IT’S NOT CRICKET! - Fakhar Zaman/ De Kock Run Out
I am thankful to my friend Salim Parvez, who initiated a debate over the recent run-out incident of Fakhar Zaman at the end of the second ODI between South Africa and Pakistan, in South Africa.
The ensuing debate on Facebook and other social media have brought in the lovers of the game with their views, personal opinions and expert assertions. Whereas my thought in contributing to the debate was very simple: Is it cricket or is it not cricket?
I have been a believer that cricket is the game of gentlemen. It carries a certain discipline and in the past, any deviation from that discipline earned the “It’s not cricket!” label. My use of this label toward the Fakhar Azam/ De Kock incident extended the debate beyond my intention, as online debates are wont to do. As such I have decided to pen down my observations for the benefit of all lovers of the game.
It has been interesting for me to note the variety of comments, views and opinions on Facebook and other social media. Some squarely blame Fakhar Zaman, noting his comment “The fault was mine”, which I interpret as his gracious and magnanimous way of quelling the controversy and keeping the spirit of the game (like a gentleman!) versus an admission of a mistake. Some opine that Fakhar was fooled, “De Kock outsmarted Fakhar”, which appears to me to be congratulatory toward De Kock. There are some who don’t think anything untoward happened at all: “Not cheating but low act by de Kock”, as if De Kock’s action was merely against decent behavior but fully within the rules of the game and the spirit of sportsmanship. This camp is similar to those who believe that “De Kock has been cleared of any wrong doing”, and therefore there was no wrongdoing. Some say fake laws have been exposed. A most interesting opinion is that everything is fair in love and war; although this writer wishes humbly to submit that this was a case of neither love nor war! Finally, there is an almost attractively laid-back position held by some: “It’s a minor incident - what’s the fuss about?”
I will lay down here why I am fussed about it and why I think a law of cricket has been broken. With hundreds of views and opinions floating around, it would appear that one has lost track of the actual happening. At the point of the incident, one of the commentators was heard saying: “You watch Quinton De Kock here, as Fakhar Zaman’s taking the second run. He’s pointing the other end, saying you get it, you get it, as if it’s (the ball) going that end! But the ball’s coming towards him and he is well aware it’s coming too! And then look at him laugh, as well as I done him, I got him! Absolutely brilliant, Quinton De Kock!” This clip, showing the laughing De Kock overlaid with the commentator’s own laughter, explains what really happened: a wilful attempt at distraction and trickery, enjoyed equally by the player committing it and the commentator reviewing it.
And all this under the very eyes of both the umpires! The two umpires on the field, in consultation with the third umpire off-field, under the hawk eyes of the Match Referee, are supposed to ensure the legitimacy of game moves: fours and sixes, announcing the No Ball after it has been bowled, etc.
Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC), the Custodians of The Laws of Cricket since 1787, responded to this incident by pointing toward Law 41: Unfair Play, particularly Rule 41.5.1: Deliberate Distraction, Deception or Obstruction of Batsman which states: “In addition to 41.4, it is unfair for any fielder wilfully to attempt, by word or action, to distract, deceive or obstruct either batsman after the striker has received the ball.” MCC clarified that “The Law is clear, with the offence being an ATTEMPT to deceive, rather than the batsman actually being deceived.” Such an attempt was clearly made by Quentin De Kock toward Fakhar Zaman. Even if Zaman had not been deceived, De Kock’s attempt was still in deviation from the rules of the game and that, in my mind, is not a minor thing!
MCC had further added in a tweet that “It's up to the umpires to decide if there was such an attempt. If so, then it's Not out, 5 Penalty runs + the 2 they ran, and batsmen choose who faces next ball." As we all know, the umpires ruled in favour of the South African team. Respect is central to ‘The Spirit of Cricket’, also stewarded and promoted by MCC, which demands that the umpire’s decision must be accepted. So there, the matter ends, in keeping with the Spirit of Cricket.
But while I very much wanted to restrict myself to the spirit of the game, I cannot resist questioning about more than what the eye see, and wondering about what we, as spectators, expect.
Not worrying about the actual umpires’ decision in this game for a moment, let us consider what we have lost in the process of this incident.
- Graceful traditions of cricket: Since at the point of this incident, Pakistan was chasing 31 runs with a single over remaining, the game may have been won by South Africa in any case. Has Fakhar Zaman not been denied the honor of carrying the bat with grace, as well as the honor of having the opponent allowing him to lead out of the ground?
- Playing hard and playing fair (Spirit of Cricket): The current captain of the South African team noted the incident as being “a clever piece of cricket” from De Kock where no rules were broken. Has De Kock not cost South Africa a non-controversial win, and the pride of fighting with the spirit of sportsmen?
On the other hand, there is something to be gained perhaps, if only those who have a place of impact and influence, consider this:
- Awareness of the Law: The incident has exposed our team management of being unaware of the law, evident in their not initiating any objection with the Match Referee. I am reminded of Bob Woolmer with his pad and pen, who although a coach, not a manager, paid meticulous and unwavering attention to the proceedings of the match. Is there not a place for the same attention, the same sense of duty, the same knowledge for team managers today?
- The role of Pakistan’s National Cricket Academy: I have started wondering about the role the NCA can play in the not just churning out world class cricketers, but also attending to the depth and breadth of their knowledge of the laws of the game!
These are some of the questions that I wish to leave for the critics to pursue.
I feel that ICC should punish the perpetrators of such tactics that not only are against the laws of the game but undermine the spirit of the game. Also, persons responsible for the conduct of matches should be taken to task, if they overlook such incidents when they happen. When such incidents happen, and are allowed to happen, it’s not cricket!
Let us play and enjoy the great game of cricket!
©Cricket World 2021