Cricket, a game of skill, strategy, and passion, has evolved over the years with numerous laws introduced to govern the sport.
One such law, which has garnered significant attention, is the rare ‘handled ball’ dismissal.
In this article, we will delve into the specifics of this unique form of dismissal, its history, and notable instances that have occurred in the cricketing world.
What is ‘Handled Ball’?
Handled ball’ is a mode of dismissal in cricket where a batsman is given out for deliberately touching the ball with their hand, which is not in contact with the bat, while the ball is in play. This rule ensures that the batsman does not gain an unfair advantage by manipulating the ball with their hands.
History and Introduction of the Law
The ‘handled ball’ law traces its origins back to the early days of cricket. The first official mention of this dismissal type can be found in the ‘Code of 1744,’ which laid the groundwork for the modern rules of cricket. However, it was not until the ‘Laws of Cricket,’ codified in 1788 by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), that the ‘handled ball’ rule was firmly established.
The Exact Handled Ball Law in Cricket
According to Law 33 in the MCC’s Laws of Cricket, a batsman is dismissed for ‘handled ball’ if:
- The ball is in play.
- The batsman deliberately touches the ball with a hand or hands not in contact with the bat.
- The touch is not with the consent of the fielding team.
It is important to note that the rule does not apply if the batsman is attempting to avoid injury.
Changes to the Law Over Time
Over the years, the ‘handled ball’ law has undergone several amendments. In 1980, the law was revised to exclude instances where a batsman prevents the ball from hitting the stumps with their hand, while the hand is not in contact with the bat. This action is now governed by Law 37 (Obstructing the Field).
In a significant change, the MCC’s 2017 edition of the Laws of Cricket merged ‘handled ball’ with ‘obstructing the field.’ Consequently, batsmen can no longer be given out specifically for ‘handled ball,’ but they can still be dismissed for obstructing the field under Law 37, which encompasses handling the ball deliberately.
Notable Handled Ball Dismissals in History
While ‘handled ball’ dismissals have been rare, there have been some noteworthy instances in cricket history:
- Russell Endean (South Africa) – 1956: Endean became the first player to be dismissed for ‘handled ball’ in Test cricket during South Africa’s tour of England. He instinctively picked up a spinning ball to protect his wicket, resulting in his dismissal.
- Andrew Hilditch (Australia) – 1979: In a match against Pakistan, Hilditch caught a ball that had been deflected off his pads and handed it to a fielder. He was subsequently given out for ‘handled ball.’
- Mohinder Amarnath (India) – 1986: Amarnath’s dismissal against Australia marked the first instance of ‘handled ball’ in One Day Internationals (ODIs). He picked up the ball, assuming it was dead, only to be declared out.
- Steve Waugh (Australia) – 2001: In a Test match against India, Waugh tried to defend a ball that bounced towards his stumps. He ended up flicking the ball away with his hand, resulting in a ‘handled ball’ dismissal.
- Chamu Chibhabha (Zimbabwe) – 2015: The last instance of a ‘handled ball’ dismissal before the rule change in 2017 occurred in an ODI between Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. Chibhabha was dismissed for handling a ball from Dawlat Zadran that had stopped near his stumps.
Cricket’s ‘handled ball’ law, with its intriguing history and notable dismissals, has contributed to the rich tapestry of the sport. Its transformation into part of the ‘obstructing the field’ rule reflects the ongoing evolution of cricket laws. The ‘handled ball’ dismissal, while rare, serves as a stark reminder of the fine balance between the laws and the spirit of the game. A batsman’s momentary instinct, if not in keeping with the rules, can lead to dramatic turn of events on the field, thereby highlighting the importance of a thorough understanding of the laws of cricket.