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August 1, 2011

Spirit of the game

Spirit of the game, or was Dhoni a sucker?

Samir Chopra
India at first thought Ian Bell was run out in a controversial incident at the stroke of tea, England v India, 2nd npower Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day, July 31, 2011
Was MS Dhoni not completely within his rights to appeal for Ian Bell's run-out?  © Getty Images
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One of the reasons Aristotle is among my favourite philosophers - besides his suggestion that the lowly are not to be disdained in our intellectual study of the world around us - is that he beautifully explicates the notion of the golden mean. This thought is most perspicuously developed in the Nichomachean Ethics, Book 2. A read of that chapter might have been useful at Trent Bridge during the Ian Bell drama for everyone - umpires, cricketers, fans, commentators - especially when it comes to Aristotle's notion of generosity.

In an academic paper on the morality of cricketing practices, my good friend David Coady and I, while discussing the ethics of Mankading, and in particular Courtney Walsh's decision not to Mankad Saleem Jaffar during the 1987 World Cup, wrote:

For Aristotle, generosity, like all the moral virtues, is a mean between two vices, one of deficiency and one of excess. The modern parlance for the vice of excessive generosity is being a sucker. A sucker is not being truly generous, because he gives where there is neither need nor desert.

In our opinion, Walsh was a sucker; Jaffar was exploiting his generosity; Walsh and his team paid for it.

On the second day at Trent Bridge, Ian Bell was out according to the rules of the game. He forgot them and he paid for it. MS Dhoni agreed to rescind his appeal, thanks to a personal appeal from the England captain and coach. I think Dhoni was a sucker. He was within his rights to appeal.

And the umpires on the ground, presumably well-versed with the laws of cricket, had given Bell out. Years ago, in his debut Test against England during the 1981-82 series, Kris Srikkanth went walkabout without attempting a run, forgetting the ball wasn't dead, and was run out by John Emburey; everyone chuckled at the silliness of the confused young batsman, who had been exposed to the 'hard knocks' world of Test cricket.

Had Dhoni withdrawn his appeal because the umpires had made a bad decision, for instance, if he knew his fielder had taken a bump-ball catch, then Dhoni would have been a true sportsman. In yesterday's circumstances, Dhoni was gypped, and royally, by a captain and coach, who, just a couple of days ago, forbade Monty Panesar from practising with Sachin Tendulkar, something that everyone would have considered within the spirit of the game.

Invoking the spirit of the game for this decision and this decision alone is ludicrous and hopelessly inconsistent. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's incoherent. Bowlers sledge, batsmen don't walk, batsmen stand their ground when caught and don't take the fielder's word for it, the umpire's decision is not final (everyone in the fair land of spirit of the game wants the DRS apparently), but a captain is expected to withdraw his appeal when the batsman is out within the rules of the game?

Cricket, its players, and its fans and media need to resolve their schizophrenic attitude toward this.

Generosity also demands reciprocity. Will Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower ask James Anderson to not sledge the India batsmen now? Will the England batsmen walk? Will the England batsmen not stand their ground any more when India fielders claim catches? Will the crowd at Trent Bridge boo Kevin Pietersen if he sledges Yuvraj Singh from gully? I don't know.

But we'll find out.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Keywords: Laws/Rules, Spirit of cricket

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Posted by muhammad umer on (October 13, 2011, 10:28 GMT)

i agree with ammar zaheer...absolutely a brainless article.... just to show off good indian spirit..i agree dhoni did a commendable job and deserved the accolades for that...but the writer seemed to be blaming the england players..only to save indian players blushes.. please dont forget what indians do on the field..i dont want to recall what yuvraj,harbhajan,kohli,zaheer start to call out when they take a wicket or a catch...england playesr are no robots and what bell did was sheer stupidity...dhoni was absolutely right to appeal..but dont forget what happened in the 4th odi...i am not blaming only indians but also english...but the writer only seems to see the errors of englishmen...atleast they are better than indians...in my point of view

Posted by Adeel Wasim on (August 15, 2011, 11:12 GMT)

A lot has been said about that episode. May be the writer is a little annoyed of Indian defeat in that test but we have to agree that whatever combination of errors was witnessed in Bell's runout was corrected by Dhoni. India was already on the backfoot in the test but I feel Dhoni realized that victory in this form is worse than defeat. He proved himself not as a generous man but someone who knows what values more in terms of morality and ethics. Calling him a sucker is absurd and an insult to all Indian Team as it was a consolidated verdict. Sorry my friend but the only thing I find in your article is good use of English but nothing else.

Posted by nikhil on (August 14, 2011, 16:45 GMT)

i really appreciate what dhoni did to upheld the spirit of the game...but its only india who plays this game according to the right spirit,which cannot be understood........i think dhoni should'nt have forget what ian bell did with jellybeans when we visited england last year.....really its dhoni pity feeling to england which made india lose at trentbridge

Posted by Sudheer, Dehradun on (August 12, 2011, 9:32 GMT)

Nasser hussain says if you want to get out Pieterson, then play with his ego and he'll give you his wicket.Same goes with Ian Bell. both KP and Bell have full ego in them.When Bell said that he wasn't going on for the 4th run, I was really surprised.One could easily see him running towards morgan. But when Morgan did not respond he tried to make fool of umpires through his gestures, as if he is innocent.As far as Dhoni and his men are concerned they called back Bell because they had fear of English team deliberately doing same things and more importantly the fear of playing in front of wooing English Crowd.

Posted by RajIN on (August 12, 2011, 6:50 GMT)

WHATEVER DHONI DID WAS ABSOLUTELY CORRECT . IT DIDNT TOOK GAME AWAY FROM US ( IF FEW PPL ARE REGRETTING THE DECISION AS BELL GOT OUT AFTER SCORING FEW MORE RUNS ) BUT NEVER MIND . WATEVER DECISION DHONI HAS TAKEN IN PAST AND WILL TAKE IN FURTURE WE WILL ALWAYS SUPPORT HIM . DO NOT FORGET HE IS HAVING TREMENDOUS SELF BELIEF IN HIMSELF WHICH SEPERATES HIM FROM OTHER CAPTAINS AND THAT THE REASON HE IS STANDING TALL AT THE POSITION WHICH MANY CRICKETERS/CAPTAINS MIGHT HAVE DREAMT FOR LONG AND ARE STILL TRYING TO BE THERE . HE IS OUR CAPTAIN COOL AND WE SHOULD NOT ONLY SUPPORT HIM DURING GOOD TIMES BUT ALSO WHEN HE FIGHTING HARD TO GET THINGS ON TRACK .

Posted by Aditya Goel on (August 10, 2011, 9:14 GMT)

What Dhoni did is something that will take strength of character (something that neither the England coach nor the captain seem to have, not even remotely).Bell was so disoriented as to walk off with the ball not being dead completely, and Straussy and Flower expect us to pay for their mistakes or were they so worried as to what might happen if Bell got out.'SPIRIT OF CRICKET' MY FOOT. Pretty sure that Straussy would not have done it even if it meant saving the game from going down in the dumps.And stopping Panesar practicing with Sachin, who stoops so down as to do that, Straussy and Flower do!!! Swann is no better than Panesar by the way, and Straussy and Flower will do well to understand the simple mathematics of cricket that the stats are not in their favour and well from a mediocre captain and a mediocre coach(who by the way was a very very mediocre player too) nothing more could be expected.

Posted by sunny on (August 8, 2011, 20:37 GMT)

This is pathetic on part of journalism to think something like that and create a blog. To me it shows more about the authors thinking, intent and may be way of life rather than about the incidence itself. Lot of things are as per your thinking and interpretation. It reflects who you are and how you take things in life. There is no right or wrong way, just depends how you want to see - glass half full or half empty.

Just listening to Doni and why he decided to do so ("WE DID WANT WE THOUGHT WAS RIGHT") speaks for itself. How many people can think and act outside the norms and rule books and say THIS IS WHAT I FEEL IS RIGHT TO ME.

Again, I choose to see the glass half full and see a great act rather than thinking negatively.

I agree with Tony, this is shameless journalism. Calling someone a sucker is pathetic.

Posted by tony on (August 8, 2011, 9:25 GMT)

2 -3 days ago I put my comment that is against most of them commenting and showing the act that Dhoni did, which he would have not done initially to avoild all the stories, BUT THAT COMMENTS ARE NOT SHOWN HERE AS IT IS NOT FAVOURING INDIA..THIS IS THE BLOODY STANDARD OF INDIAN SUCKERS, THEY ONLY WANT ALWAYS TO WIN AND SAY THEY ARE THE GREATE BUGGERS FOR EVERYTHING...That is why a comment that tals about true incident happend not published by the so called editors/reports. shamless jounalism, as mentioned by Venkat above in this comment..too sensational than factual...bullish indian

Posted by Anonymous on (August 8, 2011, 5:39 GMT)

Dhoni was right to call Ian Bell back as taking any other action would not be right. I think that he has left a good example for all the cricketers.

Posted by lafologist on (August 7, 2011, 21:51 GMT)

....."sucker"......language...dude...you teach philosophy.....there is no. philosophy here...anybody else could have quoted aristole.......the only truth ..if there is any Ian Bell would know and probably would tell when he decides to write a book after retiring..till then ....we all can make prejudices...mine says he is a smart jhony walker arse...knew he would never make it back so keep walking....and for Dhoni...JST BE STRONG SKIP...BAD TIME IS QUITE SIMILAR TO GOOD TIME.....IT CHANGES....

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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