Controversial LBW Decision in Last-Ball Drama Sheds Light on Cricket’s Governance Issues

A heart-stopping finish to a cricket match usually brings joy and celebration, but when Sunrisers Hyderabad edged past Rajasthan Royals with a one-run victory on the final ball, it brought a controversial cricket law into the spotlight once more. In less than a month before the much-anticipated T20 World Cup 2024, the incident during the game has reignited discussions about the Laws of Cricket that are deemed flawed by many enthusiasts and experts alike.

In the thrilling game, Bhuvneshwar Kumar of the Sunrisers Hyderabad bowled a delivery that trapped Rovman Powell of the Rajasthan Royals, adjudged LBW on the last ball, when two runs were required by the Royals for a win. Powell opted for the Decision Review System (DRS), but it proved futile. What’s most intriguing is that even if the decision had been reversed, Sunrisers would have still won by the same narrow margin, with the only change being the ‘wicket lost’ column in the scorecard.

This outcome stems from the MCC Law, which states that the ball is considered dead immediately following the incident that causes a dismissal. Consequently, runs scampered by the batting pair during an LBW appeal or runs that could have come from the ball reaching the boundary after hitting the pads are not counted, regardless of a successful DRS overturning the on-field call.

This peculiar situation is not new to the sport. A similar occurrence was noted during the IPL 2021 eliminator match involving Royal Challengers Bengaluru and Kolkata Knight Riders. Harshal Patel of RCB was adjudged LBW by the umpire. Although the DRS later overturned this decision, the two runs taken in the interim were not accounted for, as the ball was deemed dead at the moment the umpire’s finger was raised.

The ramifications of this rule haven’t gone unnoticed. Former Indian cricketer Aakash Chopra was quick to comment on the rule’s implications following the recent match between Sunrisers Hyderabad and Rajasthan Royals. The game could have ended differently had it been a knockout stage or even the final of a high-stakes tournament like the T20 World Cup. Recall the 2019 ODI World Cup final, where a controversial boundary count rule declared England winners, leading to significant rule revisions post-tournament.

The way forward could lie in suggestions from former South African ace bowler, Dale Steyn. Taking a page from Baseball’s rulebook, Steyn proposes that even after a batter is judged out, the ball should remain in play. The batting side should be allowed to run, and the fielding side should be allowed to field until the ball is officially declared dead. Only then should the LBW decision be reviewed.

Such a change could prevent a repeat of scenarios where a match’s outcome is influenced by a potentially incorrect call rather than the players’ competitive efforts on the field. Yet, the bigger question looms: Will the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) or the International Cricket Council (ICC) pay heed to such suggestions before another major event is overshadowed by a controversial rule?

Cricket, as a game deeply rooted in tradition, often sees hesitation in changing established laws. Nevertheless, the debate following the narrow win by Sunrisers Hyderabad suggests a need for further discussion and potential reform.

The frustration is palpable among those who follow and love the sport. While the thrill of the last-ball drama is what fans live for, instances like these leave many questioning the fairness and the very essence of the rules that govern the game. It’s a matter of when rather than if, for a rule change imperative to keep the integrity of the sport intact and ensure that it is the contest between bat and ball, and not the rulebook, that ultimately decides the fate of a match.

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