Michael Jeh July 19, 2008

To walk or not to walk?

Is 'walking' one of those special things that defy explanation, an exotic beast that should be allowed to retain an air of mystique

Samir’s insightful take on park cricket etiquette and Stephen’s plea on behalf of umpires raises some interesting questions about the duality of morality. Is cricket unique for its double standards and contradictions which are almost impossible to define in black and white terms?

Let's explore the issue of 'walking' then. Most international players prefer to let the umpire make the decision, a perfectly reasonable position if they take the good and bad with equal grace. But, as we see all-too-frequently, this is definitely not the case. It was never more evident than in the ill-tempered Sydney 2008 Test when Ricky Ponting set the tone for a fractious atmosphere when he was given out in the first innings, totally oblivious to the fortunate decision earlier that morning when he tickled one down the leg side. Live by the sword, die by the sword - not for Ponting that day.

Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar on the other hand have consistently maintained their integrity over long careers by accepting umpiring decisions with relatively few histrionics. And to be fair, they've both copped some absolute shockers over the years! Yet, good or bad, they have generally accepted the umpire's verdict with wry smiles and perhaps a slight shake of the head.

Speaking of integrity, no one has done more for cricket in that respect than Adam Gilchrist. By all accounts, his on-field honesty is no pretence. He is genuinely regarded in the highest esteem by anyone who has had much to do with him in all aspects of life. Yet, this has not stopped Gilchrist from appealing for some of the most blatant "not-outs" imaginable. Rahul Dravid in the recent Sydney Test and Lara at the Gabba in 2005 are two examples that readily spring to mind. Is honesty a fickle mistress, swayed by circumstance, seduced by convenience and dancing to a secret tune that only cricketers can interpret?

Can anyone offer a good enough argument to decode this ethical conundrum? Is 'walking' one of those special things that defy explanation, an exotic beast that should be allowed to retain an air of mystique?

Cricket is full of such complex contradictions. Take the bump ball catch for example. Most cricketers, at all levels of the game, would feel honour-bound to admit when they have not taken a clean catch. If the umpire is not sure, the player feels a moral prerogative to honour the spirit of the game.

This is where I get totally confused – what’s the difference then between the non-catch and not walking when you know you’ve nicked it? Why is it acceptable to not help out the umpire in this situation too? Surely, if you feel the need to come clean about a bump ball, how does it differ in morality to not admitting that you edged it to the wicketkeeper? Or why not leave all decisions to the umpire and take the good with the bad?

It’s almost as if there is an invisible hierarchy of right and wrong that is inherent in the very folklore of the game. It’s almost as if some crimes are more honourable than others, a bit like murderous convicts who despise the paedophiles who share their prison cells.

Where do we sit on issues like taking a catch when we know that we’ve touched the boundary rope? Are we morally bound to confess or is that something for the umpire to adjudicate on? Again, I keep coming back to ‘walking’. What’s the difference?

The admirable Gilchrist deserves the last word on this topic. When asked if he would walk if Australia was one run away from victory and one wicket in hand, he allegedly smiled broadly and replied, “if we needed one to win with one wicket left, I wouldn’t nick it!”

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on August 13, 2008, 6:21 GMT

    Interesting that Gilchrist is championed as a saint. I wonder how many times he appealed for Shane Warne with an element of doubt in his mind as to whether the batsman actually nicked it. In that situation, groups of players go up and I don't remember ever seeing Gilchrist stop an appeal because there was an inside edge in an LBW appeal, or he wasn't sure if the batsman nicked it behind.

  • testli5504537 on July 30, 2008, 5:09 GMT

    Sachin never walks,if this referral system could've happened some 15 years before, sachin might have lost no of centuries to his credit by a huge margin(with local umpires, because you have to get him out 5 or 6 times before the umpire gives such one).\ Hudos to the referral system.

  • testli5504537 on July 28, 2008, 21:05 GMT

    I think this is a very interesting topic you have touched upon, Michael. However, I also think it is about time people stopped using the statistical prowess and cricketing ability of certain individuals (e.g. Lara, Tendulkar) as a mask to cover the behaviour they exhibit on the cricket field, which, at times, as people have pointed out in earlier responses, can be quite dubious.

    Gilchrist may be the paradigm of unsullied sportsmanship in front of the stumps, but this chaste behaviour is far from present behind the stumps. This inconsistency highlights the focal point of this discussion - that cricketers are not machines, they are not always seraphic role models...in fact, that is rarely the case. The only victor with regards to this topic is the complexity of human nature, and the things man will do when put under pressure.

  • testli5504537 on July 27, 2008, 11:41 GMT

    Look up people, the sky is falling and the sun has diasppeared from the skies. The end of the world is nigh: St Sachin decides not to walk after quite obviously edging it. Or did he edge it? This is a conspiracy of incredible magnitude and probably involved at least 23 Australians and a host of South Africans and a few Poms. Surely the video footage was doctored. But im all over this one already: I have constructed an eggify of a video camera. It should burn brightly indeed. After all, its a well known fact that India have never lost a game of cricket by playing poorly, its always bad decisions that go against them.

  • testli5504537 on July 26, 2008, 19:43 GMT

    Sachin Tendulkar today didn't walk despite having caught on edge. The third umpire gave him out when it was referred. So the writer might have to change his opinion about Tendulkar because this is not the first time he didn't walk after edging.

  • testli5504537 on July 26, 2008, 2:15 GMT

    So Tyrone,"... no-one being more competetive than the Aussies, no-one seems to cheat more." Please cite some examples of these malignant aussie cheaters. I dont want "they appeal strongly" or rubbish like that. I want a definitive example of cheating, a date, a game, what occurred and how the officials reacted (or failed to react.)Details please Tyrone, the devil is in the the detail.

  • testli5504537 on July 25, 2008, 6:07 GMT

    The problem is not even cricket itself, it is people. I played cricket for a long time, lower leagues only, where the batting team umpired, and this is the sort of thing that has happened to me. I get told, "You don't give out LBWs." Why not? Surely if, in my opinion the batsman is out, it is my duty to give him out? Now, there was no money involved; at the very best, there was promotion to another league. How much more pressure then, on the current crop of players, for whom success is all that counts as, if you're not selected, you can't play. And if you can't play, it's harder to be selected in the future and your earnings diminish. People will do anything for money and the approval of others, so why not cheat at cricket? It seems the only sport where gentlemanly behaviour still applies is golf. Some cricketers may be worse than others, but it's unfortunately the curse of competetiveness and, with no-one being more competetive than the Aussies, no-one seems to cheat more.

  • testli5504537 on July 21, 2008, 21:40 GMT

    Actually Eddy sitting with your pads on for 3 hours is sending a signal to the umpire loud and clear: Im not out, you shouldnt have given me out and Im displaying my anger in a passive aggressive way. Instead of throwing my helmet etc Im going to stage a public sit in. Its still an exhibition of disrespect for the umpires decision isnt it? Whats wrong with showing passion and anger when you get out? Bowlers and fielders express their exultation at a dismissal, its only human for the bloke going off the field to express his frustration. Never had a hissy fit on cricket field myself.Never will. But Ive lamented my wicket loudly and longly with the team and talked their ears off about it. Different strokes for different folks. How is someone throwing their bat any difference from a bowler throwing his hat in anger or doing tumbles on the ground in jubilation for that matter? Perspective people: this is a game played by people. They will behave like people, whether you like it or not.

  • testli5504537 on July 21, 2008, 19:25 GMT

    My dear friend Andrew, You are hell bent of proving that Ponting is a gentleman of the game and you know what, you fail miserably at that cause Ponting's done so wrong over the years, he will not commend any respect in any damn part of the world. As far as Tendulkar and Lara are concerned, there are well documented facts which prove that they have been thoroughly professional in regard to their game. Not surprising to find that every Australian ground that he played at in the last series, he received a rousing reception and equally big ovation at the end of his innings. Hard to imagine Ponting getting that in Zimbabwe or Pakistan or any damn country in the world. A pest is a pest is a pest. I havent seen Ponting being invited to Wimbledon or a F-1 podium or whatever. Respect counts and respect is gained by giving others the same. Sorry, Ponting cuts a sorry figure in this game and its about time you stop faking Australian honor for nothing. About time you realize and accept.

  • testli5504537 on July 21, 2008, 14:05 GMT

    Tendulkar waits and lets the umpire do his job. When the umpire is right he walks off straight away, when the umpire is wrong he takes an extra second to show is dissapointment then walks off. The trouble/beauty with 'walkers' is that they dont wait to be given out when they know there out and when they know there not out they take an extra second to show is dissapointment then walk off. Is there such a big difference?????? Walkers make the umpires job easier!

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