August 18, 2010

Cricket concerns

Out of proportion

Sambit Bal
Virender Sehwag goes on the attack, Sri Lanka v India, tri-series, 3rd ODI, Dambulla, August 16, 2010
Once Virender Sehwag accepted Suraj Randiv's apology, that should have been the end of that  © AFP

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 ESPNcricinfo

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Keywords: Spirit of cricket

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Posted by Abraham on (August 29, 2010, 16:22 GMT)

A warm welcome to the latest recruits to the INB, the 'intentional no-ball brigade'. The current membership stands at three - Randiv, Asif and Amir. More will join.

Posted by memoriesofpast on (August 27, 2010, 9:44 GMT)

The spirit of the game has already been disputed since the incidents like the underarm ball in 1981 one-dayer at MCG between Aus and their neighbour Kiwis, the use of aluminium bat by Dennis Lillee and Lillee again trying to come in the running path of batsman Javed Miandad and attempting to kick Javed in the Perth test of 1981. Australian cricket board and their captain at that time used all their strength to reduce the punishment for Lillee. Even after that underarm ball incident, no punishment was given to Greg chapell and Trevor Chapell and neither did both of them feel like giving a public apology-so why are they banning Randiv or asking an explaination from SL team? They did not even make such an issue of that underarm ball incident-is it because two non-white skinned neighbours are involved ?Do they want to spoil relations between India and neighbour SL? Because the Chappell brothers were allowed to escape,other teams chose to take inspiration from them- so simple.

Posted by kp on (August 27, 2010, 6:53 GMT)

@Raghu - please learn to read and quote correctly. Sambit has written it correctly; can't say the same about you though! Read it again.

Posted by Safwan Ghani on (August 26, 2010, 3:12 GMT)

We should remember the match between India and South Africa last year. Sehwag intentionally kick the ball to the boundary and not let Hashim Amla to come to strike and complete his century. Is it not against the spirit of cricket?

Posted by joshioz on (August 24, 2010, 3:10 GMT)

Sambit, one could argue that Randiv's (and the Lankan team's) unsporting tactics brought the game to disrepute by denying Sehwag a well deserved century. I hope it also promts a review of the rules where the runs scored off the last deliver, whether a no ball or not, are recognised in the final tally.

Posted by Ruwantha on (August 22, 2010, 15:34 GMT)

This is what SLC did years ago with Ajith de Silva, Bandula Warnapura and the rest... over reacted. I don't say they should have not been punished, they should, but the punishment should be of propotion to the mistake.

Suraj did not commit a crime, nor did he break the rules. A baller has the right to ball a no-ball and he used it! It gave India one run, even an extra ball had the match not end; plus he apologised... the matter should have ended at that.

Posted by lion on (August 22, 2010, 14:53 GMT)

Most of the Indians seem to be forgetting the near past. How the Indian crowds stopped matches in 96 world cup. How the Indians behaved in matches and how some Indian players behave after taking wickets. When Harbajan called Symonds they defended him and blamed the Aussies. They think just because they control cricket "economically" they can control other countries too. It is a common secret how Lalith Modi forces Lankan officials to cancel a England tour and allow players to participate in IPL. Also you might not know that few people were arrested during a match in this series, just because Yuvraj told police that they shouted at him. That is how Sri Lanka respect foreign players. So for all the Indians, dont make comments as you are the innocent and see what Randiv did was something that had never happened and as a serious crime.

Posted by Akhilesh Pendharkar on (August 22, 2010, 7:41 GMT)

Give me one good reason for so many comments to this article if the matter was not worthy of anyones notice.

Posted by cricket_fan_1 on (August 22, 2010, 4:26 GMT)

I completely agree, the SLC board has been brave rather than weak. It has sent out message to other arrogant boards and has led by example.

Posted by cricket_fan_1 on (August 22, 2010, 4:22 GMT)

Anything involving Indian Team and BCCI gets the most attention from everyone. Keep it up guys. All the teams do mean things. Aussies Top the list for that, at least in the past 20 years.

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Sambit Bal
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.

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