’t particularly like either of the two teams.
I cannot resist making this final point, though – it really is a world gone upside down in 2023, eh? I just wrote a blog post in defense of something the Australian cricket team has done!