Teleology in Cricketing Rules

 Michael Roberts

Aristotle asserted that the intrinsic telos of an acorn is to become a fully-grown oak tree.[1] Kant dwelt on the concept of telos as a regulative principle, while it is said that teleology was foundational in the speculative philosophy of Hegel. Without much knowledge of these theorists’ exegesis, I nevertheless invoke them in criticizing the MCC for its failure to adhere to the principle of telos – or basic common sense – in insisting on Law 29 relating to the issue of whether a batsman has made his ground before being stumped or run out.

The MCC have permitted a ridiculous rule to stand for over century and more till a change is effected this October. That said, I begin with a confession: I was not aware of this particular rule, though I had played and watched cricket for seventy years or so. Mea culpa.

Why did I not know this rule? Because it seemed to be common sense to me that once a batsman (or batswoman) had grounded his bat or foot over the crease, he had made his ground. If, perchance, his bat had bounced into the air or his feet were in motion over the line and not grounded after the initial grounding when — with modern high-tech camerawork detecting this aspect – the fieldsman broke the wicket, the telos of common sense told me that this event was inconsequential. The batsman had made his ground prior to THAT moment and act.

We at Galle saw all this occur quite clearly when Upul Tharanga was run out. But, no, the ancient and ridiculous old Law 29 was still in place and he was declared out. No wonder that Sidharth Monga castigated the ICC for not implementing the proposed change on this issue immediately.[2]

But let me go further than Monga. The mea culpa of the MCC is that much more. The patrician lords of the majestic game of cricket have permitted a serious flaw to exist for over 120 odd years!! Their own telos or reason-to-be, has been compromised.

The Adam Gilchrist run-out

The telos that I pressed above favours the batman via its impeccable common-sense. But let me press the case for the fielding side by rewarding excellence on the same principle.

My test-case relies on the memory of an incident where Adam Gilchrist was saved from being run-out because the bails took their time in being dislodged. I do not recall date or place (maybe Galle again). The scenario was witnessed by me on TV at a time when the cricket world did not have zing-bails and the present level of camera finesse.

However, the camera work was sharp enough to indicate that Gilchrist‘s bat had crossed the line when the bails came off. So, he was declared not out,

A serious error in my reasoning. Why did the bails fall?  Because the fieldsman’s throw hit the stumps – a super effort in other words. The telos of the throw effected the breaking of wicket. The fielder (and his other ten mates) needed a reward: Gilchrist OUT.

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A NOTE: Major Changes in Laws of Cricket =

1788 MCC rules adopted

1809 Weight of the ball and width of bat standardised, as was height of the stumps. Leg before wicket was introduced to counter the increasing use of legs to prevent the ball hitting the stumps.
1829 Height of stumps again increased (24 to 27 inches) as was length of the bail. Clarification of throwing.
1835 Second version of the Laws published.
1864 Overarm bowling officially permitted.
1884 Third version of the Laws, standardising the number of players on a team, the size of the ball, and introducing the follow-on rule.
1889 Length of an over increased from four to five deliveries. In 1922 an amendments was passed allowing eight-ball overs in Australia.
1947 Another version published, stipulating overs had to be either six or eight balls.
1980 New version introduces metric measurements.
2000 The most recent revision published.




[2] See Monga, “Fleet-footed India outdo Sri Lanka in the Galle maze”,”….

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