Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Cyborg Batsman

So by now everyone knows that Gilchrist batted in Saturday's chaotic world cup final with a squash ball stuck in his left glove (a tip from the former West Australian batsman Bob Vermuelen) to ease the pressure exerted by the bottom hand on the bat's grip. Whats interesting is the complete lack of analysis surrounding this. For instance, what problem in Gilchrist's batting was this excess pressure causing? What kind of dismissals was it resulting in? Was it recommended as a corrective or as an enhancement? How long did Gilchrist try this in the nets? What did it feel like at first? And, why am I so curious? Well, it seems to me that what we have on our hands is a prosthetically enhanced batsman, and that its only the small size of the prosthesis that is preventing more chatter about it. Of course all batsman rely on things like pads, gloves, thigh-guards to go forth and do battle. But presumably there is a limit on how a batsman may protect himself (is there?) and on how he may choose to enhance other parts of this cricketing kit in order to bat better. Could a batsman rig himself up with a device that prevents him flashing at a delivery too far outside off-stump, or from shuffling too far across? Presumably, we would find this strange. What other kinds of enhancement are possible - veritable extensions of our physical self so that we may interact with the ball and bat better? Why would we find some of them acceptable and others not, when all of them would presumably be as artificial as my concocted examples and as natural as the elbow-guard. Note: most of the enhancements we are accustomed to, are there for the batsman's safety. Gilchrist's squash ball is the first one I know that supposedly helps him play better as a technique-correction device. I'm really curious: what lies ahead and what would seem 'natural'?


Blogger Homer said...

interesting insights on the squash ball issue Samir; have linked this post to my blog, hoping to get a debate started. Lets see how that goes. :)

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did he really have squash ball? i m curious!!! nothin has been made out f it so far!!! media s mum n only cryin souls r some disgruntled lanka fans!!!


1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

check this out:

Looks like they have cut-and-pasted your blog there, without even mentioning your name!!

4:26 PM  
Blogger samir said...

Homer, thanks for the link. Like you, I'm more interested in how far this can be taken. I don't seem to have an instinctive reaction to Gilchrist's usage of the squash ball that it was an unfair move, but still some intuition has been tickled that its not clear how lines could be drawn.

7:26 PM  
Blogger samir said...

Anonymous: I tried getting to that page but couldn't do so because of registration hassles. That bloody site started throwing up pop-ups etc, when I tried to register so I just split. Do you think you could write them an email pointing out this cut-n-paste?

7:27 PM  
Blogger Homer said...

Here you go ..

How legal was Adam Gilchrist's hidden ball?
Wednesday May 2 2007 00:00 IST


BANGALORE: Two days after Adam Gilchrist's slaughter of the lambs in the World Cup final, cricket's fans and fanatics are still coming to terms with the onslaught that fetched 149 off just 103 balls and took the truncated game away from the Lankans even before they began their reply.

But, how legal was the wicket keeper's innings?

And, as a direct corollary, therefore, how authentic was Australia's 'Cup triumph'? Bloggers have raised this pertinent question.

By Gilchrist's own admission, he had "something" in his left glove all through his knock. In fact, upon reaching the century, Gilchrist first doffed his bat towards his teammates in the pavilion, acknowledged the applause of the spectators, and then kept repeatedly pointing to his left batting glove with his right hand.

"I had a little message, to wave to someone at home in Australia about something in my glove," he is quoted as saying at the post-match media conference.

The intended recipient of that little message was his batting coach and former Western Australia player Bob Meuleman, also a noted squash player. Turns out that upon Meuleman 's advice, Gilchrist had been carrying a squash ball in his left, bottom hand to help him with his grip.

"His (Meuleman's) last words to me before I left the indoor training centre where I train with him in Perth were, 'Well, if you are going to use it (squash ball), make sure when you score a hundred in the final you show me and prove to me you got it in there'. I had stayed true to that."

That's as clear a confirmation that Gilchrist had the squash ball in his left glove to help him with his grip during his stupendous knock. But that's also where questions over the legality of Gilchrist's innings, or the seeming lack of it, come in.

Can a batsman carry an object - in this case, a squash ball not connected with cricket - to help him on the field? Did he secure the prior permission of the umpires? Was the fielding side captain aware of the use of the squash ball? Did Mahela Jayawardene approve its use?

And, above all, and in a manner of speaking, did Gilchrist's "hidden ball" give him an unfair advantage in knocking the daylights out of the Lankan bowlers?

These are hypothetical questions, of course, but cricket - a sport governed by mighty laws not lowly rules - is always full of ifs and buts that leaves cricket haters plain mystified but keeps cricket lovers breathlessly debating the whys and wherefores till kingdom come.

A quick recap of cricketing laws shows that Gilchrist's squash ball was, therefore, neither a piece of protective equipment, nor clothing item and was most certainly not visible to either side or the umpires.

The law specifically prohibits a player from using equipment other than that permitted. And nowhere in cricket's 42 laws is there a mention of a squash ball as a permitted item.

If Dennis Lilee's aluminium bat and Ricky Ponting's graphite-coated bat could be deemed illegal, if Hansie Cronje's earpiece experiment was not OK, if Scott Styris had to remove all the bandage from his right hand before he could bowl in the super eight match, can Adam Gilchrist's "hidden ball" pass muster?

No law can, of course, take the sheen away from Gilchrist's knock. Batting with a normal grip against the world's best bowlers is tough enough, batting with a squash ball in one of your gloves is worse. To score 149 scintillating runs is, well, incredible.

Still, two questions arise: If using a squash ball isn't ok as per the laws of the game, is his innings legal and does it count? And if it doesn't count, can Australia claim to have won a hopelessly one-sided and farcical victory?

8:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Law 3 of cricket deals with the umpires. Subsection 6 of law 3 deals with the conduct of the game, implements and equipment. It reads as under:

Before the toss and during the match, the umpires shall satisfy themselves that

(a) the conduct of the game is strictly in accordance with the Laws.

(b) the implements of the game conform to the requirements of Laws 5 (the ball) and 6 (the bat), together with either Laws 8.2 (size of stumps) and 8.3 (the bails) or, if appropriate, Law 8.4 (junior cricket).

(c) (i) no player uses equipment other than that permitted.

(ii) the wicket-keeper’s gloves comply with the requirements of Law 40.2 (gloves).

The well-known Karnataka umpire M.R. Suresh, citing Tom Smith’s New Cricket Umpiring and Scoring, the manual on the implementation of cricket’s laws that umpires use, says the list of permitted external items for a batsman are a helmet, leg guards (pads), hand gloves and, if visible, fore arm guards.

Spectacles and jewellery are classified under clothing items.

Gilchrist’s squash ball was, therefore, neither a piece of protective equipment, nor a clothing item, and was most certainly not visible to either side or the umpires.

In other words, Law 3 (6) (c) (i) specifically prohibits a player from using equipment other than that permitted. And nowhere in cricket’s 42 laws is there a mention of a squash ball as a permitted item.

7:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

thnx for bringing up this issue. as someone said, only us lankan fans are making a big deal about it right now. and you know the response to that wil be that lankans are being sore losers. i asure you if we were that, we would have harped about the rain and lack of light. but this is a serious issue not just for the srilankans, because gilchrist set a record with that 149. it is time to question the icc about the legality of this squash ball tactic. the more inquiries icc gets from NON-srilankans, the more serious they will be about it. so while i commend you on bringing this up on your blog, i also ask you to write to the icc about it.


3:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Despite what you say the squash ball is in fact an item of clothing, as per appendix D of the laws of cricket.

Equipment is defined as the bat and external protective equipment. External protective equipment is the pads, gloves, helment etc, anything that you can see. There are only prohibitions on equipment you can use, not clothing.

Clothing is defined as anything the batsman wears that is not equipment (as defined above, since the squash is not external, it cannot be equipment). So therefore the squash ball is worn as an item of clothing, in the same manner the box is worn. Or for that matter sweat bands or contact lenses.

6:59 AM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

Anonymous, while it is possible to classify a squash ball as clothing according to the Laws of Cricket, as they stand, it does not mean that the Laws can't be amended in light of developments that render its current wording too permissive. If someone can make a case that a particular 'item of clothing' wasn't functioning as clothing (which is presumably what those items are supposed to do), then I don't think its inconceivable that 'clothing' might be made more precise. As I said before, I'm not interested in classifying Gilchrist's innings as illegal; I just don't where a principled line can be drawn for these sorts of enhancements (starting with contact lenses, glove inners etc).

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wtf are u going on about?? how can a squash ball be called clothing?? .... man aussies are the biggest cheaters in the history of all sports ... btw external means outside the body ... so yeah at least know what u are talking about before posting

External protective equipment is any visible item of apparel worn for
protection against external blows.
For a batsman, items permitted are a helmet, external leg guards
(batting pads), batting gloves and, if visible, forearm guards.
For a fielder, only a helmet is permitted, except in the case of a wicketkeeper,
for whom wicket-keeping pads and gloves are also permitted.

Clothing – anything that a player is wearing that is not classed as
external protective equipment, including such items as spectacles or
jewellery, is classed as clothing, even though he may be wearing
some items of apparel, which are not visible, for protection. A bat
being carried by a batsman does not come within this definition of

The bat – the following are to be considered as part of the bat
– the whole of the bat itself.
– the whole of a glove (or gloves) worn on a hand (or hands) holding the bat.
– the hand (or hands) holding the bat, if the batsman is
not wearing a glove on that hand or on those hands.

Equipment – a batsman's equipment is his bat, as defined above,
together with any external protective equipment that he is wearing.
A fielder's equipment is any external protective equipment that he is

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gilchrist innings was totally legal. All these blogs on the topic go in circles and ultimately just come down to human nature. Who ever loses always looks for excuses. Some will except losing gracefully some will not. Some good replies here and the argument for it being illegal is a joke for the following reasons. One it actually can be considered an item of clothing under the laws of cricket. Just because most people don't wear squash balls doesn't mean you can't. Steve Waugh wore a red hanky and this is in traditional thinking an accessory not an item of clothing (you don't actually "wear" a hanky). When judging if an item breaches the rules you also need to consider "the spirit of the legislation". This is the little thing in your head that says this might technically be a breach but it doesn't seem unfair. Judges use spirit of the legislation worldwide to interpret laws in the way they believe they were meant to be interpreted and this sets precedence. The ICC are cricket's judges and more qualified and neutral to make these judgements. The ICC won't ban it because they are aware of the FULL rules not just one or two quoted out of context. Further they also know the importance of the "spirit of the legislation" If you start to ban things people carry that don't give them anything but a physiological advantage then you have to ban Steve Waugh’s red hanky. Hmmm that would take all the fun out of the game....it is the little quirky behaviours that make it fun!!!! People the squash ball did nothing else for Gilly then provide an annoying reminder to grip the bat correctly; it is just like Steve Waugh’s red hanky and gave him a psychological edge only. I played a game of cricket yesterday with a squash ball in my glove and scored 22…..no Gilly cyborg batsman here :-). But for 22 runs I felt like Gilly, that’s the point, people do strange things to help them in the head, the squash ball annoyed the crap out of me though. What I find most strange is that one reply states that if the squash ball can be considered an item of clothing then perhaps the laws should be looked at/changed! This is sad people, when the people upset over the loss finally realise it is within the laws that they would then ask the laws to be changed to put some retrospective taint on the innings…..just accept it was a great innings.

What I find bemusing is all the people coming out of the wood work who think that this was an amazing innings and one off by Gilchrist. Clearly they only watch finals as Gilchrist has frequently destroyed Sri Lanka more than any other nation.

Here are some facts on Gilly. He has scored FIVE one day hundreds against Sri Lanka. In fact he has scored only two fifties against them, making this the ONLY country he has scored more one day centuries against then fifties and not just more but 5 to 2!!! His average according to cricinfo in one day cricket against Sri Lanka is a touch under 48 while his career average is around 36 in one day cricket. So point here would seem to indicate that there is significant statistical evidence that maybe Gilly just likes the Sri Lankan bowling.

Further in 2002/3 ICC world cup series Gilly scored 99 from 88 balls against Sri Lanka and how did he get out...they ran him out!!! This innings of 99 is one of his "Fifties". So really this makes him one run/run out away from having a record of 6 one day centuries to 1 fifty against Sri Lanka!!!!! This ratio is unheard of even for Gilly as he has not done anything like this against any other nation, not even Canada.

In 2006 in Brisbane Gilly scored 122 against Sri Lanka and his hundred came of 67 balls!!!! WHERE WAS THE SQUASH BALL HERE??? Hmm maybe it's not the squash ball, strange that.

In 2003 and then in 2004 Gilly was voted international one day cricketer of the year.
In June 2005 Gilly was voted the "scariest batsman". Refer: http://content-usa.cricinfo.com/cbs/content/story/211318.html. Not a good thing when the "scariest batsman" seems to love your bowling. Sri Lanka lost the world cup not due to some beat up myth of the squash ball but because Gilly is just an amazing batsman whom they haven't figured a way to get out once he gets going.

Final word people I have explained the legality of the squash ball and the "spirit of the legislation". I have explained the reason why Gilly seems to love Sri Lankan bowling and is likely to do this sort of innings against them (once he gets started –it’s get him cheap or he will get you). I hope that people upset over this will take a deep look at themselves and realise the truth that they are really upset at the fact they don’t like the Australian team or there team didn’t win. Sri Lanka is a great team and will one day have their time in the sun. The History of cricket tells us teams have generations of domination but it doesn’t last forever…..Gilly will have to retire one day :-).



P.S I was born and bred in England, but I respect good cricket when I see it.

10:37 PM  
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8:19 AM  

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