Outfield Interference: Understanding the Distinction between ‘Obstructing the Field’ and ‘Handling the Ball’

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Cricket is a game of many rules and regulations, and sometimes they can be confusing for the players and the fans alike. One such rule is the rare mode of dismissal known as ‘obstructing the field’, which was recently applied to Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim in the second Test against New Zealand.

Mushfiqur Rahim was given out for obstructing the field when he used his hand to shove away a ball that was rolling towards his stumps after he had played a defensive shot. The third umpire ruled that Rahim had intentionally interfered with the ball and gave him out.

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However, few fans were left wondering on why Rahim was not given out for ‘handling the ball’, which is another mode of dismissal that involves the batter touching the ball with his hand.

Why Mushfiqur Rahim was out ‘obstructing the field’, and not ‘handling the ball’?

The answer lies in the difference between the two laws, which were revised in 2017 by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

According to the MCC, “The striker is out obstructing the field if, except in the circumstances of 37.2, in the act of receiving a ball delivered by the bowler, he/she wilfully strikes the ball with a hand not holding the bat. This will apply whether it is the first strike or a second or subsequent strike. The act of receiving the ball shall extend both to playing at the ball and to striking the ball more than once in defence of his/her wicket.”

Earlier such dismissals were classified as “handled the ball” but a tweak in law in 2017 put the rare dismissal under “obstructing the field” category.

Mushfiqur Rahim is the first Bangladesh player to be dismissed in this bizarre fashion. Notably, only seven batters have been given out for handling the ball in Test cricket, while only two have been given out for obstructing the field in the longest format.

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