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FIELD RESTRICTIONS

The popular perception is that like Test cricket, the limited-overs version was first played on a regular basis in England. However, this is not true. Limited-overs cricket was first played in Mumbai with the inception of the Talim Shield Cricket Tournament. England took it up much later, with the inter-County Gillette Cup instituted in 1963. The one-day game rapidly gained momentum, and the first one-day 'international' was played between England and Australia in 1970-71. England hosted the inaugural World Cup in 1975. The matches were played in traditional whites with the customary red cherry.
 



Congregation in the
infield - The Australians celebrate their victory in
the 2003 World Cup final,
the Indians rue their loss.

The transformation of the sport commenced in 1977 when Kerry Packer, an Australian media tycoon, formed a parallel world association called World Series Cricket and introduced white balls, coloured night cricket, night cricket and black sightscreens. The umpires were given coloured jackets / shirts. An integral aspect of this cricket revolution was the presence of fifty leading cricketers from Australia, West Indies, England, Pakistan and South Africa. Packer also roped in the likes of Sir Garfield Sobers and Richie Benaud to suggest and formulate new rules to make the cricket more exciting.

The duo came up with the idea of having a fielding 'circle' that gave more latitude to the batsmen and prevented negative cricket by the fielding side. This particular circle is still in use.


This 'circle' is formed out of two semi-circles, one at each end. The semi-circle at each end curves from point to square-leg behind the line of the stumps. It has a radius of thirty yards from the middle-stump at that end. The ends of the two semi-circles on the same side of the pitch are joined by a straight line. From the point of view of a right-handed batsman for instance, the end of the semi-circle situated on the off-side at one end will be joined to the end of the semi-circle on the leg-side at the other end.

 



Martin Crowe - violated
the rule unintentionally, apologised promptly.

This 'oblong' circle is marked by a continuous white line, or white rubber or plastic discs placed every five yards. The use of metal discs is not permitted.

At Gwalior on the eve of the fifth ODI between England and India in 1992-93, the groundsman had placed white circular discs made of thermocol on the circle. There was a strong possibility of a fielder tripping if he were to step on one of these. Moreover, the ball could either bounce or change direction if it hit the discs. My colleague and I therefore had them removed and got the groundstaff to chalk a line indicating the circle.

Only two fielders are permitted to stand outside the circle in the first 15 overs of a 50-over game. A maximum of five fielders are permitted to stand outside the circle after the 15th over. This 15-over restriction is proportionately reduced when the number of overs is reduced. It generally stands for approximately one-third of the total number of overs to be bowled. So, if the match is a 40-overs-a-side affair, the restriction lasts for 13 overs.


There is also a 'circle within the circle', which was devised with the close-catchers in mind. It is marked at a radius of 15 yards measured from the centre of the popping crease on the middle-stump line at either end. Small dots (no discs) are drawn to mark this inner circle from gully to leg-gully.

It is mandatory to have two fielders within this inner circle in the first 15 overs. These fielders have to be stationary. If a fast bowler is operating, the umpires will allow the slip-fielders or the gully or leg-gully to stand a little deeper, even outside this inner circle. Two fielders, or rather, 'catchers' can stand anywhere within the inner circle, except on the pitch.

This inner circle wasn't marked during my umpiring days. Hence, the square-leg umpire had to be extra-vigilant to ensure that two men were standing close to the bat. The batsman himself would point out an erring fielder occasionally.

I remember pointing out to Kiwi great Martin Crowe that he was not remaining stationary at the short mid-on position during the 1992 World Cup. This happened a couple of times. He was quick to apologise for the lapse.

Both these restrictions (30-yard as well as l5 yard) have to be observed from the moment the bowler starts his run-up, or from the time he starts his bowling action.

If there is an infringement, the square-leg umpire will call and signal a 'no-ball'.

Another field restriction concerns the number of fielders on the leg-side. Not more than five are allowed, of which not more than two are allowed to stand behind the popping crease. This restriction applies to the entire innings.

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