Former England fast bowler Steve Harmison has come out against the concept of tactical retirements in T20 cricket, describing the move as “wrong”’ and “up there with the Mankad”.
Speaking to the on talkSPORT’s Following On Cricket Podcast, Harmison didn’t hold back when discussing a retirement-packed match which occurred last week in the T20 Blast.
In the first innings between Birmingham Bears and Notts Outlaws, Birmingham Bears’ Carlos Brathwaite voluntarily left the crease in the last over when he saw leg-spinner Calvin Harrison had been introduced to bowl, believing replacement Sam Hain would fare better against the slow bowler. Then, with one delivery left in the chase and three needed to win, Samit Patel did similar, sacrificing his wicket to allow Harrison, a faster runner, to enter. However, Notts Outlaws could only achieve a single, and Birmingham Bears won by a single run.
Harmison criticised the controversial act, and called for a change to the Laws to discourage an increasing trend.
“I think it’s up there with the Mankad. It’s an absolute shocker,” he said. “The art of captaincy is bringing bowlers on who can affect the game at the next relevant point. If we’re getting to this point with batters… are we going to have a bowler getting replaced halfway through the over because he bowls better at [the new batter] because [the old one]’s just walked off? It’s nonsense.”
“He can’t walk off!” Harmison said. “It’s not in the spirit of the game, and when I look at what happened this week, if you’re gonna walk off, you can retire yourself out, but you [should] use up a ball, there’s a delivery gone. And then all of a sudden, Carlos Brathwaite doesn’t walk off with five balls to go, Samit Patel can’t walk off because they need three to win off the last ball, and if there’s a delivery used when you walk off, the game’s over – he has to run the three.”
Harmison also cited a concern that games could become overly long if tactical retirements become more prevalent.
“The game has gone so far in the batsman’s favour, and I don’t mind that because it’s entertainment, but the skill and the art of bowling is to make sure that you can work within six balls to try and keep somebody at one end, to use your skills to try and change the course of the game for your team,” he said. “You can’t just have somebody walking off; the game’s gonna last five hours if they’re gonna keep doing that!”
Tactical retirements were thrust into the spotlight during this year’s IPL, when Rajasthan’s Royals’ Ravichandran Ashwin voluntarily left the crease after hitting 28 from 23. His replacement Riyan Parag hit eight off four balls to help Rajasthan Royals – who eventually finished second in the tournament – overcome the Lucknow Super Giants by three runs.