Angus Fraser: India's captain did the right thing: winning at all costs is not cricket
The Laws of cricket are constantly changing and there has to be common sense about them
Tuesday 02 August 2011
India were right to withdraw the run-out appeal for Ian Bell even though Mahendra Singh Dhoni's side were fully entitled to claim the wicket of England's No 3 on the third day of the second Test. Yes, Bell was naive to trot down the pitch to greet Eoin Morgan before he and the umpires knew or had decided upon what exactly took place on the fine-leg boundary, but to me there is a line of what is an acceptable form of dismissal and what is not.
Bell was attempting to gain no advantage by his actions. He was just pleased to safely get through an important session of play and wanted to congratulate his teammate on doing the same. Whether he thought Morgan's shot had gone for four or not was irrelevant; in his mind that period of play – that particular ball – had been completed.
Batsmen have to assume the ball is occasionally dead, otherwise the game would come to a complete standstill. If a batsman had to ask permission from either the umpire or fielding captain on every occasion he left his crease it would be ridiculous. It would create a baseball-like situation in cricket, whereby the batsman would have to gauge whether he could get back to his crease in time if he wished to take a couple of paces down to flatten a pitchmark or remove a piece of dirt created by the bowler in his follow-through.
Surely, nobody wants to see extra cover having a shy at the stumps when a batsman is innocently tapping down a spike mark and, have no doubt, a few England fielders would have contemplated acting in such a way had they seen an Indian batsman doing a bit of gardening. Had this happened a major incident would have developed, an event that would have removed any sense of fair play for the remainder of the series.
A couple of former England captains – Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain – have said they would not have recalled Bell. That is fair enough, they are entitled to assess the incident as they wish. But are they making those comments because they want to be seen as tough, uncompromising former leaders or are they saying it because they believe it is right? Had Hussain been given out in such circumstances I cannot believe he would have reacted as Bell did. The home dressing room at Trent Bridge would have resembled a war zone within two minutes.
Dhoni's assessment of the situation was not weak. When top sportsmen push the laws or spirit of their sport to the limit they are often excused for doing so because misguided followers believe they are "winners". It is hogwash. Was Roy Keane a winner for the tackle he put in on Alf-Inge Haaland? Is a Formula One driver a winner if he is prepared to risk the life of a competitor in order to overtake him?
Winners can accept defeat; they can accept being beaten by a better opponent on any given day. A winner does not have to destroy something every time they do not succeed. They are people who succeed through doing things the right way. They know what is right and what is wrong.
Quite a bit has been made of the Laws of the game, and the fact they have been ignored. The Laws of cricket are constantly changing, as they have to, and there has to be a certain amount of common sense about some of them. Law 24.3 states that if a bowler straightens his arm once it has gone past shoulder height it should be called a no-ball. Biomechanical testing has shown that the arm of every bowler straightens as it comes over, so should every ball bowled be called a no-ball?
Middlesex CCC had an issue with a regulation this week which prevented a substitute bowling instead of Steven Finn while he made his way back from Nottingham, where he had been acting as cover before the second Test. The regulation stated that Middlesex were not entitled to a substitute if Finn was made available to play before the toss at Lord's. This left Middlesex playing with 10 men for almost two hours. What would have happened if Finn had been involved in an accident?
Sometimes common sense has to prevail and it is good to find someone in this win-at-all-costs world who still sees the bigger picture.
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