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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Bruce Oxenford blunders - this time it is Powerplay

Signals are very powerful means of communication but also carry the risk of being misunderstood.  In a Cricket match, the  movements of Umpires are signals, primarily to the scorers, who would acknowledge by waving a handkerchief or some like movement.  At Hambantota, in the first ODI, something comical occurred though it did not affect the course or result of the match.

Avid followers have seen this many a time – India faltering – after the display in 1st ODI, if you had thought, batting is your fortress, they failed miserably in the 2nd making 138 – bowled out in 33.3 overs.  Angelo  Mathews claimed 3-14 from seven overs and Perera 3-19 from eight,  finished them with only opener Gautam Gambhir providing any resistance for India by scoring 65. Lankans finished hastily inside 20 overs.  Taranga scored 59, Dilshan smashed 50 and they put up 119 for the first wicket before Ashwin took the only wicket to fall.  

Most of you know what ‘Power play’ means.  Fielding restrictions are nothing new.  In early days, there was the fielding restriction in the first 15 overs, Krish Srikkanth used to hit the ball over the top, over the infield.  The 1992 WC saw pinchhitters opening with Mark Greatbatch, Ian Botham and others coming as openers to utilize the field restrictions.  

This fielding restriction was introduced as arule in 1991 to add more excitement to Onedayers.  Depending upon the restriction / playing condition, only 2 or 3 players are allowed outside the 30 yard  circle – thus if you have a long on or long off, you have to have your fineleg inside the 30 yard circle.  In recent years, you have 3 powerplays – the first 10 overs and then 2 blocks of 5 overs each – one to be decided by the Batting team and the other by the Bowling team.

During the mandatory Powerplay only two fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle and there must be a minimum of two stationary fielders within the applicable fielding restriction area measured from the striker’s end at the instant of delivery. During Bowling and Batting Powerplay overs, only three fielders are allowed outside the 30-yard circle. During the non Powerplay overs, no more than five fielders shall be permitted outside the fielding restriction area.  From October 1, 2011, the ICC brought further  changes to the Bowling and Batting Powerplays. Under the new rules, in a 50-over match, neither Powerplay may be taken before the start of the 16th over and both must be completed before the commencement of the 41st over, so overs 11 to 15 and 41 to 50 cannot be Powerplay overs.

Simple – but at Hambantota in the 1st ODI,  it ended up in a mess – total confusion in the modern World of communications !!

It got reduced to ridiculous laughing levels as a serious loophole in on-field communication was revealed.  By official Statistics, India opted for the batting powerplay in the 17th over – what a radical step one might wonder and they played out them tamely, as none – either the batters on the ground or the Captain, Coach, and players were aware of the same.  

Cricinfo reports that before the 17th over, when Virat Kohli signalled to the dressing room for a cap. The umpires, though, seemed to think it was an indication of the batting Powerplay being taken, and Bruce Oxenford signalled accordingly with the circular motion of the arm and a tapping of hands above the head.

Bruce Nicholas James Oxenford is an Australian, he played  first grade cricket with University of Queensland, and appeared for Queensland in first-class cricket as a lower-order right-hand batsman and leg break and googly bowler before commencing umpiring.  In 2008  he made his debut officiating in a match between India and Sri Lanka.  It was 29th over of the ODI 3244 between India and Australia at  at Woolloongabba, Brisbane – 3rd ball of the over - Billy Bowden and SJ Davis  were the ones on field. 

Suresh Raina from round the wicket to MEK Hussey – misses, off goes the bails and there is an appeal for Stumping.  Dhoni is confident – it does appear that Hussey has dragged his back foot back in time.  The screen goes ‘Out” – Hussey starts walking, Billy Bowden goes running after him, recalling him.  He explains that the Third Umpire has told him that it was not out but had pressed the wrong button –   it was not wrong technology but incapacity to do the simplest task.

Now at Hambantota, the TV commentators were surprised by the Indian decision (!) to take the powerplay, which normally is taken after the 30th over.  The (mis)information sparked some debate over India's radical new strategy. Only Mahela Jayawardene seemed to have got it right and set his field accordingly, and took his bowling Powerplay from the 34th over.  India's batsmen - Kohli and Virender Sehwag - seemed unaware, and did not visibly change their approach during the five-over period, in which India collected 32 for 0.  The Indians  sought the batting Powerplay later  and were told it had already been taken.

Sehwag is quoted as saying  "When I asked the umpire he said that Virat Kohli gave him the signal to take the Powerplay," Sehwag said during the press conference at the team hotel on Monday. "When I asked Virat he said I asked [for] my cap rather than asking [for] the Powerplay, so that was a misunderstanding I think."

Umpires can err; to err is human – but when it was Indian [Asian Umpires] – there would be outbursts and remember something done by an Asian Umpire, a couple of decades ago and the reaction of England or Australian to that…….  Poor Swarup Krishnans and Ramaswamis bore the brunt those days …

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.


  1. poor Umpiring and arrogant attitude have been that of Aussies and we happily subscribe to that - Naryaan

  2. This man can only err.. he had two buttons only - the simplest of them all - pressed teh wrong button and then went on to explain.. he is an Austrlaian would never be questioned for all the blunders - Seymour Nurse