Robbed by the rulebook

On Wednesday night Aaron Finch was robbed of probably the biggest six of the summer when his massive strike bounced off one of the main supporting beams at Etihad Stadium. At first everyone thought is must be six, how could such a massive strike not be, then the umpires – after conferring with each other – signaled dead ball. Boo.

Back when cricket was first played at the stadium in 2000 a playing condition was introduced whereby if the ball were to hit the roof that it would be called ‘dead ball’. In the half dozen years that ODI cricket was held at the stadium I’m not sure exactly how many times the roof was hit – Mike Hussey did manage it in 2005 against the ICC World XI. But I do remember a couple of series launches where they had players out in the middle deliberately trying to hit the roof, and even then they couldn’t manage it. Etihad hasn’t hosted international cricket since 2006, and won’t again until at least 2019 under the current arrangement between Cricket Victoria and the MCG – so the handful of Renegades games is currently the only cricketing action the ground sees.

Anyway, back to Wednesday night. The shot Finch launched was massive, it deserved six, no one would disagree. The square boundaries at Etihad aren’t huge, they’re only 65-70m tops, but this shot was clearing them by a mile. Before the ball was rudely interrupted by the support beam it looked like it was headed for the top tier of seating. But the rule book got in the way, as mentioned, if the ball hits the roof it’s a ‘dead ball’ – regardless of where it hits the roof. The rule at the time also wasn’t clear on what was and wasn’t part of the roof.

After it happened, Brisbane Heat batsman Chris Lynn tweeted this idea:

“The(re) should be a circle on the roof that if hit outside of should be declared a 6 if not then dead-ball”

Ignore for the moment that painting a circle on the roof may not be the easiest thing to implement for a few reasons – its on the roof, the circle would have to move depending on which pitch was being used etc. Those minor things aside I like this idea much more than simply saying it if hits the roof its dead, if it doesn’t it not. Why? Because where exactly you hit the roof makes a difference. I’ve tried to demonstrate this in the diagram below, the red line on the right is Finch’s hit, the two grey lines on the left are examples of balls that would strike the roof both inside and outside a theoretical circle on the roof (in this case based on the same 30 yard circle on the field itself).

Etihad cross section 1

As you can see, and as we already knew, Finch’s hit was huge, and it stuck the roof at a point outside the field of play – there was no possible way that – were you to remove the roof – that the ball was landing in the field of play, ergo, it should have been six.

What I’m attempting to show with the grey lines is that were a ball to strike the roof inside the theoretical circle, that the same ball – with no roof in play – would land in the field of play where it could potentially be caught. And also that if a ball were to strike the roof outside of this circle then there is a more than fair chance that the same ball – again, with no roof in play – would sail beyond the boundary rope.

If probably needs more accurate thinking that what I’ve applied, but the general gist is that there would be a point on the roof – in reality, probably a bit further out than the 30 yard circle – that if the ball were to strike, that you could relatively safely assume that that same ball would be going for six if there were no roof in the way.

The important thing is that the ‘dead ball’ call didn’t affect the result of the game – had Finch’s shot been off the last ball of the match, and had the Renegades required those six runs to win then this discussion would no doubt be a lot different.

While I’ve been writing this the BBL has announced that they’ve changed the playing conditions for Etihad Stadium to try and prevent this issue happening again. The new playing conditions are:

Roof Open – Ball hits any part of Etihad Stadium – Six
Roof Closed – Ball hits any part of retractable roof – Dead Ball
Roof Closed – Ball hits any other part of Etihad Stadium – Six

I’m still not sure the changes are perfect, but they are certainly better. The green line on the diagram below shows a ball that would still be called a ‘dead ball’ under the revised conditions, but would clearly still be going for six.

Etihad cross section 2

Now on the flip side, it was raining in Melbourne on Wednesday night, and were it not for the roof at Etihad we most likely wouldn’t have had a full game. So the roof certainly isn’t a bad thing – especially given that we’ve had multiple games affected by rain in the last couple of weeks – we just needed to look at the rules/playing conditions around what happens in the freak occurrence that the ball hits the roof, or something hanging from it – which the BBL has now done.