Last week saw the first example of a player being penalised under the revised Law 41.5: 'Deliberate distraction, deception or obstruction of batsman' in the recently active 2017 Code of Laws.
Trying to stop a drive from Cricket Australia XI batsman Param Uppal in the JLT Cup, Queensland's Marnus Labuschagne dived to his right from his fielding position of extra cover before standing up and faking a throwing action after the ball had passed him.
This consequently made Uppal stop in his stride, prior to a hesitation and then completing his run.
Nonetheless, the umpires awarded five Penalty runs to Cricket Australia XI, ruling that Labushagne had tried to deceive the batsman, which is a violation of Law 41.5.
As the Law states: 41.5.1: 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.
One of the reasons for the introduction of the concept of deception into this Law was that some fielders were deliberately pretending to having the ball as a means of preventing batsmen from taking further runs. This was felt to be unfair, especially as it was becoming an increasingly used practice in all formats of the game.
It formed one of the leading questions in MCC’s global consultation and the response was overwhelmingly in favour of introducing a Law to ban the practice.
However, the umpires were completely correct to award five penalty runs under Law 41.5.6 that states: “The bowler’s end umpire shall
- Award 5 Penalty runs to the batting side.
- Inform the captain of the field side of the reason for this action and as soon as practicable inform the captain of the batting side.”
In addition under Law 41.5.9, the batsmen can also choose who is to face the next ball, and the ball should not count as one for the over.
If the fielder had just dived, it would not have been a breach of the Law. He made a genuine attempt to stop the ball by diving and there was nothing wrong with that part. Where he made the issue was when he did the fake throw. This quite clearly led the batsmen to believe that he had indeed stopped the ball.
In other circumstances, if the slide takes place when the fielder isn't close to the ball and it wasn't a genuine attempt to stop it, the umpires will have to decide if they considered the slide to have been an attempt to deceive the batsman.
Ultimately, context is everything and each case will have its own facts.
The final decision is with the umpires and, as with any Law like this, it is always going to be for the umpires to decide what is “deliberate” and what is “deception”.
Law 41.5 in full can be viewed below.