August 3, 2011

Spirit of cricket? Surrender of series ...

The current contest ought to have been the best and closest Test series in England since that epoch-defining summer. Instead England are dormie-two at the halfway point
45

On Sunday, August 7, 2005, England's cricket writers sat in the press box at Edgbaston, united in their disbelief as they watched the wreckage of yet another Ashes series turn instead into the most nerve-jangling result in a generation. Had Michael Kasprowicz's leg-side flinch off Steve Harmison zipped away to the boundary, or been (rightly) adjudged not out by Billy Bowden, England would not have won an incredible contest by two runs, and instead of a 1-1 scoreline with all to play for, Australia would have finished with a 2-0 cushion and surely closed out the Ashes for the ninth series in a row.

Six years on, there's none of that existential angst in the air - however, for the neutral cricket fan, the sense of deflation that England averted on that occasion is set to play out in the coming two Tests against India. The current contest ought to have been the best and closest Test series in England since that epoch-defining summer. Instead England are dormie-two at the halfway point, with a victory aggregate of 515 runs after a pair of crushingly effective performances at Lord's and Trent Bridge. The tussle for that World No. 1 status keeps the series spark alive for at least another game, but that long-promised humdinger is now unlikely to materialise.

Clearly, none of that need bother England's players or fans in the slightest. Assuming their team does not squander their two-game advantage, England will soon savour that rarefied atmosphere at the summit of the Test game. Besides, as India are being made to realise, maintaining a world-class standard is as tough, if not tougher, than attaining it in the first place. With away series against Pakistan and Sri Lanka looming in the winter, the crown will not be allowed to rest easy if it does indeed end up residing with Andrew Strauss's men.

In the meantime, all manner of reasons have been given for India's inability to compete on equal terms in this series. They've suffered a glut of untimely injuries, with Virender Sehwag missing the original plane, and Zaheer Khan, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Gautam Gambhir all going lame mid-contest; they've been stuffed by their own schedulers, with the demands of the IPL draining their squad of fitness and freshness, and the recent tour of the Caribbean offering little insight into England's bowler-friendly conditions.

But, perhaps most critically, they've lacked the desire shown by their English counterparts, and, dare one say it, their best opportunity to ramp up the intensity flew through their grasp at Trent Bridge like an uncontested edge past first slip.

The flashpoint that wasn't was, of course, the stroke-of-tea run-out of Ian Bell on the third afternoon of the match. MS Dhoni's decision to withdraw India's appeal has since been lauded for the manner in which it upheld the spirit of cricket, and it earned him the Test Match Special Champagne Moment, among other less tangible plaudits. However, it was also the precise moment at which India's challenge in the series was extinguished, and in all probability, their hold on that coveted No.1 slot was surrendered.

Was the retraction worth it in the bigger picture? That all depends on how ugly you like your bar brawls, but when England's lower-order butchered 187 runs in the final session of that third day, it was clear their opponents had given up throwing their haymakers

Was the retraction worth it in the bigger picture? That all depends on how ugly you like your bar brawls, but when England's lower-order butchered 187 runs in the final session of that third day, including a first-ball long-hop from Suresh Raina to Eoin Morgan, it was clear their opponents had given up throwing their haymakers.

Sometimes a team has to "create its own intensity". Those were the precise words that Andrew Strauss used to explain England's miraculous victory in Cardiff at the start of this English season, when 922 punters turned up to watch a wash-out against Sri Lanka, but were instead treated to a 25-over rout. Similarly, in an adverse situation at Trent Bridge, India needed something upon which to galvanise their challenge, and Bell's freak dismissal could have been the catalyst they were looking for. At 254 for 4 with the rock of their revival sawn off, England's lead of 187 suddenly looked less formidable.

Consider what might have happened had Dhoni stuck to his guns and insisted that Bell was sent on his way. The chorus of boos that greeted India's return after tea confirmed how drastically the dynamic of the contest would have shifted, but given how listlessly they had performed up to that point, any change would surely have been to their benefit. Besides, as the "naive" and "stupid" Bell himself admitted afterwards, the fault lay entirely with the batsman who effectively walked before the umpire had given his say-so - a direct contradiction of the received wisdom in modern-day international cricket, which states that you stand your ground at all costs.

Praveen Kumar's half-hearted fling from the boundary wasn't a patch on Ryan Sidebottom's body-check on Grant Elliott at The Oval in 2008, one of the recent precedents for a retracted run-out appeal (and one in which England's then-captain, Paul Collingwood, actually stuck to his guns). When you watch the replays of the incident, there does seem to be a moment, as he breaks into a jog mid-pitch, when Bell realises he's wandered into trouble. But, having spent the summer of 2007 working on his "body language", he brazens it out superbly. Never mind his 159 runs, this little passage of play could be the definite proof of his maturity.

Had Dhoni not backed out of his appeal, it's almost certain that the series would have kicked off, big-style - conceivably on a par with the rancorous India-Australia confrontations of recent vintage. Naturally, not every aspect of that would have been welcome, but it's a fallacy to suggest that gentlemanly behaviour is a prerequisite for top-level sport. One of the few exceptions that prove that rule is the summer of 2005, when Australia were extraordinarily matey with an England team that they recognised as worthy adversaries. However, the gloves were off in the return series 18 months later, when England were pummelled in one of the most compelling slaughters in Test history.

Beyond that 2005 example, the game is littered with proof of the value of needle at the highest level. In 1994-95, Australia beat West Indies in the Caribbean to present themselves as the new sheriffs in the world game, but the changing of the guard was epitomised, and personified, by Steve Waugh's eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation with a livid Curtly Ambrose. In 1998, when Allan Donald subjected Mike Atherton to one of the most hostile spells of pace bowling of all time, his rage was fuelled by Atherton's refusal to walk for a gloved catch to the keeper.

And even at Lord's last month, when Kumar Sangakkara earned a standing ovation for his MCC Spirit of Cricket address, he cited the influence of that arch-pugilist, Arjuna Ranatunga, as the critical component that turned Sri Lanka into world-beaters - in particular his masterful harnessing of the Muttiah Muralitharan chucking controversy.

And if you want an extreme (and undeniably unhealthy) example of the benefits of bad blood, look at the ill-tempered ODI series between England and Pakistan in the aftermath of the spot-fixing scandal last summer. It finished 3-2 to England after a passioned-fuelled decider at the Rose Bowl, and was arguably the most compelling sporting drama of the season, as two bitter opponents scrapped desperately for the spoils.

Unwittingly or otherwise, India may have pulled off a very shrewd PR coup. Cricket's recent history is littered with references to their "bullying" nature, be it the fiscal power of the BCCI or the player power that hounded umpire Daryl Harper to an early retirement in the Caribbean last month. In that sort of context, a high-profile reminder that cricket is just a game is laudable.

However, when it comes at the crunch moment of the biggest Test series of the year, is it really the place to let nebulous sporting values hold sway? Personally, I'd have taken a scoreline of 1-1 with two to play, Sehwag to return, and blood at boiling point in opposing dressing-rooms. That sort of confrontation really would have been something to behold.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • on August 6, 2011, 15:17 GMT

    The Spirit of Cricket dictated to Dhoni that his team did not deserve to be no 1 in Tests with only one competent but always injured bowler( Zaheer) and three all time Indian batting greats. SO, he said to England that they could continue trashing India and gave Bell the reprieve needed. THIS SERIES IS ALREADY DEAD AND BURIED.

  • knowledge_eater on August 4, 2011, 15:56 GMT

    @ strategic_blunder I suggest you asked that query about SRT on the night of 03 WC Indian vs. Pakistan to Great legendary fast bowlers Akram, Shoaib, and Waqar that what went through their mind at that night after SRT's knock and aftermath of Pakistani team. Ever found out M.Hughes told Allan border,what Warne thought about SRT. It's your opinion but don't get carried away with what he could actually done and look at what he had actually done. It's not that simple than it looks outside of 22 yards and we will realize this after 40-50 years that how hard it is to survive and decode bowlers. Nervous old man lost his all good reflexes of young ended up being highest scorer in SA few months ago! India could have lost that series if it wasn't for him or India could have won that series, if it wasn't for Kallis. Watch game with mind open, put yourself there and decide! If game was that simple lot of hot blooded players would have out scored calm batsman and will still be playing cricket!!

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on August 4, 2011, 14:31 GMT

    I have no doubt that Fletcher is taking India down. Isn't he the same guy who was a hapless member of the Zimbabwean team that was maulled by Kapil Dev's positive thinking at Turnbridge Wells? And lo and behold, Fletcher was giving a generous dose of his negative thinking in Windies and supporting that horrible decision at Dominica to the hilt. No wonder this team let off a batsman who was out. The negative thinking and the 'itch' to please all and sundry is clawing back slowly. Spirit of cricket is when the umpire gives a batsman wrongly out and the fielding captain calls the batsman back. Spirit of cricket is a concept that has to be shown on a regular basis for the things that happen commonly (wrong decisions, collisions etc..), not for the rare bizarre dismissals. What is not showing spirit of cricket for not reinstating back a batsman who was out? There are several ways to get dismissed and this was one of them. This was not even bizarre. This was an elementary school kid mistake.

  • popcorn on August 4, 2011, 9:24 GMT

    Had the 2005 Ashes series been played with the DRS, Australia would have won that series, for Michael Kasprowicz was NOT OUT, but declared caught behind by one of the best (?) umpires in World Cricket.Had the DRS been in vogue when Ricky Ponting was denied a century on debut in Sri Lanka declared out lbw when on 96, he would have added another statistic to his already bulging stats. Test history is littered with what would have been had DRS been in vogueTHEN.I think DRS has caused more problems than when it was a "gentleman's game" - the umpire's word was taken. Just as we ae finding fault with technology there could be human errors too - THAT is really the Spirit of Cricket.ACCEPT THE UMPIRE'S DECISION AND MOVE ON.Having experienced raging controversies on the Technology of DRS, why not just go back to the on field umpire's word?

  • aalkool on August 4, 2011, 9:02 GMT

    Andrew- As you have mentioned, desire is critical in a competition and it is this desire that is lacking. And this is the same point Ganguly made earlier. You have a limited number of years to play for India, so you have to make the most of every match, in every situation. But what happens when this desire transcends the rules of the game? While I disagree with Dhoni's decision, I disagree even more with the English team's decision to approach Dhoni in the break. While those actions have resulted to various talking points and the pathetic Andy Flower's hypocritical comments to the media, they may also result in situations where even the rules of cricket lose their rigidity. From an umpire's decision being questioned, to technology being insisted upon and then questioned when proven inconclusive; to rules being interpreted to suit oneself, cricket is on a slippery slope. The potentially new leaders also need to get their act together. Imagine if they were losing.

  • ShravanNagraj on August 4, 2011, 8:19 GMT

    This article is not really worth appreciating. Andrew Miller said the same thing that he daid on switch Hit.

    I agree that the intensity has been lacking in the sereis but hoping for a controversy to bring that in isn't right.

    The spectacular fantasy of 'what could have been' had Bell not been re-instated is more reminicent of scripts from film industry and not the field of sport.

    As far as the spirit of the game above the law is concerned, it rests in the hands of the players and the captain. Whether they uphold that spirit or not is visible in their conduct in the playing arena. I certainly think they did uphold the spirit. The crowd who paid to come and watch is the final judge and I think they pronounced their judgement.

    India have failed to perform competetively as a team (also mentioned on switch hit) and this is really disappointing.

    Hopefully the remainder of the series will be a better contest.

  • Kalran on August 4, 2011, 8:02 GMT

    I don't believe that Dhoni's decision had any impact on the outcome of the Test. In fact I have a sneaky suspicion that the decision to recall Bell might have been a calculated attempt to deflect some of the criticism that they thought will come about after losing the test. The body language by tea on the 3rd day showed that they had already given up on the Test. If they had thought they have a slight chance for a victory, most definetely the recall wouldn't have happened.

  • big_al_81 on August 4, 2011, 6:43 GMT

    A well-written article BUT for all it's imagination I find it doesn't ring at all true with what we've actually seen. Yes, India were thumped in both matches in the end, but the first Test at Lords was terrific and went right to the last afternoon. The 2nd Test involved a brilliant turning of the tables by one side. The fact that England were the victors on both occasions and the scoreline is 2-0 is no reflection on how good the series has been as both games in themselves have been very good spectacles. The Dhoni decision is simply to be admired and to think it made any substantial difference involves a wild flight of fantasy. The Indian players were already demoralised during the afternoon session and the booing and rancour would have been just as likely to inspire England to flay them for 230 runs in the evening session as inspire India to bowl better!

  • Agnihothra on August 4, 2011, 5:26 GMT

    damned if you do and damned if you dont.... i bet my bottom rupee that the very same folk would have been ripping into MSD if he upheld the appeal and mind you that the result of the test did not depend on this decision... they still might have bled 165 runs(187 minus22 that bell made after tea) and then what?!!!!!

  • CharlieAlanJakeHarperFamily on August 4, 2011, 4:25 GMT

    Can't believe this comes from a good old englishman from land of grace,cowdrey,gower (league of extraordinary gentlemen) sledging,not walking,claiming false catches were the basic characterictics of a ponting prototype team and miller expects this from indians who have always followed english way of cricket since times immemorial instead of helping a noble cause of reinstating miller expects bloodshed and let tempers fray by allowing bell to have a cup of tea with runout agreed we are struggling and losingCan't believe this comes from a good old englishman from land of grace,cowdrey,gower (league of extraordinary gentlemen) sledging,not walking,claiming false catches were the basic characterictics of a ponting prototype team and miller expects this from indians who have always followed english way of cricket since times immemorial instead of helping a noble cause of reinstating miller expects bloodshed and let tempers fray by allowing bell to have a cup of tea with runout agreed we are

  • on August 6, 2011, 15:17 GMT

    The Spirit of Cricket dictated to Dhoni that his team did not deserve to be no 1 in Tests with only one competent but always injured bowler( Zaheer) and three all time Indian batting greats. SO, he said to England that they could continue trashing India and gave Bell the reprieve needed. THIS SERIES IS ALREADY DEAD AND BURIED.

  • knowledge_eater on August 4, 2011, 15:56 GMT

    @ strategic_blunder I suggest you asked that query about SRT on the night of 03 WC Indian vs. Pakistan to Great legendary fast bowlers Akram, Shoaib, and Waqar that what went through their mind at that night after SRT's knock and aftermath of Pakistani team. Ever found out M.Hughes told Allan border,what Warne thought about SRT. It's your opinion but don't get carried away with what he could actually done and look at what he had actually done. It's not that simple than it looks outside of 22 yards and we will realize this after 40-50 years that how hard it is to survive and decode bowlers. Nervous old man lost his all good reflexes of young ended up being highest scorer in SA few months ago! India could have lost that series if it wasn't for him or India could have won that series, if it wasn't for Kallis. Watch game with mind open, put yourself there and decide! If game was that simple lot of hot blooded players would have out scored calm batsman and will still be playing cricket!!

  • Dravid_Pujara_Gravitas on August 4, 2011, 14:31 GMT

    I have no doubt that Fletcher is taking India down. Isn't he the same guy who was a hapless member of the Zimbabwean team that was maulled by Kapil Dev's positive thinking at Turnbridge Wells? And lo and behold, Fletcher was giving a generous dose of his negative thinking in Windies and supporting that horrible decision at Dominica to the hilt. No wonder this team let off a batsman who was out. The negative thinking and the 'itch' to please all and sundry is clawing back slowly. Spirit of cricket is when the umpire gives a batsman wrongly out and the fielding captain calls the batsman back. Spirit of cricket is a concept that has to be shown on a regular basis for the things that happen commonly (wrong decisions, collisions etc..), not for the rare bizarre dismissals. What is not showing spirit of cricket for not reinstating back a batsman who was out? There are several ways to get dismissed and this was one of them. This was not even bizarre. This was an elementary school kid mistake.

  • popcorn on August 4, 2011, 9:24 GMT

    Had the 2005 Ashes series been played with the DRS, Australia would have won that series, for Michael Kasprowicz was NOT OUT, but declared caught behind by one of the best (?) umpires in World Cricket.Had the DRS been in vogue when Ricky Ponting was denied a century on debut in Sri Lanka declared out lbw when on 96, he would have added another statistic to his already bulging stats. Test history is littered with what would have been had DRS been in vogueTHEN.I think DRS has caused more problems than when it was a "gentleman's game" - the umpire's word was taken. Just as we ae finding fault with technology there could be human errors too - THAT is really the Spirit of Cricket.ACCEPT THE UMPIRE'S DECISION AND MOVE ON.Having experienced raging controversies on the Technology of DRS, why not just go back to the on field umpire's word?

  • aalkool on August 4, 2011, 9:02 GMT

    Andrew- As you have mentioned, desire is critical in a competition and it is this desire that is lacking. And this is the same point Ganguly made earlier. You have a limited number of years to play for India, so you have to make the most of every match, in every situation. But what happens when this desire transcends the rules of the game? While I disagree with Dhoni's decision, I disagree even more with the English team's decision to approach Dhoni in the break. While those actions have resulted to various talking points and the pathetic Andy Flower's hypocritical comments to the media, they may also result in situations where even the rules of cricket lose their rigidity. From an umpire's decision being questioned, to technology being insisted upon and then questioned when proven inconclusive; to rules being interpreted to suit oneself, cricket is on a slippery slope. The potentially new leaders also need to get their act together. Imagine if they were losing.

  • ShravanNagraj on August 4, 2011, 8:19 GMT

    This article is not really worth appreciating. Andrew Miller said the same thing that he daid on switch Hit.

    I agree that the intensity has been lacking in the sereis but hoping for a controversy to bring that in isn't right.

    The spectacular fantasy of 'what could have been' had Bell not been re-instated is more reminicent of scripts from film industry and not the field of sport.

    As far as the spirit of the game above the law is concerned, it rests in the hands of the players and the captain. Whether they uphold that spirit or not is visible in their conduct in the playing arena. I certainly think they did uphold the spirit. The crowd who paid to come and watch is the final judge and I think they pronounced their judgement.

    India have failed to perform competetively as a team (also mentioned on switch hit) and this is really disappointing.

    Hopefully the remainder of the series will be a better contest.

  • Kalran on August 4, 2011, 8:02 GMT

    I don't believe that Dhoni's decision had any impact on the outcome of the Test. In fact I have a sneaky suspicion that the decision to recall Bell might have been a calculated attempt to deflect some of the criticism that they thought will come about after losing the test. The body language by tea on the 3rd day showed that they had already given up on the Test. If they had thought they have a slight chance for a victory, most definetely the recall wouldn't have happened.

  • big_al_81 on August 4, 2011, 6:43 GMT

    A well-written article BUT for all it's imagination I find it doesn't ring at all true with what we've actually seen. Yes, India were thumped in both matches in the end, but the first Test at Lords was terrific and went right to the last afternoon. The 2nd Test involved a brilliant turning of the tables by one side. The fact that England were the victors on both occasions and the scoreline is 2-0 is no reflection on how good the series has been as both games in themselves have been very good spectacles. The Dhoni decision is simply to be admired and to think it made any substantial difference involves a wild flight of fantasy. The Indian players were already demoralised during the afternoon session and the booing and rancour would have been just as likely to inspire England to flay them for 230 runs in the evening session as inspire India to bowl better!

  • Agnihothra on August 4, 2011, 5:26 GMT

    damned if you do and damned if you dont.... i bet my bottom rupee that the very same folk would have been ripping into MSD if he upheld the appeal and mind you that the result of the test did not depend on this decision... they still might have bled 165 runs(187 minus22 that bell made after tea) and then what?!!!!!

  • CharlieAlanJakeHarperFamily on August 4, 2011, 4:25 GMT

    Can't believe this comes from a good old englishman from land of grace,cowdrey,gower (league of extraordinary gentlemen) sledging,not walking,claiming false catches were the basic characterictics of a ponting prototype team and miller expects this from indians who have always followed english way of cricket since times immemorial instead of helping a noble cause of reinstating miller expects bloodshed and let tempers fray by allowing bell to have a cup of tea with runout agreed we are struggling and losingCan't believe this comes from a good old englishman from land of grace,cowdrey,gower (league of extraordinary gentlemen) sledging,not walking,claiming false catches were the basic characterictics of a ponting prototype team and miller expects this from indians who have always followed english way of cricket since times immemorial instead of helping a noble cause of reinstating miller expects bloodshed and let tempers fray by allowing bell to have a cup of tea with runout agreed we are

  • som_deb on August 4, 2011, 4:22 GMT

    You have echoed my exact sentiment Andrew.I agree 100% with your view. Also I think Dhoni personally wouldnt have withdrawn the appeal, but had to do it bcoz of Tendulkar,Dravid etc insisting. Flower should see the replay of Tendulkar dismissal against Pakistan in Eden Garden before commenting. Sachin collided with Shoib Akhtar while completing a run and got run out. Akram didnt withdraw the appeal and Tendulkar was out much to the disappointment of Eden crowd.If Pakistan can do that in front of the massive Eden crowd and that too to Sachin, then India should have very well stuck to their appeal. In that case Sachin was not at fault and Spirit of the Game came into picture. Here Bell is clearly at fault and should have been out.

  • on August 4, 2011, 3:57 GMT

    We will never know whether Dhoni's decision cost India the Test. However, I do agree with Andrew that sacrificing the No. 1 spot and the series wasn't worth the gesture. Unfortunately cricket is no longer a" gentleman's game". It's a duel, a religion, a profession, an industry etc. The fate of a captain, a batsman, a bowler, the coach and even the selectors, may hang on a delivery. It tolerates sledging, not "walking", intimidating the umpire, palpably false appealing etc. However, this type of incident can cause a riot, which must be avoided. I am firmly of the opinion that under the circumstances, the ICC should either issue clear guidelines or better still, change the rules. Unfortunately the ICC does not seem to be willing or able to do its job. To be fair to the ICC, even the UN suffers from the same from the same "Disease"

  • Leggie on August 4, 2011, 3:19 GMT

    Excellent article. The recall only highlighted the softer side and a lack of self belief.

  • on August 4, 2011, 2:35 GMT

    The Bell call-back was not necessary and will not be reciprocated by opposition to show spirit of the game. However, Andrew Miller forgets that this is the game of glorious uncertanties. It does take a bit of quality to become #1 side. India does have a spark and it'll show up. Two more tests still remain to be played. Indians are known to be slow starters but catch up failry quickly once they warm up. If you need further evidence, just ask Steve Waugh's Australian team of 2002. If Andrew understood hindi, all I'd say is... Picture abhi baki hai, mere dost!!(literally translated, movie is not yet over, my friend).

  • Princely1 on August 4, 2011, 0:21 GMT

    @AjaySridharan - "Had it not been the last ball before tea, this retraction would not have happened. The next batsman would have walked on to the field and the next ball would have been bowled". If it hadn't have been the last ball before tea, Bell wouldn't have been looking to walk off thinking that it was the tea break, anyway so what you say makes no sense!

  • SanjivAwesome on August 3, 2011, 23:22 GMT

    In showing his feminine side, Dhoni has meekly surrendered the series to a ruthless England. As an Indian supporter, I admire this English team - their players are pummeling us in the field while their coach is rail-roading Dhoni in the dressing room. A complete anhiliation of a "yes-sir" team by a marauding lion.

  • SagirParkar on August 3, 2011, 23:07 GMT

    very well said Mr Miller.. you echo the sentiments of many cricket fans like me ! bravo and well done.

  • demon_bowler on August 3, 2011, 22:51 GMT

    I couldn't disagree more with the author. Lots of journalists are bringing up the Collingwood refusal to recall Elliot in a one-dayer, without mentioning the fact that Collingwood himself profusely apologized afterwards and said he should have withdrawn his appeal. It has been cited as one of the factors leading to his resignation of the one-day captaincy later that summer. It is quite possible, even probable that Dhoni would also have been haunted by a decision to act in a way contrary to his character. Anyway, following one's conscience doesn't depend on how someone else might act in the same situation, and is certainly more important than winning a game of cricket. As Strauss said, Dhoni set an example for all captains. He has my total respect.

  • strategic_blunder on August 3, 2011, 22:50 GMT

    @ Andrew Miller, Summed up my thoughts mate, cant see India making any sort of comeback now due to the psychological disadvantage....If I was an Indian bowler, I wouldve felt betrayed by my superiors....Couldve just seen it in the bowling prior Tea and after Tea, although it was borderline mediocre prior, it was plain dispirited shambolic after. Mind you, Bell and Morgan plundered 70+ runs @ 6.5 RPO before Bells's 2nd dismissal, which further dented bowlers confidence....Now reports are suggesting that Tendulkar was behind this decision, and I wont be surprised if he was (Its very unlikely of Dhoni to do such a reversal). In the past 15 years of supporting the Indian team, Ive NEVER liked him. He has never been able to transform from this wonder boy to a man. Always nervous, especially on big occassions. He has never given me an assurance or confidence of turning a match around. And gives airy-fairy talk like Dalai Lama. No Bharat Ratna for the weak and embarrasing.

  • boston_pride on August 3, 2011, 22:17 GMT

    I really dont understand why so much fuss is being made out of the whole bell incident... India were beaten by 300 odd runs... not 30 odd runs... Just like Flower had pointed out, if Sachin were to have been given out in that fashion, imagine what Shastris, Gavaskars would have been saying... You saw the amt of fuss that was being made abt Harbhajan being given out LBW wrongly while in the first test Sachin, Raina both survived plumb LBWs.... When Aus won the test in Sydney, they were hated... N if India had not withdrawn the Bell appeal, there would have been similar feelings except of course Indians would be hated losers n not hated winners like Oz team then

  • sirvivfan on August 3, 2011, 22:05 GMT

    I concur with this article. I for one have blogged that Dhoni basically lost the will to compete by allowing Bell to continue. This is mind set of a non competitive side, not willing to take on all and sundry in England. They were worried about their ability to handle the reaction. Remember India did mot do anything wrong! I can assure other sides in the continent Pakistan would not have backed off! That's why they are not liked in England. As supporter I would really worry if the opposition like you because of fair play knowing you are handing them the series on the plate. To be fair I would have expected Ganguly to react differently! riaz

  • Dr.Vindaloo on August 3, 2011, 21:47 GMT

    Shall we move on now? Or shall we continue to stir the pot and pretend that the crushing defeat never happened?

  • knowledge_eater on August 3, 2011, 21:33 GMT

    Really Milller? Answer me, what would you have REALLY written instead if MSD hadn't called back Ian Bell? No mention of Struass and Andy Flower going to dressing to beg for Bell's wicket, eh!! Would MSD and Team India have reconsidered re: bell's wicket if they would have let that be??? I guess not. England begged to India, then India said Ok. I can't believe you are still bringing up Daryl Harper case!! He WAS out of elite group in umpiring few months ago. He was going to retire by end of jun/july anyway. It was going to be his last test anyway. And he has done terrible umpiring in last many years. He should have been appointed for series on the first place by ICC!! It was the ICC who bullied and insisted that Harper become umpire for the tour. MSD said 'Harper we have had problem with you before' What does that tell you? What does it mean? It means he is terrible and he was appointed on purpose.

  • Hurricane08 on August 3, 2011, 21:31 GMT

    Spirit of the game also includes competitive spirit. The Indian team's body language turned negative after Bell was recalled. I wonder if the decision to recall him was unanimous - the body language didn't suggest that. I agree with the article - the game would have come alive if Dhoni hadn't rescinded his appeal. Leadership also entails batting for your team - which clearly Dhoni did not do. Andrew's observation is spot on. Bell realized his folly midway through the pitch and tried to get back, but enacted his naivity well to avoid being declared out while scampering back to the crease. From the team's body language, one can tell, that the team may not be too happy with their captain.

  • SuperSloMo on August 3, 2011, 20:25 GMT

    Utter rubbish, Miller. England gained just 22 runs and would have continued to batter India no matter what. You're assuming they would have folded if Bell were given out! Bresnan, Prior and Broad suddenly cowed into scorelessness? Get real. This story is over. PS, Master01, you are very very wrong.

  • jackiethepen on August 3, 2011, 20:19 GMT

    Greig reinstated Kallicharran, asubrahm. This is quite a ridiculous article by Andrew Miller based on the premise that the dismissal of Bell - if adhered to - would have fired up the Indian team. Anyone who knows a smidgeon of psychology knows that the opposite would have been the case. It is England who would have been enraged. They would have been furious about the decision - which was unsporting however you twist and turn about it. There is no-one more fired up than those who believe they have been wronged. So England would have repelled India with even more fury and probably finished the match by Monday morning. Hatred is a wonderful motivator and they had everything else for the job like skill and fitness and intensity. India would have been blown away and all the India fans would have blamed Dhoni. As for Andrew Miller, another chance to diminish England's victory and England's heroes. His abuse of Bell is a scandal. Stupid? You have a nerve. Bell said he was naive.

  • on August 3, 2011, 20:15 GMT

    It's a sad world we live in where success and results are achieved at all cost. The way we play says more about who we are than the results. We do not care anymore whether someone is a good person or acts honourably, we only care about results. What a sad world this is indeed.

  • Chase_HQ on August 3, 2011, 20:03 GMT

    good article, but a classic damned if do damned if don't scenario. I personally think India made the right choice - weather notwithstanding they'd still have beaten in all likelihood, so at least they got the moral high ground. And if they are to inherit world cricket, I think it's right that they should take that seriously. Bell definitely deserved to be out, you're spot on there - but it was an impressive bit of acting by Kumar on the boundary - I think it was the cheer from the crowd that prompted Bell to start walking off.

  • ahweak on August 3, 2011, 19:52 GMT

    A classic case of going with what did not happen and putting a spin on it in order to fill a column. India did not need any catalyst; they just needed a better bowling attack, preparation and focus. It is a stretch to imagine that the boos from the crowd could have ignited anything.

  • on August 3, 2011, 19:52 GMT

    Excellent article!!! The author has perfectly articulated the question that was lingering in the minds of many an Indian cricket fan...."what if Dhoni had not withdrawn the appeal?"..

  • EVH316 on August 3, 2011, 19:46 GMT

    In Andrew Miller`s defence, he is a journalist and milking the story a little longer isn`t unreasonable - it`s a good `un. I must confess that the potential spikiness that would have ensued in this series had Dhoni not withdrawn his appeal - something I wish he hadn`t done, as the spirit of cricket is at best a myth and India were in the right after all - would have been very interesting. Whether you think Miller`s job is to report the facts and facts alone, or hypothise about potential scenarios, is probably the issue; but please don`t ignore the fact that 90% of articles on Cricinfo are what-ifs (and Gideon Haigh is the only one who gets it right). If you only want the stats then just look at scorecards.

  • on August 3, 2011, 19:22 GMT

    Bell added only 22 more runs after tea and the England innings up to that point had already done the damage. England's lower order batsmen flayed the Indian bowlers. Far from the run-out incident causing India's downfall, the situation India found itself in was of its own making. You could also say that if the ball had been returned more promptly from the boundary and fielders more alert the run out could have been effected clinically and there would have been no conrtroversy.

  • FreddyForPrimeMinister on August 3, 2011, 19:17 GMT

    99% of the time, I rate Andrew Miller as the finest journalist of his generation; however his article deriding Andrew Flintoff was frankly disgraceful and this is equally wide of the mark and smacks of a News of the World journalist playing a cheap hand to simply to get a reaction from his readers. Cricket above all sports should lead the way in fair play and what Dhoni and the Indian team did in retracting the appeal was absolutely the right and proper thing to do and they should be applauded for it at every level, not criticised for being weak. It does NOT take a sour incident to make a great series or even a "ruthless team". India should be talented and professional enough to show guts without the need for a bitter fight. Eng v Aus 2005 showed how cricket should be played and it's a fallacy to compare Australia's narrowest of losses there to their brutal win in 06/07 when they were actually playing a severely depleted Eng side shorn of Vaughan, Tres, Jones etc. Shame on you Andrew

  • tjsimonsen on August 3, 2011, 19:09 GMT

    Well, Miller I agree with you that it was Bell's own fault that he was out, and as such he should not have been recalled. I also agree that in doing so Dhoni displayed a lack of fighting spirit and desire to win. But that's the core of the problem - or at least one of the problems India have at the moment. You cannot seriously say that without that symptom India would have won! The problem had been blatantly apparent all day (and for most of the previous test). India werealready down and out by then. The way Prior bats at the moment, had come to the crease earlier hwe could well have been 120 not out at close. @Master01: so England lives by double strandards are they. Conviently forgetting how Strauss recalled Angelo Mathews, have you? And don't use Collingwood as an example. He is not the captain, in fact he is not even in the team. Don't judge Strauss by Collingwood's deeds. And just for the record, I don't hate India (or Indians), nor am I English BTW.

  • george204 on August 3, 2011, 19:00 GMT

    Tripe. India did not go flat in the last session because they were disappointed with not getting Bell out just as England did not flog 187 in the evening session because they felt they had won an argument. With Harbajan injured the Indian fast bowlers ran out of steam, the part timers couldn't keep the runs down & fielders were run ragged. The dismissal of Bell at tea would only have brought Matt Prior to the crease sooner - it could have actually been a lot worse for India! Any "spark" that may have been gained by the "needle" of a Bell dismissal would have been more to England's benefit than India's.

  • AjaySridharan on August 3, 2011, 18:46 GMT

    Finally, a sane voice that is not sucked into the mushiness of this kumbaya moment! Dhoni squandered a chance to instill some fire into his team's belly in a series where they have looked listless so far. Look at how they performed in Australia after that bad blood in Sydney. Dhoni would have done well to accept DRS instead of doing stuff like this. He could have saved Harbhajan's wicket and not conceded a hat-trick. Who knows...Bhajji may have gone on to hit a quickfire 50 or 60.

    Strauss and Flower should be fined for showing dissent against the umpires' call. They had no business going to the opposing captain. Had it not been the last ball before tea, this retraction would not have happened. The next batsman would have walked on to the field and the next ball would have been bowled, and we would be witnessing a great series in progression. Alas, Dhoni had his eyes set on the fair play award!

  • on August 3, 2011, 18:31 GMT

    I felt Bell should have been out, as England effectively black-mailed India to re-instating Bell it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth as an England fan. Then again India's bowling was atrocious after tea on day 3, they could have come out all guns lazing and said Bell we gave you a reprieve but we will still want to win the match.

  • vijujack on August 3, 2011, 18:26 GMT

    Well written article Andrew. There are two issues here - 1. England were too good for India in terms of talent, passion, commitment & the willingness to slug it out. 2.The spirit of the game was needlessly compromised by the English team, by asking India to reverse a decision that was out in all sense of the word. India were pushed into a corner given all the negativity concerning BCCI and its bullying and to avert a PR disaster they caved in. All in the English think VVS nicked, but Harbhajan did not when the truth was otherwise and for all to see. Vaughan's vaseline was totally unnecessary. PK questions the umpire & gets penalised while Bell does it & gets a press conference to explain his position - tripe!!! Ponting lost the plot when he went on the negative trip during the Indian series in 2008, so there is a case in point here for Strauss & company...

  • bumsonseats on August 3, 2011, 18:22 GMT

    only you would mention the bit about the hand been off the bat. having watched over 100 tests over the last 40 years. i know as ur english u have to prove that you have no bias. i can remember a few of those tests have been decided by an incident if not of those mentioned above of similar outcomes if it had been say beteeen india and pakistan would you have said that ( i do not think so). could you not just have reported on the match and let us remember it as a great test of a great series by two great teams. i dont suppose you will print this. why did you have to put your on slant on it. dpk

  • on August 3, 2011, 18:21 GMT

    I see some people are finding more excuses for the fact that England destroyed India in two consecutive tests, 4-0 coming up for India, keep finding more excuses.

  • CharlieAlanJakeHarperFamily on August 3, 2011, 18:15 GMT

    We indians were,are and always be generous softies and play with spirit of cricket even if its at risk of losing match because there is no pride in winning a wicket or match by illegitimate means like bell's or sidebottom confrontation with elliot,falsely claimed catch winning is not the everything for indians but respect for game is utmost and i dare say u will never see an indian sledge until and unless he is forced and cornered to that extent say sreesanth u saw him how calm he was at trentbridge

  • Bhavesh_Sheth on August 3, 2011, 17:54 GMT

    Spot on analysis by Andrew. The Bell incident was game changing. Instead of focusing on the 22 runs that Bell added after tea, one should look at the huge difference that a 254/4 would have made versus a 323/4. Above all, by reinstating Bell, India failed to make a statement regarding their intent to play hard cricket for this high profile contest. India are not touring England for a 'humanitarian' cause or to spread peace in the cricketing world...they are there to 'fight' a battle of supremacy.

  • satya99 on August 3, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    Couldn't agree more .The boos from the crowd, had Dhoni refused to withdraw the appeal against Bell , could have been the catalyst India needed . As the Sydney test shows bad blood does bring out the competitive streak in people.

  • asubrahm on August 3, 2011, 17:35 GMT

    Thanks Andrew for an excellent article. Yes, smoking hot, intense competition is better than caving to dubious requests by opposing captains and coaches. Somewhat like many other instances, Greig running out Kallicharran, Sarfraz appealing for handled the ball against Hilditch, Ponting claiming a grassed catch. Each one of those were within the rules, and led to memorable, hard fought series. This pusillanimous behaviour is not consistent with how champions should play the game.

  • Master01 on August 3, 2011, 17:33 GMT

    Exactly. Pity the English media expect it to be otherwise. They expect India to live by standars that the english dont. Riddiculous decision b DHoni. Who cares what England think of India, they will hate us no matter what

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  • Master01 on August 3, 2011, 17:33 GMT

    Exactly. Pity the English media expect it to be otherwise. They expect India to live by standars that the english dont. Riddiculous decision b DHoni. Who cares what England think of India, they will hate us no matter what

  • asubrahm on August 3, 2011, 17:35 GMT

    Thanks Andrew for an excellent article. Yes, smoking hot, intense competition is better than caving to dubious requests by opposing captains and coaches. Somewhat like many other instances, Greig running out Kallicharran, Sarfraz appealing for handled the ball against Hilditch, Ponting claiming a grassed catch. Each one of those were within the rules, and led to memorable, hard fought series. This pusillanimous behaviour is not consistent with how champions should play the game.

  • satya99 on August 3, 2011, 17:49 GMT

    Couldn't agree more .The boos from the crowd, had Dhoni refused to withdraw the appeal against Bell , could have been the catalyst India needed . As the Sydney test shows bad blood does bring out the competitive streak in people.

  • Bhavesh_Sheth on August 3, 2011, 17:54 GMT

    Spot on analysis by Andrew. The Bell incident was game changing. Instead of focusing on the 22 runs that Bell added after tea, one should look at the huge difference that a 254/4 would have made versus a 323/4. Above all, by reinstating Bell, India failed to make a statement regarding their intent to play hard cricket for this high profile contest. India are not touring England for a 'humanitarian' cause or to spread peace in the cricketing world...they are there to 'fight' a battle of supremacy.

  • CharlieAlanJakeHarperFamily on August 3, 2011, 18:15 GMT

    We indians were,are and always be generous softies and play with spirit of cricket even if its at risk of losing match because there is no pride in winning a wicket or match by illegitimate means like bell's or sidebottom confrontation with elliot,falsely claimed catch winning is not the everything for indians but respect for game is utmost and i dare say u will never see an indian sledge until and unless he is forced and cornered to that extent say sreesanth u saw him how calm he was at trentbridge

  • on August 3, 2011, 18:21 GMT

    I see some people are finding more excuses for the fact that England destroyed India in two consecutive tests, 4-0 coming up for India, keep finding more excuses.

  • bumsonseats on August 3, 2011, 18:22 GMT

    only you would mention the bit about the hand been off the bat. having watched over 100 tests over the last 40 years. i know as ur english u have to prove that you have no bias. i can remember a few of those tests have been decided by an incident if not of those mentioned above of similar outcomes if it had been say beteeen india and pakistan would you have said that ( i do not think so). could you not just have reported on the match and let us remember it as a great test of a great series by two great teams. i dont suppose you will print this. why did you have to put your on slant on it. dpk

  • vijujack on August 3, 2011, 18:26 GMT

    Well written article Andrew. There are two issues here - 1. England were too good for India in terms of talent, passion, commitment & the willingness to slug it out. 2.The spirit of the game was needlessly compromised by the English team, by asking India to reverse a decision that was out in all sense of the word. India were pushed into a corner given all the negativity concerning BCCI and its bullying and to avert a PR disaster they caved in. All in the English think VVS nicked, but Harbhajan did not when the truth was otherwise and for all to see. Vaughan's vaseline was totally unnecessary. PK questions the umpire & gets penalised while Bell does it & gets a press conference to explain his position - tripe!!! Ponting lost the plot when he went on the negative trip during the Indian series in 2008, so there is a case in point here for Strauss & company...

  • on August 3, 2011, 18:31 GMT

    I felt Bell should have been out, as England effectively black-mailed India to re-instating Bell it leaves a nasty taste in my mouth as an England fan. Then again India's bowling was atrocious after tea on day 3, they could have come out all guns lazing and said Bell we gave you a reprieve but we will still want to win the match.

  • AjaySridharan on August 3, 2011, 18:46 GMT

    Finally, a sane voice that is not sucked into the mushiness of this kumbaya moment! Dhoni squandered a chance to instill some fire into his team's belly in a series where they have looked listless so far. Look at how they performed in Australia after that bad blood in Sydney. Dhoni would have done well to accept DRS instead of doing stuff like this. He could have saved Harbhajan's wicket and not conceded a hat-trick. Who knows...Bhajji may have gone on to hit a quickfire 50 or 60.

    Strauss and Flower should be fined for showing dissent against the umpires' call. They had no business going to the opposing captain. Had it not been the last ball before tea, this retraction would not have happened. The next batsman would have walked on to the field and the next ball would have been bowled, and we would be witnessing a great series in progression. Alas, Dhoni had his eyes set on the fair play award!