Steve Smith pulled off a stunning catch showing great athleticism and quick thinking to dismiss Pakistan’s Fawad Alam in the ongoing 3rd ODI between Australia and Pakistan in Abu Dhabi, but finds himself being accused of ‘unfair play’ by hordes of fans who’re simply not aware of the fine changes in rules affected by ICC in playing conditions.
Smith, stationed at first slip, saw the left-handed Alam get into position to play a sweep shot, and started moving towards the batsman’s leg side. The ball from Xavier Doherty bounced higher than Alam expected, took the bat’s edge and lobbed up in the air for Smith, who was already in motion, to pouch it safely.
Alam stood his ground for a while, but eventually the umpires correctly ruled the batsman out.
The confusion in rules and criticism
Law 41.7, effective up to 1st October 2014, states the rule for movement of close in fielders:
Movement by fielders: Any significant movement by any fielder after the ball comes into play, and before the ball reaches the striker, is unfair. In the event of such unfair movement, either umpire shall call and signal Dead ball. Note also the provisions of Law 42.4 (Deliberate attempt to distract striker).
What is ‘any significant movement’?
Law 41.8(a), states:
For close fielders anything other than minor adjustments to stance or position in relation to the striker is significant.
Now, the Pic 2 below shows that Smith was in movement before the ball had reached the striker, and the movement was definitely significant. Then how does the catch become legal?
The change in playing conditions
The interesting thing is, that if this catch had taken place before October 1, it would have been deemed illegal. But the latest change in Law 41.8 makes this catch perfectly legal.
The new addition stipulates that if the batsman is early to get into position to play the shot, i.e. before the ball reaches him, the fielder is then free to make significant movements. A look at Pic 2 below shows that Fawad Alam was clearly in position to play the shot before the ball had reached him, hence Smith’s movements become perfectly legal.