THE QUESTION: Are Wickets Always Worth It?

Cricket is a simple game… right? The batting side’s job is to score runs; the fielding side’s job is to take wickets!

Well, imagine the scene:

It is the World T20 Final, and there are 3 overs left: the batting side need 30 off 18 balls, with Annie Accumulator at the crease, currently on 15 off 25 balls.

The bowling side bring back their star bowler, who bowls 5 dots in a row – now they need 30 off 13 balls, and Annie is now on 15 off 30 – a Strike Rate of just 50.

In desperation, Annie takes a big heave at the final ball of the over. It skies up towards the bowling side’s skipper, Rachel Reliable, at extra cover – it is going straight to her – the easiest catch she’ll ever take!

But…

Rachel knows that the next batsman in is Briana Basher – probably the only batter in the world who could hit the now-required 30 off 12 balls. So she takes a step backwards, allowing the ball to bounce in front of her, before hurling it in to the ‘keeper to save the second run.

In the post-match press-conference, after the batting side have fallen 20 short with Annie Accumulator not out on 17 off 35, Rachel Reliable holds the trophy in front of the media.

“What about that catch?” they ask.

“I just misjudged it,” she replies innocently.

And maybe she did (!) but it raises an interesting question.

These circumstances are clearly rather contrived; but there is a situation we do actually see quite often, where a fielder in the deep will chose not to go for a diving catch because if they miss it, it will go for 4 – so they prioritise saving the 4 over (possibly) taking the wicket.

The question is somewhat analogous to a play in baseball called a “Walk”, where the pitcher will deliberately bowl four consecutive “wides” to a batter, in order to prevent them hitting a home run, at which point they have to “walk” to first base – a play so normal in baseball, there are stats on it!

But would it “be cricket” if it happened in cricket?

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3 thoughts on “THE QUESTION: Are Wickets Always Worth It?

  1. It’s something I’ve often thought about, most recently during the T20 series, when South Africa were struggling on occasion and I was begging England not to get a certain batsman out and allow Chloe Tryon to come in.

    It potentially works both ways, of course.

    On the other side of the coin, should a batsman in that situation “give his/her wicket away” for the good of the team? Miss a straight one, or dolly up a catch?

    Or should a bowler not appeal for a “stone dead plum” LBW in particular, or perhaps a blatant nick behind, in order to keep a batsman at the crease? Technically the umpire can only give a batsman out – even bowled, I think – in response to an appeal.

    Both teams have the chance to “influence” the game in this way but I can’t really remember seeing it ever happen in an obvious way.

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    • I had a dilemma when in my mid-teens. I nicked a ball to the keeper and walked. I had to pass the square leg umpire on the way off and he told me to look at the bowler’s umpire. That guy was signalling me to come back in – obviously quite certain I hadn’t hit it. I was in absolutely no doubt I had. What to do??? Being a great believer in the Spirit of the game I thought of playing over the next straight one but took a few balls to think about it. In the end, still uncertain, I batted on. When I got home I asked my father if I had done the right thing. He made two related arguments. (1) Whether you’re out or not is his decision, not yours and (2) think of the times you’ve been given out when convinced you weren’t. I still ponder over whether I made the right choice to this day!

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      • We had a county game last season where one of our players was given out LBW but stood there for a few seconds clearly protesting that she had hit the ball (if it’s at all relevant, I thought it was obvious even from the boundary that there was bat involved, but there you go…).

        Subsequently I got into a friendly – but pointed – discussion with her father as to how far she was entitled to display any “dissent”. He felt she was, I felt she was not.

        The point I made was that had she edged the ball to the keeper and been given not out she would probably have been quite happy to “respect the umpire’s decision” in that instance. And given that, she should also respect the umpire’s decision when it went against her. You can’t have your cake and eat it!

        Which begs the question – are players who “walk” despite not being given out guilty of showing dissent?

        Of course, none of this is relevant to the example raised by Syd, except that it does all hark back to the integrity of the game in the widest sense of the phrase.

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