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Yesterday in Taunton, during the game between Somerset and Surrey in the county championship, Surrey spinner Murali Kartik, having warned the Somerset batsman Alex Barrow two balls previously for excessive backing up before the ball had been delivered, promptly ran the aforementioned non-striker out. Cue in pandemonium at his dismissal, umpire requests for a withdrawal of the appeal, and verbal abuse from the crowd.
Former Somerset keeper Steve Snell, watching in the crowd, told the local radio station that he'd "never seen anything like it in my nine years in the professional game. It's really bad sportsmanship and I'm shocked by it, if I'm honest." Snell's incredulity caused him to wonder "how he [Kartik] isn't embarrassed when he looks back at what he's done".
I recall a similar sentiment created by an opposition batsman in a recent club game, who having edged behind on about 10, went on to score 70 not out and win the game. Sadly however, despite ours' being a sport which ostensibly values fair play and sportsmanship, being a 'non-walker' is happily tolerated in the cricketing world and simply seen as a subjective preference. This is regrettable, as bearing in mind that a batsman doesn't tend to hang around when they've middled a ball down square leg's throat, declining to walk off when the margins are less obvious equates to deceiving not just the umpire, but also the paying spectator, and indeed sport itself. In short, it's a form of cheating.
Thankfully, the Decision Review System increasingly restricts this, however those who bat on despite knowing themselves to have been out certainly don't induce anywhere near the same barrage of criticism suffered by those involved in yesterday's incident. The criticism directed at Kartik and his captain, Gareth Batty, is not only a case of double standards and hypocrisy, but is simply unfounded. Surrey's captain and coach have been forced into a humble apology, for as far as can be judged, playing not only within the laws of cricket, but also the spirit.
Had a warning not been given, critics would have been justified in their complaints, however, a batsman who ignores a warning and continues to leave his crease before the ball is bowled is surely contravening the spirit of the game, rather than the bowler, even if it's unintentional. It might be said that Barrow's was simply a careless, innocent mistake. So is letting your back foot drag outside the batting crease, and this is swiftly punished by a gleeful wicketkeeper.
Besides, if Mankading isn't to be allowed, even when a warning has been given, then the batsman may as well stand half-way down the pitch and save himself the stress of a tight single. So when Somerset captain Marcus Trescothick commented that "it's not something you want to see in cricket", my thoughts were that, true, perhaps a beautifully turning off break cannoning into the off stump may have been easier on the eye of the spectator, but from a sportsmanship standpoint, I don't see an issue.
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