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I wonder if I am desperately out of sync with this but I am quite bemused by the colour Suraj Randiv's century-denying no-ball to Virender Sehwag has acquired. Having been persuaded out for dinner with the family, I missed the last half hour of the match and caught Sehwag's six on a shop window around which a crowd had gathered. The crowd rejoiced as Sehwag raised his bat and I walked on.
It was only after logging on at home that I realised Sehwag had been stranded on 99. When I watched the replay it felt schoolboyishly petty. The overstepping looked deliberate and, coming after the four byes conceded three balls previously, it seemed the Sri Lankans had a design to deny Sehwag a well-earned hundred. Overall, it felt mean-spirited. It was immediately apparent that there would be a few headlines about it next day.
But even making allowances for the media's ability to exaggerate, there's a touch of ridiculousness about the way the matter has played out. The forthright manner in which Sehwag expressed his disappointment was characteristic of him; you expected him to move on quickly. And when it turned out that Randiv had come over to say sorry, the matter should have ended there.
Instead, it took a turn for the ridiculous. Whispers emerged about the complicity of Kumar Sangakkara in the crime - after all, the four byes had slipped through his gloves - and the Sri Lanka captain was forced to protest his innocence. Some newspapers devoted a whole page to the incident, summoning the ICC and MCC for explanations. There was even a reference to Monkeygate somewhere in there.
The most bizarre play, though, came from the Sri Lankan cricket board. It apologised for the breach of spirit and, more, it announced an enquiry into the incident. Little fazes Sehwag but it's not unreasonable to assume that even he might find this a bit embarrassing. Centuries matter, but cricketers move on swiftly after the missed ones.
By issuing a public apology, the Sri Lankan board merely belittled the concept. At worst, Randiv's no-ball was petty; at best, it was naughty. But he broke no law; he didn't even contravene the ICC code of conduct as it is laid out. He can be accused of breaching the spirit of the game, but the spirit of cricket is a fuzzy concept. Batsmen rarely walk when they know they are out, fielders do their worst to cheat a favorable decision out of the umpires; and wives and girlfriends are sometimes brought into the equation to rile an opponent. If Sehwag was owed an apology it was from the bowler.
The bowler apologised, the batsman accepted; where do the rest of us come in?
Sambit Bal is the editor of ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Sambit Bal
Keywords: Spirit of cricket
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Editor-in-chief Sambit Bal took to journalism at the age of 19 after realising that he wasn't fit for anything else, and to cricket journalism 14 years later when it dawned on him that it provided the perfect excuse to watch cricket in the office. Among other things he has bowled legspin, occasionally landing the ball in front of the batsman; laid out the comics page of a newspaper; covered crime, urban development and politics; and edited Gentleman, a monthly features magazine. He joined Wisden in 2001 and edited Wisden Asia Cricket and Cricinfo Magazine. He still spends his spare time watching cricket.