It remains a pretty much undisputed rule in cricket that if the ball strikes the stumps, and on striking the stumps, the bails perched atop them are displaced completely, the unfortunate batsman is out.
The mere sight of it is something to be beholden. And yet, what if the ball does strike the stumps, and a moment passes when the bowler’s eyes and those of everyone in his team widen in rapture, and yet, the bails do not fall off? Imagine the disappointment.
We turn to the curious case of zing bails that seem to cast this disappointment everywhere they go.
On Sunday, when India faced off against Australia, a menacing delivery from Jasprit Bumrah caught David Warner’s inside edge and struck the leg stump. The bails remained defiant, immovable.
However, this is not a singular instance to dismiss it as a matter of mere luck. Zing bails have been in the eye of the storm even before.
These flashy bails, with in-built LED lights, perhaps a pragmatic approach to make it easier to detect when the bails have been displaced, were approved by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in 2012 and have been in use since then.
These tough little things, heavier than your ordinary bails but lighter than the ones used in windy conditions, were deployed in the 2015 World Cup, the IPL and Australia’s Big Bash League. So far it has been a rough ride but as we head into the 15th match of the ICC World Cup today, it appears that the ride this time around has been significantly bumpier.
In this year’s edition of the ICC World Cup, the ball has encountered the stumps 38 times. Five of those times, the zinger bails simply refused to budge.
Let’s take a look at these instances:
England v South Africa, The Oval: The trouble began in the opening match of the tournament itself. Here, English leg-spinner Adil Rashid was doubly unlucky, for his delivery to Quinton de Kock not only failed to removed the bails, but rolled to the boundary for a four as well.
New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Cardiff: It simply must not have been Trent Boult’s lucky day. The dazzling pacer was in for a disappointment when Dimuth Karunaratne of Sri Lanka was saved by the extra-heavy zing bails.
Australia v West Indies, Trent Bridge: You know there is something wrong with them when the tournament’s fastest bowler, clocking in at 93 mph, just cannot get the bails to topple. Chris Gayle was the lucky man and Mitchell Starc was deprived of yet another victim, had a TV replay not sent him back to the stands.
England v Bangladesh, Cardiff: Mohammad Saifuddin of Bangladesh mistimed a Ben Stokes delivery, that promptly ended on his off-stump. The bails hung in the air for a brief moment, only to fit snugly into the grooves again.
The fifth instance was the aforementioned Bumrah-Warner incident. Many, including former and current cricketers have expressed dismay, with Indian skipper Virat Kohli asking ICC to look into the pitfalls of the new technology.
Even Australian captain Aaron Finch shared in the sentiment on the eve of the showdown between the Aussies and the Men in Blue.
"The bails seem to be a lot heavier, so it does take a bit of force," said Finch, referring to similar instances in the IPL and the Big Bash.
Shoaib Akhtar and Michael Vaughn were among several others who took to Twitter to express their disapproval. “Nice era to Bat when you can’t get bowled!!! These stumps/Zinger Bail combination have to be changed….. #CWC2019”, quipped Vaughn.
Yes, the bails do look pretty, but aesthetics is not the issue here. From a practical viewpoint, it is simply unacceptable. While heavier bails tailored to suit windy conditions are employed, normal conditions do not demand these.
Something that undermines an essential rule of the game cannot be compromised on. Since appears these zinger bails won’t make a move anytime soon, the ICC must.