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Here's another thought, Tony Becca


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Every weekend while growing up I had to read the Tonys — Tony Becca, Tony Cozier and Tony Deyal. For me, respectively, they are the transition, vocabulary and satire gods among Caribbean columnists. Unashamedly, I am overly biased towards them, since they all loved cricket — my favourite sport — and wrote about it with immense ardour on occasion.

When I first considered becoming a sports columnist, Becca was one of the first writers I studied fervently. Eventually, Becca's writing style and strengths subconsciously intertwined with mine and became a component of my own. Week after week I would groom my writing into a mould comparative to him, Cozier, Deyal, and others.

Becca's weekly column, which my dad ensured was one of the literary courses of my Sunday feasts, was always filled with all things West Indies cricket. Through Becca's eyes and written words, several of us were able to see our cricketing heroes on the field — even if we had no telly at home or in our community shops and bars.

However, last Sunday, Becca — my distant (and unbeknownst to him) mentor through his written works — made a bit of a blunder in his Gleaner column titled, 'What's all the fuss about?'

Becca's column looked at the controversy surrounding a no-ball Kieron Pollard bowled that robbed Evin Lewis of an opportunity to score a century when he was on 97 in a match, with his team requiring one run for the victory. The match in question was a Caribbean Premier League (CPL) T20 game between the Barbados Tridents and the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots.

Interestingly, after the incident, a donnybrook broke out among cricket lovers on whether Pollard's no-ball was deliberate and whether it was in the true spirit of the game. For one, Pollard had no obligation to bowl a ball that Lewis could catapult to the ropes or beyond, sealing his team's victory and a deserved century. Whether Pollard's actions were deliberate or not, only he and God truly know. However, his action, which was not declared prior and has not been proven premeditated, is within the laws of the game.

Nevertheless, Becca, in his summation on Sunday, unquestionably bungled one of the laws of the game. He stated, “... only one run was needed for victory and, no-ball or no no-ball, Lewis, on 97, could not reach the century, even had he managed to reach the ball, which flew over his head and had hit it to the boundary”.

He also remarked, “I also know that Lewis could not have reached his century as his team would have won the match just before that happened.”

Becca then further elaborated, “... in the hunt for victory, only the number of runs needed for the victory [is] counted. That is the rule. It is as simple as that.”

On the contrary, and with great trepidation, I have to point out to my mentor that he made a fallacious statement and/or a flubbed assumption in his column. Though the rules of the game are pellucid regarding hitting the winning runs, it is not as guileless as he has proposed.

Marylebone Cricket Club has been the custodians of the Laws of Cricket since 1787. According to law 21, Section 6, subsection (c), of the Laws of Cricket, “If a boundary is scored before the batsmen have completed sufficient runs to win the match, the whole of the boundary allowance shall be credited to the side's total and, in the case of a hit by the bat, to the striker's score.”

Henceforth, Lewis could have reached his century had he received and hit a legal delivery to the boundary. The specific circumstances under which this would be possible is also stated in the law “before the batsmen have completed sufficient runs to win the match”.

If we recall, the Patriots needed one run for victory while Lewis required a boundary, either a four or a six, theoretically, to reach his century. Henceforth, had Lewis hit a legal delivery from Pollard, and it reached the boundary and he and the non-striker never “crossed [before] and made good their ground from end to end” to complete a run, according to Law 18, Section 1, subsection (a), then Lewis would have reached his century with the boundary hit and, simultaneously, the team would have won the match. To be clear, the entire number of runs for the boundary hit would have been added to both the team's score and Lewis's total.

If, however, Lewis had hit a legal delivery from Pollard and, before it touched the boundary, both he and the non-striker “crossed and made good their ground from end to end”, then the single ran would have been the winning run and the match would have ended instantly — prior to the ball reaching the boundary. Hence, in this case, the additional three or five runs allowance from a resulting boundary (four or six) would not have counted to Lewis's or the Patriots' totals. Consequently, Lewis would have been left on 98, and his team would still have won the match.

Unfortunately, this latter scenario is what Becca was referring to in his column when he said Lewis would not have reached his century. However, and quite unfortunately, Becca seemed to have forgotten that the possibility of the former scenario also exists according to the laws of the game.

A recent example of this scenario at work was the 2016 Men's T20 World Cup final between West Indies and England. After the first three balls of the 20th over, which saw Carlos Brathwaite hit three sixes, West Indies were level with England's score of 155. Brathwaite thumped the fourth ball for another six to push his score from 28 off nine balls to 34 off 10 balls. Simultaneously, West Indies' final total jumped to 161 for six wickets and not by a single run to 156 as Becca has postulated in his column.

Though Becca is one of my literary heroes in sport, because of his fumble on Sunday, I had no choice but to remedy his lapsus calami through this piece. As an obscure and devoted mentee, I take no joy in writing this column. Nonetheless, I only hope that he and others would have done the same for me in the face of public education and accuracy.


Zaheer E Clarke is a lecturer and an award-winning columnist and blogger. He is the author of the award-winning blog, Zaheer's Facts, Lies & Statistics. Send comments to the Observer or