Ex-Australian wicketkeeper Marsh urges change in no-ball rule

London, Sep 2 (IANS) Former Australia wicketkeeper Rod Marsh has called for a change in the no-ball rule in order to protect the safety of umpires and allow better judging of lbw decisions.

Marsh — currently serving as chairman of Cricket Australia’s selection committee — feels that reverting from the current front-foot rule to the earlier back-foot law would allow umpires to stand further back and would give them more time to react if the ball is hit powerfully in their direction.

“I can’t see why we ever went to the front foot law and just quietly I can reveal there are a few umpires out there at the moment who are beginning to wish we’d revert to the back foot law.

“You put yourself in their position. When a batsman with a massive weapon… runs at the bowler and smashes the straight drive at about chest height. I for one would want to be standing back as far as possible and by reverting to the back foot law it gives the umpires a chance to stand at least two metres back,” Marsh said here at the MCC’s annual Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture at Lord’s on Wednesday.

“What worries me is the deflection from the bowler’s hand. The poor umpire is just standing there minding his own business, the ball is smashed back, the bowler gets a fingertip to it and it changes direction…he then has no chance. He needs to be standing back a little bit further.”

The no-ball rule has been a source of contention for some time now, with Donald Bradman and Richie Benaud among a host of former players coming up with the argument that the older back-foot rule was superior to the current front-foot model.

Marsh, who claimed that his proposals have the backing of several international umpires, asserted that allowing on-field officials to stand a bit further back would also allow better judgment of lbw decisions, thus reducing the need to rely too much on the contentious Decision Review System (DRS).

“I do believe there should be a DRS but I’m afraid I have little faith in the ball tracking systems. I have witnessed too many predictions on what path the ball will take that just don’t ring true to me. I may add they don’t ring true to anyone who has played a lot of cricket.

“So, I would let the umpires call on all lbw decisions stand unless it was an absolute howler. The batsman knows if he’s hit the ball and will ask for a review if given out. There won’t be too many howlers on height or direction because we’ll be playing under the back-foot no-ball law and the umpire will have had more time to steady his eyes and give a very accurate assessment. The umpire can place a disc or make a mark where the back foot should land which basically means the bowler’s front foot is behind the front line,” Marsh was quoted as saying by cricinfo.

“If the bowlers resort to dragging on their back foot as they did in years gone by, we now have a third umpire who can alert the on field umpire and he can then place the disc accordingly. The added bonus to all this is that the Indian board may well agree to this and Test cricket would then be played under the same playing conditions worldwide for every Test match,” he added.

The 67-year-old also urged the International Cricket Council (ICC) to make protective equipment compulsory for on-field umpires.

“It’s only a matter of time (until) an umpire in an international or first-class match is seriously hurt if not killed,” the former wicketkeeper urged.

“If I happened to be umpiring right now I’d be wearing a baseball helmet, a chest pad, shin guards and an abdominal protector.

“May be we have to make this safety gear for umpires compulsory for all international and first-class games.”

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