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July 19, 2013

If Gilchrist is good, is Waugh bad?

Matt Cleary
Adam Gilchrist liked to take the umpire out of the decision process. Is that a good thing?  © Getty Images
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Walking? Who would do that? Why would you do that? Batters bat, bowlers bowl and fielders field. Everyone appeals, umpires decide. And if a batter finds an umpire who hasn't seen him hit the ball to first slip, then that is good luck for him and bad luck for the other team, and there is no more to see here, let's move on muttering. There will be times a batsman doesn't hit the ball and is fired out. And if his mates have used up the DRS appeals, he can tell his story walkin'.

That's how the game has been for a thousand years. Apart from the DRS thing. But more on it later.

For now we'll confront this jibber-jabber about Stuart Broad being somehow "dishonourable" or "cheating" because he waited for Aleem Dar to make a decision.

Because, people - please. Broad had the smarts - and if you think about it, other-worldly chutzpah - to stand there and look into Dar's eyes and see that great batsman's Get Out of Jail Free card, "Doubt". And he benefited from it. That's cricket. In Broad's case good cricket, just as was practised by Steve Waugh and Javed Miandad and Geoff Boycott and anyone else who let umpires umpire. Doesn't make them "bad".

Is Adam Gilchrist "good" because he walked? I say: not in my opinion. Yours may differ. Neither of us, like our opinions, are wrong. No - for mine it means Gilchrist decided to take the umpire out of the appeal process and give himself out. Gilchrist probably appealed himself. "How am Iiiiiii? Yes, I'm out. Got me, yesss." And off he'd walk, team-mates publicly applauding, "Good man", privately thinking, "Good one, Richie Cunningham."

Because there you are: in the same team as Honourable Adam were ornery characters like SR Waugh, ME Waugh and RT Ponting, men who thought the "good" or "right" or even "honourable" thing to do was let the umpire decide if he was out or not. And if not, continue batting for Australia. These men received plenty of "incorrect" decisions and believed when they got one their way it was just the universe righting itself. And who were they to argue with a force as powerful as the very universe? Answer: nobody - apart from Adam Gilchrist.

Who is "right"? Nobody. Everybody. It's opinion, it's subjective. Each man's honour code is hardwired in various ways. If Gilchrist is "good" because he walked, then is Brad Haddin "bad" because he did not, despite knowing he'd hit the ball that finished the first Test? Is Steve Waugh bad? Is Stuart Broad? Is there political instability in Burma? Who killed Laura Palmer? How did security guards at ANZ Stadium not see the 120-kilogram bald man taking off his clothes before jumping the fence and running straight into the middle of State of Origin rugby league? We may never know.

I submit that it is not cheating to stand and wait for the umpire's verdict. The rules of the game are umpired by third parties: umpires. That is their only role. Umpire. Adjudicate. Decide. And we all move on.

Which is why the Decision Review System has opened up a whole other barrel of monkeys with machine guns. And it's probably a whole other column. And has been written and argued forcibly either way by Smart Men.

For mine, one thing is certain: players should not be involved in the decision-review process. They use it tactically, selfishly. The state of the game will decide if a batsman or captain reviews a decision - not necessarily whether they believe it's out or not. They just want to find out if it might benefit their team.

People argue for one review rather than two. But that would mean (wouldn't it?) that there's less chance again of video technology taking away the "howler" or "clanger"? Shane Watson would review an lbw first ball he gets. Stay fired out. And there might be a half-dozen clangers until stumps.

And what's the definition of the howler/clanger? A thin inside edge in an lbw? No inside edge in a bat-pad? And is it only a howler if a batsman is given out when he isn't? Or not out when he is? It's very confusing.

How about this: Let the umpires give a man out or otherwise. If he's out it means they have no doubt. You're out of there. And if, while the man is trudging off, the God Umpire in the Sky finds compelling evidence to overrule the on-field umpire, he may do so, and get in his old mate's ear. Similarly if the on-field umpire has given a man not out, and God Umpire can immediately see, through the use of video technology, that the man is out, he may overrule.

Admittedly there may be issues with the speed at which a batsman trudges off or a bowler returns to his mark while God Umpire makes these decisions, but any system has monkeys with machine guns, as we know. Stuart Broad took off his boot to get his team to lunch the other day. Good? Bad? Your call.

Or we could just acknowledge that India - the BCCI - has it right. And we brush the whole concept of DRS, except for run-outs and stumpings, which are hard to see with naked eye. Wouldn't that be novel: Umpires umpiring. Players appealing. And copping it sweet.

Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here

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Keywords: Spirit of cricket

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Posted by   on (July 20, 2013, 15:10 GMT)

I remember, correct if i'm wrong, that our man Gilly on at least one occasion did NOT walk...during a very important match...and his reputation as a walker meant the umpire didnt give him out. I say THAT is an amazing way to play the game ;)

Posted by   on (July 20, 2013, 14:56 GMT)

There are some things in life that just plain end in jinxed deadlocks. I love and admire the man who takes it to himself to be a honest man wherever whenever whatever!. And so Gilchrist is what separates the admirable men with integrity as against others who aren't..using any means to win (albeit for the country or his family or whatever whoever!). Its tough being Gilchrist and thats one of the reasons why that trait is called admirable!..if it was an easy correct choice, it wouldn't be so admirable or tough to do!. Now on the other hand, being a hard-core,' ill hit your face if u talk dirty about him' fan of Steve Waugh (right from the iceman's famous west indies series in west indies in the early 90s), I just can't see the fighter in him go away without a fight!..in this case stand ur ground for ur country,knowingly that ur image would take a beating! Where do I stand now!? What do I condemn now!?Like I began this para,...some things in life are just jinxed into a deadlock :( .

Posted by P.N.Sudarshan on (July 20, 2013, 13:06 GMT)

Matt, agreed that it is best to leave the decision to the umpires and take the roughs with the smooth. Having said that we have seen almost all the so called professional cricketers named here and the larger fraternity questioning the umpires decision while batting or fielding or as captains and senior players not instilling this discipline within their team. Cant have the cake and eat it too.

Posted by   on (July 20, 2013, 4:31 GMT)

Like you, I would also be inclined to go along with the BCCI if they did know how to cop bad decisions as part and parcel of the game and move on. On the other hand, they forced an admittedly ageing umpire out midway through the series (Bucknor). This is precisely the kind of bullying that DRS could have put an end to. But BCCI found a better solution to that: claim that it is not perfect and opt out of it. Yes, it would indeed be in the spirit of the way cricket was played if only run outs and stumpings were left to the third umpire. But if DRS reviews can inspire so much debate, I shudder to think of what would happen if there was no recourse to your average Dar/Dharmasena howler.

Posted by Mighty_Hawk on (July 19, 2013, 23:27 GMT)

If you hit it to cover would you walk Matt?

Posted by Shams on (July 19, 2013, 23:06 GMT)

Playing devil's advocate? The DRS, if used to correct howlers, works. DRS does reduce mistakes, it would eradicate howlers if captains did not misuse reviews to try and gamble a wicket.

Posted by bford1921 on (July 19, 2013, 19:30 GMT)

spot on! the watchers used to complain when umpires got it wrong before DRS, makes sense they will continue to do so. Fewer bad decisions these days, that feels like progress. Difference between Steve Waugh and Adam Gilchrist, one got to captain Australia a lot, the other didn't. Why is that?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Cleary
Matt Cleary reckons he watched more of the 1978-79 Ashes series than any eight-year-old. Despite this punishment - Geoff Boycott batting for days - Cleary was hooked. As a journalist he's written about sport, travel, beer, wine, swimming with stingrays in the Alice waters of Bora Bora, and touring Australia on a four-month lap, playing golf. Yet he counts doing ball-by-ball commentary for ESPNcricinfo as the most fun he's had with a keyboard. He writes for several of Australia's sports and travel magazines, notably Inside Sport, Inside Cricket, Golf Australia and Rugby League Week. @JournoMatCleary

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