Wednesday, January 18, 2006

On Chucking in Cricket

Prem Panicker protests against the new chucking law that bans players for a year when they are caught chucking, instead of merely requiring umpires to no-ball the specific deliveries that are chucked.

I'm afraid I'd have to disagree on that score. What's missing from the equation is the issue of how difficult it is to accurately estimate whether a specific ball is chucked or not (which has finally been defined somewhat objectively as elbow flexion greater than 15 degrees). It's simply impossible with the naked eye.

What's the solution then? Look at the video after the game and evaluate the footage to make the determination. The problem then is that the bowler gains an unfair advantage during that game. Bowlers could then chuck with impunity in critical junctures and get away with it scot-free.

In consequence, there would have to be sufficiently large disincentives that prevent the bowler from attempting to use such a strategy. Banning him for a couple of years fits the bill perfectly as a good disincentive. Hence, the rule we have in place today.

Such an incentive system is hardly uncommon. For example, a ticketless traveler on public transport, when caught, has to pay a fine tens of times higher than the ticket price. Again, the reason is to ensure that the "expected cost of cheating" -- the product of the price when caught, multiplied by the probability of being caught -- is high. When the probability of being caught is low, we need to boost the penalty you pay! (Of course, we might wonder why the probability is low in the first place. The answer is that we can reduce enforcement costs this way! In fact, we can spend less and less money enforcing the law by proportionately increasing the fines more and more until we run into the problem of people not being rich enough to pay up!)


Anonymous Calvin Schulster said...

Have you considered why chucking should be illegal? Not because it lets the bowler bowl better but because it deceives the batsman as to the time of release—the ball is released later than the batsman expects, thus upsetting his preparation to play the ball.

It follows, therefore, that we don't need a mathematical criterion; whether a ball was chucked or not should be decided by looking at the action with the naked eye (which is what the batsman does).

Also, as Panicker points out, the umpires, under the existing rules, cannot turn down an appeal on the grounds that the ball was chucked. So the suggested reform makes perfect sense to me.

1/23/2006 8:02 AM  
Blogger Prasanna said...

Calvin, I would disagree with both your points above. I don't know why chucking was originally deemed illegal but the prime complaints about chucking today have little to do with deception. The two situations where chucking is most prominent are:
(a) off-spinners attempting to gain extra turn, especially for the doosra; and (b) fast bowlers stretching for extra pace.

Second, any rule that can objectively be enforced must, by definition, have a mathematical criterion. This is not art where the answer is in the eye of the beholder. The ICC's original criterion was that the elbow cannot bend at all (more precisely, that the bend of the arm cannot change during delivery). And it expected umpires to judge this with the naked eye. Modern video footage has clearly shown both that the criterion is bad (since all bowlers chuck according to this definition) and that umpires have a poor idea of what the degree of elbow flexion really is.

The rules have since been modified to allow for a precisely defined limit of fifteen degrees. Still, there is no way in the world that this limit can be judged by the naked eye.

It's all very well to dream of an utopian world where it can be judged instantaneously upon delivery of a ball (a sensor system attached to the bowler's arm coupled with live feed analysis could get us here someday), but until that date, we have to live with the realities of delayed rule enforcement. Hence the stiff penalties.

1/24/2006 9:11 AM  
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