India v Australia, 2nd Test, Chennai, 1st day

Learning to walk

Australian View by Peter English

October 14, 2004

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Adam Gilchrist has started something contagious © Getty Images
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Children are taught to walk before they run, but it's a lesson Australia's cricketers quickly forgot. A couple of extra runs were always more important than truth when it came to taking the thick edge with the thin.

Until Adam Gilchrist, the country's most famous walker was Jane Saville, an athlete disqualified at the Sydney Olympics within a Brett Lee run-up of a gold medal. There will now be more uproar after Gilchrist took the decision into his own index finger for the second time in two Tests. Jason Gillespie also joined his stand-in captain, Michael Kasprowicz volunteered himself at 8 for 228, and then Yuvraj Singh burst off without a glimpse towards the umpire. Australia's delicate tummies expect 24-hour bugs in India, but this dead-man walking is becoming an epidemic.

English gentlemen will insist it's always been the right thing to do, but uncouth Australian club cricketers will sit in their pubs yelling them down. The international game has become breathlessly entertaining but ethically unconscious. Helped by the television cameras, Steve Waugh recognised the problem, started the repairs by instilling a good-behaviour bond with his team and downscaled the sledging. Gilchrist is continuing the crusade. He started the charity walk in the World Cup semi-final against Sri Lanka in 2003 and brought the same boots to India.

For Gilchrist it is clearly not a fad. Anil Kumble was the beneficiary both times today, and he didn't look half as confused as the poor umpire David Shepherd when Kasprowicz, a genuinely honest man, drifted off to the dressing-room despite a "not out". Shepherd is getting close to the pension, but he's got a few sound judgments left and was still shaking his head - in disbelief rather than decision - as Kasprowicz neared the boundary. He was not the only one asking ethical and trivial questions.

Would they walk if the first series win in India since 1969-70 rested on it? Imagine the text messages from Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Ian Chappell then.

Is it disrespectful to ignore the umpire in the same way a bowler does when running down the pitch appealing to the wicketkeeper? Will a batsman be allowed to stay if he swears he didn't touch it? And could a walking coach one day sit next to the team's physio and security officer?

Honesty has a place in the game, and it should be applauded. Nobody thought it possible to score consistently at four runs an over, win 16 Tests in a row or have a wicketkeeper belting 11 centuries either. Gilchrist has helped bring many fine habits to the game. This one might take the longest to get used to.

Peter English is Australasian editor of Wisden Cricinfo.

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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