English cricket is yet fully to service its debt to Nasser Hussain, the mercurial figure whose inspired captaincy laid the foundations for the current side's ascension to World No 1 status. Though generally neglected, the highlight of Hussain's reign came during the Faisalabad Test on the tour of Pakistan in 2000.
As a batsman, you cannot be judged leg before wicket (lbw) if the ball hits your bat first. But during that game, Hussain was given out lbw by umpire Steve Bucknor, despite the ball ricocheting off the middle of his bat.
You can still see on YouTube how Hussain's face made the sudden transition from smiling disregard for the Pakistani's appeal to utter horror at Bucknor's raised finger. But as captain of his country, and in sweltering heat, Hussain didn't protest. He nobly, silently walked off.
The briefest moments, in sport as elsewhere, can tell you so much about a person's character. I was even more impressed by one such from Rafa Nadal at Wimbledon last week. The Spaniard was beaten in five sets by Czech Lukas Rosol, who was ranked 98 places beneath him. Nadal was 2nd seed and had just won the French Open.
Against Rosol, he fought back brilliantly to take the fourth set – only to be told that because of bad light there would be an interruption of 40 minutes as the roof was put on. This made Nadal furious with the umpire. When the players returned, various antics from Rosol induced a fresh contretemps between Nadal and the umpire. This destabilised the Spaniard. He lost the fifth set and with it hopes of glory in Wimbledon for another year. Imagine his disappointment – and his shame: beaten by an unfancied Czech. And yet, after defeat, Nadal did an extraordinary thing.
Rosol, in his jubilation, had thrown his racket into the net. Nadal high-fived his conqueror, collected his racket for him, and then, as he walked towards the umpire, gave him a huge, gushing wink and shook hands. That wink said: "Sorry about earlier. No hard feelings. We're good. Thanks for putting up with me. You're not the reason I lost."
Watch the clip on YouTube. In that moment, Nadal, like Hussain in Faisalabad, went from sporting failure to moral champion. He fulfilled Kipling's eternal condition: "If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken/Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools/ Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken /And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools … then you'll be a Man, my son!"
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