England cricket August 31, 2012

Spirit of cricket invoked too easily

Imagine your favourite player was on 70. It's a flat pitch. The bowlers are tired. The batsman is flying. And a hundred is certainly on the cards

Imagine your favourite player was on 70. It's a flat pitch. The bowlers are tired. The batsman is flying. And a hundred is certainly on the cards. Then, in a moment of nothing short of pure stupidity, the batsman is not deceived by the bowler, or out thought by the captain, he just half hits one and is caught on the long on boundary.

It was stupid, dozy and was clearly a mistake.

Now imagine the umpire went over to the captain and said, "Look, it was clearly just a stupid error, he didn't mean it, I'm offering you the chance to call him back".

Under the laws of cricket, he's out. But it's a rubbish way to go out, and really, it was an absent-minded mistake. No one would call him back though. Because his mistake was something that happens in cricket every day.

Alex Barrow's mistake was different. Barrow repeatedly left his crease before the ball was bowled, which under the laws of cricket is out if the bowler takes the bails off. He was warned about this by Murali Kartik, and still he repeated it. Kartik probably doesn't warn batsmen that if they keep playing across the line, they'll probably miss one.

For those who believe this is a moral issue, and point to the spirit of cricket, Barrow broke the spirit of cricket before Kartik did. Most notably "To indulge in cheating or any sharp practice". Barrow had left his ground early, more than once, he was cheating a few extra yards, flouting the laws of the game, questioning the spirit of the game, and he got run out.

Steve Snell said he was shocked, but how could he be? Barrow had been warned, don't cheat or I'll run you out. He did it again.

Batsmen have been backing up terribly for years. At the end of T20 matches, you can see batsmen more than a metre from their crease as the bowler delivers the ball. It means that the bowler, who is bowling with the laws and spirit of the game, is more likely to concede a run. Barrow's offence was probably absent-mindedness, but he was still out of his ground before the ball was bowled, giving him a greater chance of taking a run.

To run a batsman out for this cheating is against the spirit of the game according to many people. It's not written anywhere in the laws, or even in the spirit preamble. But the lawmakers did take time to allow a batsman to be run out for leaving his ground before the ball is delivered. We should forget that though, and only apply the vague spirit of cricket phrases.

And if we are to take the spirit of cricket literally, one of the sharp practices it mentions is appealing knowing the batsman is not out. That means that the spirit of cricket is broken on a minute-by-minute basis all around the world. Where is the outcry of emotion that Kartik has had when an international bowler appeals, but then tells his captain not to refer it?

Cricket fans need to remember that the phrase spirit of cricket came from a time when the game was sexist, racist and the laws of the game were shaped by betting. Amateurs were separated from professionals, white captains led the West Indies and Aboriginal fast bowlers were called for chucking. The spirit of cricket phrase was lip service for what was often a grubby disgusting sport.

The real spirit of cricket isn't a bunch of pious words written by some champion batsman, it's Basil D'Oliveira wanting to play against his own country who didn't want him, Bob Blair walking out to avoid the follow on after his fiancé had died, Rick McCosker batting with a broken jaw, the arm bands of Henry Olonga and Andy Flower and the fact that Thilan Samaraweera plays on despite being shot by a terrorist while representing his country.

I'm pretty sure the spirit of cricket, real or imagined, can handle a batsman being run out for leaving his ground a bit early.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2012, 9:22 GMT

    Well said Kimber. This nonsense about 'spirit of the game' being used in such narrow terms needs to be pointed out. And Mankading does not fall under that category, prior warning or not.

    And agree with your comment about the lack of understanding about what constitutes fairness: to it i would add appealing for catches that are not, blind-sided fieldsmen appealing for LBWs, sustained efforts to force the umpire to err, etc. – the spirit of the game gets sullied in various ways. Recalling a batsman who has been lawfully dismissed does nothing to heal this injured spirit.

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2012, 8:49 GMT

    Quite right. If we outlaw Mankading, we'll see batsman backing up by half the length of the pitch - and how will the "Spirit of Cricket" regard that?

  • testli5504537 on September 3, 2012, 3:50 GMT

    And how many of the ill informed posters above have actually seen the video of the incident ?

    Kartik behaved like a petulant child. Barrow was neither seeking to steal a run, nor gain any advantage. He was "run out" only because Murali took it upon himself to 'sell him a dummy', in an entirely pre-meditated manner.

    Anyone really think that MK would have tried doing that to a seasoned Professional such as Trescothick, or Compton ? - Thought not.

    Grubby, underhand & as close to cheating as it is possible to get.

  • testli5504537 on September 2, 2012, 20:12 GMT

    All the reports say that Barrow had been persistently backing up too soon, and Kartik warned him. The thing that was always supposed to be against the spirit was for the bowler to run him out WITHOUT warning. The reason for that was that the bowler would usually have established an informal expectation that he wouldn't do this, by implicitly accepting that a degree of anticipatory backing up was fair. Running out without warning felt like cheating, because the non-striker was being lulled into believing that he could cheat, just a bit. WARNING the batsman that you will run him out if he goes too far, or does it again, has always been accepted. The fuss that was made at Taunton does not square with the fact that Kartik had issued a warning.

  • testli5504537 on September 2, 2012, 18:55 GMT

    If it should have been called a dead ball, since it was after the bowling action was started,isn't that the umpire's job .... rather than giving it out and then pressurising the captain to withdraw the appeal. If the umpires felt it was out rather than a dead ball...then it was a fair wicket

  • testli5504537 on September 1, 2012, 23:44 GMT

    The sole reason for a non striker leaving his ground early is to gain an unfair advantage. This is blatant cheating and he can only be run out while the bowler is in his run up. Why is he leaving his ground so early? It is total nonsense and hypocrisy to criticise a bowler for running out a cheating batsman, especially after he had been warned. If anyone is acting against the spirit of cricket it must be the offending non striker.

  • testli5504537 on September 1, 2012, 21:11 GMT

    Another excellent piece with a roaring end. Well done!

  • testli5504537 on September 1, 2012, 13:58 GMT

    Great article. Is appealing when a batsman is not out , batsman not walking when clearly out or wasting time by fielding /batting team in order to end sessions in the spirit of the game? What about use of vaseline whilst bowling or using murray mints in Ashes? When a batsman has been warned and then wanders out breaking the rule he deserves to be out.

  • testli5504537 on September 1, 2012, 13:57 GMT

    Why don't these players who never tarnish the "spirit" of the game walk whenever they edge one to the keeper instead of blatantly cheating the people and continuing to bat. I guess that's within the spirit of the game. Shame on the captain on issuing an unnecessary apology to Trescothik and co.He should have grown a set of balls and stood by his team mate in time of need.

  • testli5504537 on September 1, 2012, 13:38 GMT

    According to me, 'the spirit of cricket' is an over-rated concept. If you don't cheat, that's the spirit of cricket. Did Kartik cheat by dismissing Barlow the way he did? The fact that 'the spirit of cricket' is invoked so many times only shows that the game of cricket is still stuck in the 18th century mindset when it was first played (does the MCC STILL believe that it lives in the 18th century?). If cricket does not change its mindset or outlook as per the 21st century, it has no scope for globalization. No wonder, Americans make fun of the game.

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