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Was Andre Russell’s strategy against Shane Watson legal?

Andre Russell's much discussed bowling antics. Photo Courtesy - Screenshots
Andre Russell’s much discussed bowling antics. Photo Courtesy – Screenshots

On May 5, 2014, Andre Russell had adopted a bizarre strategy to ensure Shane Watson left an ordinary delivery go past him. Abhishek Mukherjee explains why Russell’s action was perfectly legal.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) often comes up with one novelty after another, and of late, most of them have not been the likes of which you would want to discuss with your children. What Andre Russell did the other day was, however, a novelty.

Let us go through the run of incidents:

-  Russell ran in to bowl to Shane Watson. So far, so good.

-  Just before he reached the bowling crease, Russell slowed down, almost pulling out of the run-up.

- Watson obviously fell for it: he backed out, anticipating Russell to go back to his mark.

- Russell, however, continued in a lacklustre ambling motion, eventually delivering the ball.

- A bemused Watson, thoroughly taken aback by the proceedings, was too stunned to react, and saw the ball go past him harmlessly.

It was an ordinary delivery, but a dot ball was obtained thanks to some exceptional thinking (whether planned or impromptu) on Russell’s part. It may or may not have been a well-rehearsed act, but whatever it was, it had its effects. Of course, if used on a consistent basis, batsmen would be smart enough to capitalise on it.

The question to ask is: was Russell’s act legal? Let us go through the laws.

Law 42.4, the closest to Russell’s performance, states: “It is unfair for any fielder deliberately to attempt to distract the striker while he is preparing to receive or receiving a delivery.”

Russell was certainly not distracting Watson. What he did was a change in run-up — which is certainly not anything illegal.

No law pertains to the bowler’s run-up, which meant that Mike Procter or Sohail Tanvir (bowling off the wrong foot — though one may argue that a delivery stride is not a part of a run-up), Colin Croft (emerging from behind the umpire at the last moment), Abdul Qadir (no words for it), or Paul Adams (once again, the delivery stride was the part in question) all had justified actions.

Years ago, Mohinder Amarnath had adopted a similar run-up where he almost stopped before delivering the ball. However, that became his regular run-up, so there was no element of surprise when he did that. Russell’s act was different: it was a change of run-up for a single delivery without notifying anyone.

While switching hands or the side of the wicket from where you want to bowl are mandatory to be informed to the umpires, a change in run-up is not. Which is why Russell’s scheme was entirely legal, and to add to that, an extremely cunning and effective one.

Whether it was a sporting act is, however, something that can be debated on. The purists may not have thought too highly of it.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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