Cricket: Stewart condemned by his actions

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The Independent Online
THESE have been a bad few days for the reputation of English cricket. The captain of England ought to be able to control himself and not make offensive gestures at departing batsmen in front of television cameras, just as he should not have kept a supply of dry earth in his pocket in 1994 at Lord's against South Africa.

His gesture to Philo Wallace was unfortunate, and it was surely a commentary on the times in which we live that those in authority are now busily pretending that nothing happened. Apparently, a couple of fingers is not much more than an accepted part of cricket.

But there was one incident at Kensington Oval on Saturday which I found much more offensive and which tore at the very fabric at cricket and all that it is supposed to stand for. I refer to the catch which Alec Stewart claimed at second slip to end Shivnarine Chanderpaul's innings.

The second new ball had just been taken minutes after Jack Russell had dropped Chanderpaul badly off Phil Tufnell. Angus Fraser bowled Chanderpaul a full toss which hit the bat about six inches from the bottom, bounced and flew to Stewart's right at second slip where he caught the ball two- handed to his right and claimed the catch.

Chanderpaul knew what had happened and stood his ground; there was an appeal and he was given out. The briefest of glances at the replay made it abundantly clear that it was not out.

My contention is that with two slips and a deep gully as well as a wicketkeeper, certainly one of them - although more likely all of them - will have seen what actually happened and will have known as Chanderpaul walked off that he was not out. In the best traditions of cricket, he should have been recalled.

To give the fielders the benefit of as much doubt as one can, even if none of those round the bat - and one has to include Fraser in this - saw precisely what had happened, it is impossible to believe that they did not instinctively get the feeling that something was wrong. In which case they should have said something to the umpire, who would then surely have brought the third umpire into it.

When batting, Stewart is becoming increasingly reluctant to leave the crease. In the first innings, where he was clearly caught behind off Courtney Walsh, he began to take guard again for the next ball before he was forced belatedly to look at the umpire's upraised finger. Incidents like these only serve to diminish the stature of a wonderful cricketer who should have known better.