Why are Only 2 Fielders Allowed Behind Square Leg in Cricket?

If you are an ardent cricket fan, you must have noticed that teams can only place 2 fielders behind the square on the leg side. But what is the reason behind this field restriction?

To find the answer to this query, we will have to go a century back, when this rule didn’t even exist. So, in this article, we’ll uncover the square-leg fielding restrictions in cricket.

Field Restrictions behind Square Leg

You see, when cricket originated, this field restriction didn’t exist at all. But something happened in the 1932-33 Ashes Series that prompted the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) to take notice of it.

England was touring Australia for the Ashes series, ready to take on Australia’s greatest batter, Don Bradman. The Australian batter was in his prime ahead of the series, and the English bowlers were contemplating a way to dismiss him.

To stop Bradman from amassing runs, England came up with a bowling tactic known as ‘bodyline’. Now, this wasn’t any ordinary bowling strategy but was a bit controversial, which garnered criticism and also strained relations between the two teams.

The tactic was so controversial that it even hampered the diplomatic relations between Australia and England. But what was the bodyline tactic?

Back in the day, there were no restrictions on placing the fielders on the leg side. So, England’s captain, Douglas Jardine, asked his bowlers to bowl short-pitched deliveries aimed at the batter’s body and placed close leg side fielders to catch the ball.

This tactic was used to put a break on run scoring, leaving the batters with no other option but to hit towards the leg side. The strategy was specially chalked out for Bradman, who was uncomfortable while playing short-pitched deliveries.

In this process, Bradman, along with other Australian batters, faced the wrath of England’s fast bowlers and were troubled to a great extent, taking blows to their bodies.

England used this technique to their advantage and won the 1932-33 Ashes Series by 4-1. However, many termed this bodyline strategy unfair and called it against the spirit of the game.

Also Read | The Cricket Fielding Positions – Explained

The Aftermath of Bodyline Tactic

When the West Indies toured England in the summer of 1933, the English players got a taste of the bodyline tactic. After this series, the MCC, the guardian of the laws of cricket, set out rules to stop bowlers from using this tactic.

The law stated that any direct attack on a batter’s body by a bowler was unfair, and umpires were given the responsibility to warn the bowlers. In 1957, the MCC further made changes to the laws, restricting teams from placing more than 2 fielders behind the square leg.

This was mostly done to prevent off spinners and slow bowlers from bowling leg stump line deliveries with a cluster of leg side fielders ready to pounce on the ball. However, this also meant that the teams couldn’t use the bodyline tactic anymore due to this restriction.

Later, the MCC also came up with restrictions on short-pitched deliveries that a bowler can bowl in an over.

So, this whole incident meant that the team could only have 2 fielders behind the square leg.

We hope you found your answer, and don’t forget to share this with your cricket-fanatic friends.

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