5 Reasons Why Changing the LBW Laws would be a Poor Move | Changing the LBW laws | Ian Chappell’s solution to bridging the gap between bat and ball
As I get ready for another Monday with coffee in hand, I stare in disbelief at my computer screen. Sitting there, I am wondering if ESPNCricinfo are so out of ideas during the COVID-19 pandemic that they have turned to satirical articles.
But, I realise that ESPNCricinfo don’t really do satirical articles. Plus, Ian Chappell isn’t the kind of guy to write them.
Chappell, a tough cricketer and possessor of one of the finest minds of the game, has suggested cricket changes its LBW laws once it returns. Specifically, he says that it shouldn’t matter where the ball pitches or hits the batsman; if the umpire thinks it’ll hit the stumps, you’re out.
“Forget where the ball pitches and whether it strikes the pad outside the line or not; if it’s going to hit the stumps, it’s out” are Chappelli’s words. But, while this might seem attractive to the bowlers, it is a bad idea for the game.
1. Encourage negative bowling
2. Swings the balance too far the other way
3. Offside play becomes an even bigger risk
4. We will place our trust in Hawkeye even more
5. Tests will finish a lot sooner
The reasons why we have the current legside law is two fold;
If Ian Chappell gets his wish, then a delivery pitching outside leg stump can result in a wicket. So, why not bowl around the wicket? Switch the famous 7-2 field and make it a 2-7 field? Focus on legstump rather than off? Boring.
This move will encourage negative bowling; the kind that if there is too much of, the umpire will call a wide as per current laws. There will be an increase in unwatchable passages of play, which does not do the game any favours, should Chappell get his wish.
Cricket has evolved into a batsman’s game. However, better pitches, rather than a change in LBW law, is a key part of creating an equal battle between bat and ball.
The balance will swing too far the other way if we introduce an LBW rule where it doesn’t matter where the ball pitches or hits the batsman. All of a sudden, bowlers, particularly spinners on tracks with some turn, will have too much of an advantage. As a result, we will see an increase in low scores as the margin of error for batsmen becomes way too small.
It’s all about an equal battle between bat and ball. Tactics focused on hitting the pad by all means possible do not encourage positive, attractive cricket.
The back-and-across technique has been a key part of cricket for many-a-decade. Protecting your stumps is something players are tought from a young age, particularly when the ball is moving around.
Picture this. A ball jags back into a batsman, but they cover it well, getting hit outside the line (while playing a shot, of course). Instead of a batsman being rewarded for knowledge of where their offstump is, they will be punished if the ball is deemed to be hitting the stumps.
So, it’s not really leg BEFORE wicket anymore is it? It’s LOWBHW: leg outside wicket, but hitting wicket. And, before you say that leg before wicket should apply even to a ball pitching outside leg (particularly if it still hits the batsman in line), please refer to point one.
Hawkeye isn’t considered to be 100% accurate; the reason why we have umpire’s call. So, could you imagine trusting Hawkeye to make the right call on a delivery the hits a batsman well outside off or leg stump? Think about it. We question Hawkeye even when the ball hits a batsman in line. Ben Stokes’ non-LBW in the dying stages of the classic Headingley Test of 2019 comes to mind. So does Virat Kohli’s close LBW in the 2019 World Cup Semi Final. And, of course, who could forget the Sachin Tendulkar call in the 2011 World Cup Semi Final, still debated to this day?
With this rule change, you’re asking Hawkeye to predict the path of the ball on different angles and longer distances, which can open up a whole other can of worms.
Ian Chappell advocates for the four-day Test in his article, claiming that huge first innings totals will be a thing of the past. However, this rule change will see even the fourth day become a spare one for everyone involved in a Test, as totals will move to the other extreme: too low.
Worse, Tests have been ending quickly as is more often in recent years.
Why? Hint: Not because of the LBW laws.
But rather, because teams are not as as Test-hardened anymore. So, why run the risk of putting another nail in Test cricket’s coffin by increasing the possibility of making them even shorter?
It’s not broken. So no need to fix it.