Debate rages over obstruction wicket

Brisbane skipper Brendon McCullum says George Bailey may regret the controversial wicket of Alex Ross in a BBL|07 thriller

Adam Burnett at the Gabba

11 January 2018, 07:44 AM AEST

Ross given out for obstructing the field

Brisbane Heat captain Brendon McCullum believes Hurricanes captain George Bailey may regret not recalling batsman Alex Ross following his controversial dismissal in last night's KFC BBL match at the Gabba.

Ross was on 27 and loomed as the Heat's key hope in their pursuit of Hobart's 180 when he was adjudged to have obstructed the field in the 17th over after the ball deflected off his body and onto the stumps, with the Hurricanes originally appealing for a run-out.

In attempting a second run, the batsman diverted from a straight path as the throw came in, however it appeared as though he was taking evasive action as opposed to making an effort to block the path of the ball as it travelled towards the stumps.

The third umpire, however, deemed Ross had made a deliberate attempt to prevent the ball from hitting the stumps, and as such, he was given out.

The Hurricanes went on to win by three runs, after which McCullum and Bailey – two of the sharper minds in world cricket – engaged in an animated discussion on the Network Ten coverage.

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"Personally I thought it wasn't the right decision and if I get fined for saying that, fair play, but I think everyone here and probably everyone that's watched the game didn't think it was the right decision," the Heat and former Black Caps skipper said.

"I felt he was running away from the ball, he wasn't impeding the ball.

"I was disappointed that the appeal was upheld, but I guess Hobart can take the points.

"I thought the rest of the game was brilliant, I actually thought they probably deserved to win, it's just a shame it was marred by that."

Bailey, the less vocal of the two captains, conceded the Hurricanes players needed to look at the television replay on the giant screen in order to then request the umpires review the potential for the rare obstructing the field mode of dismissal.

"I'm learning the rule as we speak," he said. "But I appealed for the run-out, and then when we saw the replay and saw 'Rossy' had changed his angle, we asked, 'Has he changed his line – can you check for obstructing the field as well?'. And we were awaiting the umpire's decision."

The decision drew shocked reactions from throughout the cricket world, with disagreement from Network Ten commentators Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh, while social media lit up with incredulity, with former Australia quick (and former Brisbane Heat player) Ryan Harris fuming.

Even Adam Zampa weighed in, although there might have been just a touch of the facetious about this tweet.

McCullum's tenure as New Zealand captain was notable for an emphasis on the spirit of cricket, fair play and upholding the tenets of the 'gentlemen's game' as they were originally intended; a philosophy that irked some, but won plenty of admirers as well.

The 36-year-old has brought that concept to the Heat – a fact evidenced by his take on the obstruction controversy, and the different path he believes it could have followed.

"We're not righteous about our stance on spirit of the game, but I think every now and then you get an opportunity to stand up for the spirit of the game," he said.

"Tonight I think the Hurricanes, or George, missed an opportunity. I just get the feeling, speaking from experience, that this is an opportunity that he will in time wish he had made the other choice."

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"I did the Spirit of Cricket Lecture – the Cowdrey Lecture – a couple of years ago, and I openly admitted my own mistakes about not adhering to what was a great opportunity to hold the spirit of cricket up where it needs to sit.

"Because there are millions of kids around the world (who), whilst it's a fiercely competitive game, need to understand as well that you play the game in the right spirit.

"But look, that's the way we want to play the game – other teams don't have to play like that. But I think we'll certainly endear ourselves to a select group of fans for the way we play, and judge the others how you want, but we'll focus on what we want to do."

McCullum's comments refer to his actions in a 2006 Test match between New Zealand and Sri Lanka, when the then wicketkeeper ran out Sri Lanka No.11 Muthiah Muralidaran as he celebrated teammate Kumar Sangakkara's century. McCullum was within the Laws of the game, but he now feels not the unwritten spirit of cricket. The incident caused controversy at the time, and in 2016 McCullum publicly apologised to both players in his Cowdrey Lecture speech.

"Whatever the rules are, and to be honest I don't really care what the rules are – to me that's one of those grey areas about the definition of that rule, just like a Mankad is a grey area .. but to me it also falls into the spirit of the game," he added. "And that was what I was making the point to George, and he's quite entitled to do it differently. 

"As I say, we're not righteous about our stance, but I'm also going to be truthful about it, and say that I think he missed an opportunity tonight. Sometimes there's opportunities which are more important than the two points at play."

Last word on the BBL's obstruction debate, though, goes to Adelaide Strikers coach and fast bowling legend, Jason Gillespie.

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