What if Wednesday | What if TV Umpires never checked for front-foot no-balls

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Since the turn of the 21st century, Cricket has become one with technology and one such perk of having TV replays at disposal, for the Umpires, has been the ability to check for the legitimacy of the delivery whenever a wicket falls. But what if TV Umpires never checked for front-foot no-balls?

The concept of ‘checking for overstepping after a wicket fell’ materialized a decade or so ago, when on-field umpires checked with TV umpires for no-balls if and when they were suspicious or unsure about where the bowler’s foot landed, but that practice, which was then occasional, has now almost become a custom. In modern-day cricket, seldom do on-field umpires NOT double-check where the bowler’s front foot landed and what this, in turn, has meant that it has allowed them to catch bowlers overstepping on plenty of occasions, that too in many a big game. But what if the concept of TV umpires checking for front-foot no-balls never existed in the first place? What if on-field umpires were obliged to stick with the call if they missed spotting a no-ball real-time? We explore three such incidents from the past and see how they would have changed the happenings in the world of cricket.

Jasprit Bumrah’s no-ball versus Pakistan in the Champions Trophy 2017 final

What happened: On just the 19th ball of the final, with Fakhar Zaman batting on 3, Bumrah overstepped. Zaman scored a ton as Pakistan got the better of their rivals to win the Champions Trophy.

What if: Zaman nicks one to Bumrah and walks back to the pavilion, and despite scoring back-to-back fifties prior to the game, he finds himself permanently booted from the Pakistan side. Zaman’s dismissal spells great news for Ashwin and Jadeja, who pick up seven wickets between them in the game to help Kohli lift his first-ever ICC title as captain. “I think these two will play in the team for the next 10 years,” says Kohli, speaking of Ashwin and Jadeja, but the duo find themselves under fire just two months later, after five wicketless ODIs against the Aussies enabled the visitors to triumph 4-1 over the Men in Blue. There is talk of Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal replacing the duo, but Ashwin and Jadeja retain their places for the home ODIs against New Zealand and Sri Lanka. India go past both of then to win both the series but interestingly, Kohli takes with him four spinners for the following tour of South Africa, and after claiming a 3-0 lead, with the pacers doing most of the damage and with him still not too convinced about Ashwin and Jadeja, he decides to give the Kul-Cha combo a shot.

However, the duo’s debut soon turns into a nightmare as on a wet, rain-marred night in Johannesburg, the two find themselves caught in the crossfire of a Heinrich Klaasen storm; they end up with figures of 2/119 of 11 overs in a rain-shortened game but that turns out to be enough for skipper Kohli to lose trust in them, as he never turns to the duo again. But Kohli fascinated by the concept of using attacking spinners means that he, instead, decides to raid the IPL in search of the ‘next spin twins’ and so he hands the duo of Mayank Markande and Shreyas Gopal their maiden international caps. Back to Pakistan, meanwhile, the ousting of Zaman resulted in a promotion to the top for Babar Azam, but that doesn’t turn out too well for his partner Azhar Ali, who ends up losing his identity in an attempt to become the ‘aggressor’.  A string of ten single-digit scores sees Azhar Ali be replaced by Abid Ali in the tour of Zimbabwe in 2018, but that turns out to be a blessing in disguise for Pakistan as Abid ends his first-ever ODI as the first batsman to score a double-century on ODI debut; an unbeaten 210 off just 156 balls. 

Ravichandran Ashwin’s no-ball in the semi-final of the 2016 WT20 against West Indies

What happened: With the Windies 49/2, chasing 193, Ashwin overstepped to hand Lendl Simmons a lifeline. Simmons eventually went on to score 82 to help the Windies knock India out.

What if: Ashwin’s dismissal of Simmons in the 8th over triggers an unprecedented collapse as the Windies roll over for just 81, with Pandya and Jadeja accounting for two wickets each. Awaiting India in the final at the Eden Gardens are England and skipper Dhoni instantly makes eyebrows raise by opting to bowl first in the Grand Finale. India misses a trick by opening with spin and they pay the price for their misstep as Bairstow and Roy obliterate the pacers to propel England to 185. In response, India’s batting line-up is split open by David Willey, who sends Rohit, Kohli and Rahane back to the hut in the very first over. That eventually becomes irreparable and irreversible damage as England keep India down to 162 to clinch their second WT20 title. Impressive performances in the WT20 - particularly against India - and in the County Championship sees England pick Willey for the subsequent five-Test series against the Indians but he, nevertheless, sits out the first four games.

Willey finally gets a gig in the fifth Test in Chennai, and he instantly makes a mind-boggling impact as he repeats his heroics from the WT20 Final to claim three wickets in his very first over - that of Parthiv, Pujara and Kohli. That, however, doesn’t prove too costly for the Indians, who ride on a fine 200-run stand between KL Rahul and Karun Nair. Rahul, in the blink of an eye, makes his way to 199*, one shy of a maiden double ton, but a misjudged cut off Adil Rashid sees him balloon the ball towards the fielder at cover-point. To England’s utter horror, though, a dolly of a catch is put down by none other than David Willey at cover-point, and the spill enables the Karnataka lad to score his maiden double ton. Willey thinks he has salvaged ‘some’ pride by dismissing Karun Nair in the very next over, but Rahul makes sure that his drop was never going to be forgotten. So with Rahul having brought up his double ton before stumps on Day 3, and with India still trailing in the first innings, skipper Kohli gives the right-hander the entirety of Day 4 to bat out and the Karnataka lad makes the most out of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to post the highest individual score in Test history, an unbeaten 444*, to break the long-standing record of Brian Charles Lara.  

Tom Curran’s no-ball on Test debut in the Ashes

What happened: Batting on 99, David Warner’s half-hearted swat went straight to the hands of Stuart Broad at mid-on, but debutant Tom Curran was found guilty of overstepping, thus gifting Warner a ton and denying himself a maiden Test wicket.

What if: Young Tom Curran gets David Warner as his first-ever Test scalp - Warner’s second-ever dismissal in the nervous nineties -  in the first innings of the Boxing Day Test, but he unravels his true potential only in the second innings, as after dismissing Warner for the second time in as many innings, he rips through Australia’s middle-order to clinch a five-fer on debut. Steve Smith’s fighting ton goes in vain as riding on the back of Alastair Cook’s double ton, Curran’s five-wicket haul propels England to an improbable win on a dead MCG wicket. The victory is mere consolation, though, as Australia rout England in Sydney to win the Ashes 3-1. Curran’s impeccable Test debut forces him to re-think his ambitions and thus he temporarily drops his idea of becoming a T20 merchant - meaning as early as February, he announced that he won’t be partaking in all three of IPL, BBL and Vitality Blast.

While Curran’s pull-out doesn’t hamper KKR’s plans, it, however, forces Sydney Sixers to instead sign Hampshire’s Chris Wood for the 2018/19 BBL season. But that unexpectedly turns out pretty well for them, as the left-armer forms a formidable new-ball partnership with another left-armer, Ben Dwarshuis, for the Sixers. Wood and Dwarshuis help the Sixers defend 180 in the semis against Renegades to spoil an all-Melbourne final, but that’s the farthest they can go as Melbourne Stars beat Sydney Sixers for the third time in the season to clinch their maiden BBL title. The Edwards brothers - Mick and Jack - put their heads down in disappointment, for their side came off second best, but rejoicing 17,000 kms away were another set of brothers - Tom and Sam - who had just bowled their country to a series win over the Windies. 

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