A couple of months ago squash enthusiasts were debating the US Pro Squash Tour’s 5-Let rule, now there are no Lets! Can this work? Perhaps, time will tell but let’s first take a better a look at its intent.
In the last couple of days there has been a great deal of talk about this subject and with good reason. This is a pretty significant change. It is a fact that in squash interference will occur. You have two people in a very confined space trying to move to and from the same place, the ‘T’ to the ball. Some contact is inevitable. Traditionally when a player believed they were interfered with and thought the interference prevented them from playing an appropriate shot they would stop play and appeal for a Let. The referee would then have 3 choices, yes Let, no Let, or Stroke. There is a defined process for this but for the most part it is interrupted as follows:
Let – There was interference, the player that caused the interference was not purposefully creating the interference and the player that was interfered with could not play a winning shot but could have played the ball.
No Let – There was no interference, or the interference was so minimal the player should have played through, or even though there was interference the player could not have played the ball anyway.
Stroke – There was interference and the player obstructed could have played a winning shot, or the interference was intentional which is called blocking.
This is a not a comprehensive analysis of the decision process but more or less summarizes it. Squash is a fast game and the interpretation of the rules can be difficult. What is more difficult is when a player tries to manipulate them. Players that are in trouble and are worried about getting to a ball will sometimes look for interference and then stop play and appeal for a Let. Also players can cause interference deliberately but that is sometimes hard to determine for certain by the referee. What often happens in these situations is that the referee often awards a Let and the point is played over again. This new rule will take that option away from the referee and hopefully stop players from creating these situations and force them to try and play the ball as now the call will most likely go against them in the form of a No Let or Stroke call. The idea of course is not to create more No Let and Stroke calls it is to get players to try and play the ball more often and make the game cleaner with less officiating required.
The intent of this rule is admirable. Will it work? We will see once it has been used for a while. One tournament won’t determine this an extended period of it being used will. It will take time for the players and referees to adapt to it.