Cricket – The Game Of Surprises


Cricket is the game of fun and surprises. It is surprises that keep the game going, be it in the format, rules or spirit.


The no-ball controversy in a India-Sri Lanka one day international match played in Sri Lanka was such a surprise that set the ball rolling. Rolling fast and thick.


Just a quick peek at the rules about no-balls before we speak about the rollicking surprise. The batting side gets a run when a no ball is delivered. But, the ball has to be played. It can be hit for anything-single double four or a six. If it is a four then total five runs are added. And if the batsman gets out on a no ball it is always not out except for a run out.


So far so good. Now, if a team needs one run for victory and the last ball bowled was a no ball the team won just there. Even though any kind of ball must be played, playing the no ball at that point just ceases to matter. If it was hit for a four or a six, the runs would not be counted in the final total. But, if it was a good ball actual runs would be added; meaning the final total would exceed the total needed for win. We are not saying this. The rules say so. A run out at that stage would require another rule to be dug out from the bag of surprises.


Now to the match. In the end of the 34th over India needed five runs to win with six wickets remaining and opener Virender Sehwag who guided the team to that position needed just one run to complete a well deserved century.


Suraj Randiv, an exciting new-found spinner for Sri Lanka, came to bowl the 35th over. The first ball yielded four byes which meant Sehwag still remained at 99 and the team needed just one run for victory. The next two balls failed to give Sehwag that elusive single run. The fourth ball was a huge no ball. Sehwag hit it for a six and celebrated-both for team win and his 13th one day century.


And then the rules. Only one run was added to ensure the win and the six runs went a begging. Poor Sehwag was left stranded at 99.


All hell broke loose. Randiv never bowled a no ball before in any of his matches. So, how could he bowl such a huge one at that momentous moment. Was it deliberate? Just to deprive a century to the opposition?


It is common knowledge in modern aggressive cricket that no team gives anything easily. When somebody is nearing a century a volley of bouncers or close-in fielding positions follow to prevent it. But that goes well with the spirit of the game.


As the no-ball drama unfolded Randiv was found guilty and a team conspiracy was suspected. Randiv promptly apologized to Sehwag. Keeping with the spirit of the game, the Sri Lankan cricket board ordered an inquiry.


On-field audios were allegedly found implicating the Sri Lanka skipper Sangakkara who later owned all responsibility for the ignominious incident. Finally, Randiv was given a ban of one match and a fine of full match fee. Tilakratne Dilshan was found guilty of instigating Randiv for the no ball and was also charged half his match fee. The skipper, of course, was spared.


For cricket crazy India it was one more jingoistic thrill. For the media it was another spicy top story. For cricket experts it was a debate on spirit of the game. For all others it was knowing about a rule that rarely rules.


The wonder that is cricket lives on.