Did de Kock provoke ‘fake fielding law’ to run out Fakhar Zaman?

By: News Desk      Published: 12:32 PM, 5 Apr, 2021
Did de Kock provoke ‘fake fielding law’ to run out Fakhar Zaman?

Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman's dismissal by South Africa's Quinton de Kock has thrown open a debate about a contentious aspect of cricket: 'fake fielding'.

On a day when Pakistan opener Fakhar posted the highest individual score for a chasing team in an ODI — 193 off 155 balls — his dismissal threw open a debate about a contentious aspect of cricket: ‘fake fielding’.

As Pakistan lost to South Africa by 17 runs in the second ODI at Johannesburg, Zaman’s run-out saw the cricketing world talk about yet another ambiguous aspect of the game that is in conflict with the ‘spirit of the game’ and laws governing the sport. Like Mankading, ‘fake fielding’ too triggers outrage among those who call this act of gamesmanship unethical.

In the first ball of the 50th over during Pakistan’s chase, Zaman hit a Lungi Ngidi delivery to Aiden Markram at long-off. As the opener was coming back for a second run, South Africa wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock pointed at the bowler giving the impression that the throw was coming to the non-striker end.

With his back to the fielder, Zaman, going by de Kock’s signal, slowed down as he moved towards the striker’s end. However, the throw was actually aimed at the wicket-keeper and with Zaman ambling to the crease he was run out. Although Pakistan needed 31 runs for victory in the final over, Zaman had scored his last 90 runs off just 48 deliveries and he was the last recognised batsman standing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sisE9vUIpYs&t=74s

With the pivotal dismissal confirmed, de Kock laughed and pointed in Zaman’s direction, with the on-air commentators taking that as confirmation that his ruse had paid off. However, if de Kock’s pointing was an attempt to distract the Pakistan opener, there’s a strong argument that the dismissal should have been struck off with five penalty runs and an extra delivery awarded to the chasing side.

The Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) is the custodian of the Laws of Cricket and its 41.5.1 Law states: “It is unfair for any fielder wilfully to attempt, by word or action, to distract, deceive or obstruct either batsman after the striker has received the ball.”

A “deliberate attempt to distract striker” constitutes “unfair play” under clause 41 of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) “Standard Test, ODI and T20I Playing Conditions”. This is as per the ICC Code of conduct for players and player support personnel.

Umpires are authorised to award the batting team a five-run fake fielding penalty, although this law is open to interpretation. In fact, there remains a serious ambiguity in terms of what constitutes fake fielding and what is not.

The consequences of the umpires deeming a fielder to have fallen foul of the law are to cancel out any dismissal to result, call the ball dead, and award five runs to the batting side, as well as the run in progress at the time of the offence. Had that happened, Pakistan would have needed 24 runs to win with six balls to face, and Zaman still on strike. As it was, the dismissal effectively brought to an end the match as a contest.

Zaman’s knock will go down in the annals of the great innings in a lost cause. It is the highest score in an ODI chase, and he contributed nearly 60 per cent of Pakistan’s runs. However, it is up for debate whether he should have been given the chance for it to be much more.

Jonny Bairstow’s ostensibly fake attempt to run out Steve Smith on the second day of the fifth Ashes Test in 2019 had sparked a debate. Bairstow made Smith dive despite not having the ball. On-field umpires Marais Erasmus and Kumar Dharmasena, however, didn’t award extra five runs to Australia.

In 2015, former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara made Pakistan’s Ahmed Shehzad dive to save his wicket during an ODI, as he attempted to take the bails off despite the throw not reaching him. Back in 2015, though, the fake fielding law wasn’t a part of the ICC playing conditions.

In 2017, Australia’s Marnus Labuschagne was penalised for trying to fake a throw without having the ball in hand to prevent a run in the JLT Cup (Australia’s domestic 50-over tournament).

Fans on social media have by and large condemned de Kock’s action.

Former Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has asked if it was contrary to the spirit of the game. “Was this run out by @QuinnyDeKock69 against the spirit of the game? I’d leave it for you guys to decide,” Akhtar tweeted.

Pakistan’s bowling coach Wqaqar Younis wrote: “Record breaking inning. Simply Outstanding @FakharZamanLive. What about this cheeky giggle from Quinton tells you?”

“It was one of the best innings I’ve ever seen. He played it so perfectly. Unfortunately couldn’t finish it. I congratulate him on this innings. We really enjoyed his knock. As long as he was there, we had hope of a win. If someone had stood with him, we could have probably won the game. Fakhar had too much pressure on him in the end,” said Pakistan captain Babar Azam after the match.

“Can’t say if this was my best innings. If we had won, then maybe yes,” said Zaman, the Man of the Match.

Zaman also surpassed David Warner (173 at Cape Town in 2016) to post the highest individual score against South Africa in South Africa.

Responding to his controversial run-out he said: "The fault was mine as I was too busy looking out for Haris Rauf at the other end as I felt he'd started off a little late from his crease, so I thought he was in trouble. The rest is up to the match referee, but I don't think it's Quinton's fault."

However there were many accolades for the great innings by the opener.