IPL: Why was Virat Kohli given out against the Knights last night?

The umpires’ interpretation of new no-ball rules cannot be faulted, but it has sharply polarised opinions

Virat Kohli in an argument with umpires after his dismissal (photo: BCCI)
Virat Kohli in an argument with umpires after his dismissal (photo: BCCI)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Was Virat Kohli actually out on Sunday evening, 21 April, at the Eden Gardens? The controversy over whether Kolkata Knight Riders bowler Harshit Rana’s delivery should have been no-balled continues to polarise opinions on the social media – though it seems that the umpires showed enough courage in interpreting the new rules.

The master batter, who looked in imperious form as Royal Challengers Bengaluru had just begun their chase of a steep target of 223, received a full toss from Rana which clearly caught Kohli off-guard. The latter could barely put the bat on the ball as Rana completed a return catch but Kohli was unmoved as he was confident that it was a no-ball because of the height. He asked for a review – but much to the collective despair of the crowd (his fan base cuts across franchises) - did not get a reprieve.

For those of us in the Press Box a long distance away, it seemed to the naked eye that the ball may have hit Kohli above the waist height, but it’s actually the new IPL rule from 2024 which helped TV umpire Michael Gough make up his mind.  To remove the debatable element in adjudicating no-balls above the waist this season, the IPL has added a feature in the Hawk Eye technology to measure the height of the ball at the point it passes the batter at the popping crease. It is then matched against the toe-to-waist height of the batter when in an upright position, which has been recorded for all teams in advance.

This showed if the former Indian captain had been at the crease instead of taking a guard outside it to negate the swing and go for the big shots, the ball (recorded at 0:92 metres) would have passed at below his waist height (1.04 metres) and hence was deemed a ‘fair’ delivery.  Gough made the decision based on the available height reference and deserves kudos for keeping his calm, but some of the TV pundits felt that the point of impact should be the only consideration instead of ‘complicating’ the rules in such a manner.

Now, there is room for a debate in the idea of measuring each batter’s toe-to-waist height as the stance is a matter of individual choice. While some of them have an easy, balanced one like a grammatically correct Kohli, others could be crouching to receive the delivery. Former Indian allrounder Irfan Pathan, a member of the broadcasters’ team, explained with a video graphic on why Rana’s delivery was a legal one but someone like Mohammed Kaif would have none of it.

“My take on Virat Kohli dismissal: It’s an unfair call. If the ball is waist high at the time bat meets ball it should ruled as no ball. Also I have always felt that the ball tracking shows a sharper dip,” Kaif wrote on his X account.

Once the dust settled down after the game, RCB skipper Faf du Plessis tried to put the things in perspective. ‘’Obviously, the rules are the rules,’’ he said, adding: ‘’Virat and myself at that stage thought that possibly the ball was higher than his waist. I guess they measure it on the popping crease.

‘’In those situations, you’ll always have one team that’s happy and one team that doesn’t feel like it’s quite the right decision. But that’s just how the game works.’’

The price on Kohli’s wicket certainly magnifies such a contentious decision, though the likes of Will Jacks, Rajat Patidar and Dinesh Karthik gave the Knights a real scare before going down by the thinnest of margins. A realistic chance of RCB’s progress in the 2024 edition seems as good as over as they now languish at the bottom of the table with only two points after eight games!

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