An interesting incident occurred during the final session of the third day at the PCA Stadium in Mohali. While England were battling hard to survive a harrowing time against the Indian spinners on a wearing pitch, Joe Root indulged himself in some clever gamesmanship and managed to get under Ravichandran Ashwin‘s skin.
Usually, batsmen prefer to stay beyond the wide marker at the non-striker’s end in order to steer clear from running on the wicket as well as procure more space to get to the other end without much difficulty. However, Root stood extremely close to the umpire thus narrowing the gap between them and the bowler.
The thought-process behind the Yorkshireman's unique position was to give himself a better chance to assist the striker's DRS plea. With the ball beginning to grip and turn, the batsmen also had their hands full when it came to judging umpiring decisions.
However, Ashwin (bowling around the wicket to Cook) was not one bit pleased with Root’s ingenuity and proceeded to complain to umpire Chris Gaffaney. But, the off-spinner did not get his way as the playing rules allowed a non-striker to hold guard within the prescribed perimeter.
Law 29.3 states, “The non-striker, when standing at the bowler’s end, should be positioned on the opposite side of the wicket to that from which the ball is being delivered, unless a request to do otherwise is granted by the umpire.“
Naturally, Root’s ploy attracted plenty of attention from the commentary box. Sunil Gavaskar hailed the tactics as ‘smart thinking’ while Michael Atherton believed that the stance was ‘perfectly fine’ as long as it did not come in the umpire’s way.
More importantly, the right-hander changed his position only after witnessing Alastair Cook endure a tough time with the DRS. With Jadeja and Ashwin operating in tandem, Root watched his skipper survive two close leg-before shouts in the space of just four deliveries.
After having to wait for an eternity before the third umpire upheld the on-field call, Cook was given out on the field to an unplayable delivery from Ashwin. Upon Root’s insistence, he took the review and found out that the ball had pitched outside the leg-stump.
Even though Ashwin eventually broke through to send back the England captain, Root had tried his best to delay the inevitable. He was at it again when fellow Yorkshireman Jonny Bairstow joined him in the middle later on in the innings.
Virat Kohli brought Jayant Yadav into the equation in a bid to replicate the wicket-keeper batsman's first innings dismissal. As the duo did not veer away from their peculiar positioning, Ashwin had a word once again with umpire Gaffaney from mid-off.
An irate Nasser Hussain quipped, “Ashwin seems far too involved in where the batsman’s standing. He needs to bowl and the batsman needs to decide where he stands. It’s a very simple game actually.”
When Jayant pulled out of his delivery stride, he remarked, “Now, there are mind games going on. It’s getting ridiculous. You bowl and I bat – where I stand is not up to you, it’s up to us.”
Despite this little passage of play, India pushed themselves into a dominant position at the end of the third day’s play. Having lost four wickets already while still trailing by 56 runs, England have their work cut out during the next day or two.