India v Sri Lanka, CB Series, Brisbane February 21, 2012

India let Thirimanne off the hook

Ashwin had appealed, Thirimanne was not inside his crease, the finger should have gone up immediately. Spirit of cricket should not have been allowed to come in the way of fair cricket

In the 40th over of the Sri Lankan innings at the Gabba, R Ashwin spotted the non-striker Lahiru Thirimanne was about three feet outside the crease even as his back foot was about to land. Ashwin didn't go through with his delivery, turned around, ran Thirimanne out, and appealed.

For some reason though, the umpire Paul Reiffel didn't rule him out immediately, and went on to consult with the leg umpire, and asked the Indian captain if they indeed wanted to appeal. That, despite the rule changes last year, which clearly state the bowler is "permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery swing, to attempt to run out the non-striker."

During the time that the umpires consulted, the Indian team had a change of heart, much like they did with the case of Ian Bell at Trent Bridge last year, and withdrew the appeal. It was a classical case of this beast called "spirit of cricket" coming in the way of the laws of cricket. We criticise the ICC for not doing enough to address the lack of balance between bat and ball, but it was defeated by the players themselves in this case.

The rule change last year - allowing the bowler to run a batsman out any time before he has released the ball as opposed to previously when he would have to remove the bails before entering his delivery stride - was one aimed at taking away the unfair advantage the batsmen gained by leaving their crease early. In 1947-48, incidentally in the same country of hard but fair play, when Vinoo Mankad similarly ran Bill Brown out, Mankad found support despite moral posturing.

This particular ruling falls under Law 42, which deals with fair and unfair play. The laws of the game clearly consider unfair the act of batsmen gaining a few feet before the bowler has even delivered. India, by not continuing with the appeal, only abetted unfair play. The "spirit of cricket" also suggests - although this is not written anywhere - that the bowler should warn the batsman once before going ahead with the run-out, which is probably why India withdrew the appeal. Why such charity, though, for a batsman indulging in unfair play?

Cricket as a sport is full of idiosyncrasies that make it a special sport; this is not one of them. This one clearly puts the bowler, trying to prevent a batsman from unfair play, fight some sort of imaginary guilt before appealing for a run-out

Cricket as a sport is full of idiosyncrasies that make it a special sport; this is not one of them. This one clearly puts the bowler, trying to prevent a batsman from unfair play, fight some sort of imaginary guilt before appealing for a run-out. The question "do you really want to do it" comes with a weight, with a suggestion there might be consequences beyond the game in question.

Not that this incident stopped Thirimanne from gaining similar unfair advantage in the rest of the innings. Which is good on him actually. He took note of the warning, stayed in when Ashwin bowled, but kept leaving his crease when lesser-alert bowlers, like R Vinay Kumar and Irfan Pathan, operated. He was aware of the consequences, and he was taking his chances.

There is a school of thought that India actually avoided an incident that could have brought controversy and disrepute to the game. There will be parallels drawn to the Bell run-out that India got reversed during the tea break in Nottingham last year. Opinion was divided back then, but this was clearly more generous from India. You could argue Bell made a genuine, honest mistake back then, but if Thirimanne were to plead innocence here, he would need to come up with a more meaty excuse than the ignorance of Law 42.

Bell was dopey, Thirimanne was trying to gain an unfair advantage. India should have known the difference. Then again, it should never have come down to India. Ashwin had appealed, Thirimanne was not inside his crease, the finger should have gone up immediately. Spirit of cricket should not have been allowed to come in the way of fair cricket.

Edited by Kanishkaa Balachandran

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 23, 2012, 7:35 GMT

    ICC does not make an effort to make the new rules available to every one .. m sure that many of us are not aware of the rule changes and so that batsman may have other rule in mind !

  • RAJESH on February 22, 2012, 13:49 GMT

    In BASEBALL, a runner can be out by not pitching to the striker, instead to any of the base if he is starting too early. There we dont speak of fair play, its played by the rules. The aim of the rule is, if the batsman take unfair advantage then the bowler has right to run him down. simple.

  • Dummy4 on February 22, 2012, 11:22 GMT

    Remember something similar happening to Peter Kirsten in 1992/93 during India's first tour of SA. Kapil Dev saw Kirsten leaving his crease as he was about to bowl, and whipped the bails off. Kirsten was given out and had to go, shaking his head all the way, but Kapil was indignant and adamant that it was the right decision, after warning Kirsten about it earlier in the game and the series.

  • ajith on February 22, 2012, 11:13 GMT

    Guys, dont go after the SL fans, they have every right to be happy and be negative towards India. They do know that they are pretty useless as a team and the occasional victories like this one needs to be cherished. Please let them have their say :P

  • Dummy4 on February 22, 2012, 10:50 GMT

    @Jamessmithee He has not reached the next crease as you said. Still its like if a bowler bowls an inch over the line its going to be no ball and if a batsman doesnt reach his crease by an inch even before the bails taken out is out.. Bowler need not to keep his 2 legs away from the crease to be called no ball or Batsman need to be at other end to be called run out.

  • Simon on February 22, 2012, 9:56 GMT

    Once again poor umpiring from Paul Reiffel. It was out, there is no need for a warning. The batsman is always intentionally cheating. Even half wit fast bowlers know that. They're playing on the media but it will change.

  • Dummy4 on February 22, 2012, 9:48 GMT

    Thirimanna should have been given out, no doubts about it. But when you have to read an indian cricket writer moan about something like this after a game which india lost comprehensively, it becomes rather cheap. I know you are writing to your majority indian following, but don't make it that obvious please.

  • James on February 22, 2012, 9:32 GMT

    Can anyone answer this question ? Most of the Indian saying Thirumannee tried to get unfair advantage. Did he run or did he walk towards the other side of the wicket ? That's the funny part Indians can't see

  • karthik on February 22, 2012, 9:29 GMT

    So this bunch of generous Ind cricketers are not just satisfied giving nightmares to fans with their utterly pathetic performances on what is now the WORST overseas tour by any team ever but also are trying to sell the team interests for the sake of a few brownie 'spirit' points.Well,spirit can rest in toilet,so shut up and bounce,show some spine fellas! Enough humiliation already,cant swallow more..

  • Gaurav on February 22, 2012, 8:18 GMT

    wjkalana-Not a single word of your comment is related to topic, as usual you are just expressing your extreme hatred towards India.I will state the reason why you hate India,look at the stats for last 5 years, between India and SL, in SL India has won 10 ODIs and SL 7, In India ,India has won 6 lost 2, outside subcontinent India has won 9 ,SL 5.So look at the stats of last 5 yrs , 10 yrs or overall, India has always been ahead of SL.Being Flat track bullies, India has won test series in Eng, and drawn series at Aus, even in SA where you guys lost recently.SL has not won series in Eng, SA,NZ , over that they have not won a single test in India and Aus.Going by stats which are hardcore facts , if we are flat-track bullies , what are you guys who have even worse record away from home.Yes we were whitewashed but Eng and Aus did that, not SL,its funny that you gloat about that , knowing that your record is even worse.

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