England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge July 13, 2013

Wrong place, wrong time, wrong call

Stuart Broad did only what cricketers have been doing for half a century - but doing it in the full glare of the Ashes has unleashed the sermonising

The media likes nothing better than to moralise and Stuart Broad has felt its full force. He has been presented in some quarters as a symbol of cricket's moral decline, a disgrace to his profession and an appalling example to young children. He has been held responsible for everything except a sudden fall in house prices, although there is time for that yet.

Broad's offence was to do what cricketers - and not just professional cricketers - have been doing for half-a-century or more: he did not walk. But unluckily for him, he did it in the full glare of an Ashes series and so the sermonising has begun.

If technology is now so all-revealing that it offers the chance to readdress that custom, then this is a matter for the game's administrators, not for a young man caught in the crossfire.

Far from being a sinner, Broad is more properly seen as a victim of circumstance. He was not just a beneficiary of umpiring error, he became a victim of it. If protocol meant that Marais Erasmus, the third umpire, could not intervene to tell Aleem Dar he had committed a howler, then it is time to change the protocol.

He also suffered disproportionately because his edge was so apparent. But thousands of batsmen have not walked for thin nicks. Everyone of them deserves a consistent response. Or are we really now to believe that the more obvious the edge the greater the crime?

One of the problems with the Ashes is that non cricket-lovers try to impose their theories of morality on a game which for most of the time gets on perfectly well without them.

That is not to say that cricket does not need the widest possible audience because it does. That is not to say that Broad was not dishonest because he was. It is to observe that the game's traditions, embedded for many years, should play a part in any judgment on his behaviour.

Cricketers rarely walk. That is how it is. Get over it. The practice has always been justified by the fact that over time, fortune will tend to even out. It has also been accepted because it has been impossible to police: a concession to reality. It is not widely seen as unfair play, merely an unfortunate quirk in the game.

Not everybody likes it, but those who play and watch the game regularly understand that it is a personal choice. It is not an issue.

You might as well protest about rugby players illegally feeding a scrum or footballers appealing for offside. As offences against the Spirit of Cricket go, it is not in the first hundred.

ESPNcricinfo is indebted to Venkatraman Ganesan for reminding us of a study by Gary Becker, a Nobel Laureate and professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago.

Becker studied what drove dishonest behaviour. His Simple Model of Rational Crime concluded that before engaging in any act that might be regarded as morally inappropriate, the perpetrator would weigh negative implications against the positive.

There were overwhelming reasons why Broad should not have walked:

(I) There is no convention of walking in professional cricket (even in club cricket there is no definite view) which left him free to act as he pleased.

(ii) The umpire gave him not out and there is an ICC process in place to use technology to minimise umpire's errors.

(iii) There was an Ashes Test to win and the match was at a critical juncture. His team expected him to put collective aspirations ahead of individual considerations.

(iv) Australia's condemnation would be immediate, but brief, and it would not be followed up off the field, because they knew they would have done the same.

(v) Never before has a batsman been punished for not walking.

The negatives were purely that he would face a backlash in both the traditional media and on social media and be held up as an example of cricket's moral decline. These negatives have now been unleashed.

Broad stood to gain by holding his ground. He would have been embarrassed by the hand that fate had dealt him, he would have been aware even as he stayed put of the condemnation that would follow, but he would have felt he had little choice but to brazen it out. Becker would surely conclude that his response was entirely rational.

Even to compare his actions to dishonestly claiming a catch on the bounce is a false comparison. Not walking has long been became an accepted convention. That cannot be suggested about a falsely claimed catch and so cricket's view that this constitutes cheating rightly remains.

And as for the Spirit of Cricket? Well, it is a nebulous concept to be sure, but in some areas, it still serves a purpose by vaguely promoting the common good. It should not be paraded to condemn Broad. Neither has he destroyed it overnight. Even the man who wrote the Preamble, Sir Colin Cowdrey, was held by some only to walk for the obvious ones.

It is fun to watch Broad have one of his Malfoy moments. There has always been something of the look of Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter's chief antagonist, about him, as even the England dressing room has recognised by adopting it as one of his nicknames. This reputation has counted against him.

He was a sportsman seeking to do essentially good things: put his reputation on the line and strive to win an Ashes Test. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time and now he must suffer the consequences.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Will on July 17, 2013, 23:22 GMT

    What is the difference between Broad not walking and Haddin not walking? They both knew they were out.

  • Donna on July 17, 2013, 17:47 GMT

    Never thought I'd find myself defending Stuart Broad of all people, but he did nothing wrong. Supposed he had walked and then an Aussie didn't walk (which we know is the likeliest thing to happen) and won the match for Australia. Not even I would have walked against the Aussies! It gives them a clear advantage since they will NOT return the favour! It's like clean athletes going up against designer drug users. You don't stand a chance and your moments and your glory and often your livelihood in endorsements can never be recovered! Leave all decisions to the umpires both on and off field. That will level the playing field a bit. Penalize no one, especially not a keeper for a dropped catch which he never claimed to have caught! And for the last time - RAMDIN DID NOT APPEAL! My goodness, you people are clueless!

  • Cricinfouser on July 16, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    @Javid, by your token, then, if a batsmen doesn't walk his team doesn't deserve victory? In that case neither side deserves to have won! And indeed no team in international cricket! Or is the issue the umpiring errors? If so, you have to take into account the Agar stumping and the Trott lbw, which more than cancel out Broad's 30-odd runs.

  • ESPN on July 15, 2013, 23:44 GMT

    We had many players who used to walk (azhar , Sachin ) that's why they are legends of the game. According to me irrespective of England winning on books it's Australia who actually won the match

  • H on July 15, 2013, 13:44 GMT

    If a batsman's given out caught behind but he hasn't hit it, we expect him to review it. If his team are out of reviews, we expect him to walk off the field and suck it up, because we say that the umpire's decision is final and he has to respect it.

    The flip-side to that, however, is that if the batsman's not given out caught behind when he has hit it (like Broad) we expect the fielding side to review it. If they don't have any reviews left, he's entitled to stay on the field and the fielding side have to suck it up, because the umpire's decision is final and they have to respect it.

    We can't start demanding batsmen walk if we don't also allow them to stand their ground if they're given out wrongly and don't have any reviews left. People may be angry at Broad for not walking, but if batsmen all start walking, one day we'll have the exact same incident in reverse, with a batsman given out without hitting it and having to leave the field because of having no reviews left. What then?

  • Mike on July 15, 2013, 12:43 GMT

    I have no problem with the attitude that if a batsman knows he is out he has a moral duty to give himself out whatever the state of the game. I also have no problem with the attitude, shared these days by 99.9% of professionals and a good 75% of club players, that you have a right to stand your ground and let the umpire make the decision. What is, obviously, an utterly morally bankrupt position is the one adopted by several commentors here that Broad was at fault because his edge was obvious but it's quite OK to stand your ground for a thin nick - i.e. that you have a moral duty to walk , but not if you've got a fair chance of getting away with it.

  • naveen kumar on July 15, 2013, 10:14 GMT

    Just to enhance his reputation, Board have tried to deliberately waste the time on fifth day as well. I just shows his respect towards sprite of cricket. #NoRoleModel

  • Dummy4 on July 15, 2013, 9:30 GMT

    why people are not talking about bradd haddins decision ...he knows that he nicked the ball ,and he would have got away if England had no reviews left .

  • Cricinfouser on July 15, 2013, 8:56 GMT

    I find this a really interesting case because it has forced people to think about issues which are mostly swept under the carpet. Cpt Meanster, I don't think your view is consistent: why would a slim edge not warrant walking? Surely if the batsman knows he has nicked it, if you believe walking is the right thing to do you, he should walk whether it is obvious or not. Otherwise it is just hypocrisy: "I'll walk if it's obvious and could be embarrassing, but if I think I can get away with it, I'll stand" - what kind of moral position is that?! Personally, I don't agree with what Broad did, but I understand it. The greater fault lies with the umpire and the rules- surely in such a case there needs to be provision for overruling by the 3rd umpire!

  • Kannan on July 15, 2013, 7:52 GMT

    "And as for the Spirit of Cricket? Well, it is a nebulous concept to be sure,.."

    To many, honesty itself is a nebulous concept!