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Spirit of cricket

June 17, 2014

Stop walking

Jack Mendel

Stuart Broad edged to slip but was given not out, England v Australia, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 3rd day, July 12, 2013
Stuart Broad stood his ground at Trent Bridge, and was vilified for it afterwards © PA Photos

In this era of technology and television replays, it's about time that decision-making was concentrated entirely with umpires. Walking is undoubtedly done with the best of intentions but ultimately, it helps nobody.

When Rangana Herath seemingly edged the ball behind in the tense final over of the Lord's Test, the umpire Paul Reiffel was motionless. Herath thought he was out and walked, and the umpire signaled to the appealing Stuart Broad that the batsman had chosen to exit of his own volition. With only a handful of balls to negotiate to save the Test, a wicket was potentially a match-defining event; and in a series of just two games, potentially a series-defining event.

Replays showed comprehensively though, that like with Edgebaston 2005, the ball had hit Herath's glove when his hand was off the bat. He was technically not out, but had voluntarily walked off anyway. This was the equivalent of someone being falsely accused in a court of law, and admitting to doing wrong because they aren't aware of their own innocence.

In hindsight, Herath looked very silly. If that had led to a Sri Lankan loss, it would have made him public enemy number one.

But what does this have to do with the laws and spirit of the game?

The perception of the image of cricket; particularly Test cricket, is very important to the ECB and the MCC.

Lord's has the spirit of cricket plastered on numerous boards, on the ground; and it is of course the body that makes the rules and holds the traditions of the game. It wants to preserve those traditions that they purport to have established, such as sportsmanship and playing fair.

The integrity of the game is thus crucial, so it is baffling that the laws and traditions are often at times at loggerheads. One such example is walking, whereby the umpire is essentially superseded by a player deciding on his own that he is out, even - like in this case - when he isn't.

If an outsider saw this, she would think - "why not just let the umpires do their job?"

There are systems in place too. The umpire should be allowed to function without the need for intervention by players. Each team has a number of reviews to challenge what they deem to be bad decisions.

This does not undermine the umpire though, because each team has a limited number of reviews [rightly so], and all reviews are relative to the original decision; with only the most compelling circumstances demanding an overturning of the decision.

The DRS system is in there to change bad umpiring decisions using available technology; but it maintains a healthy role and respect for the umpire.

Walking doesn't.

In football, a player cannot pick up the ball and overturn the referee's decision for the sake of playing 'fair'. In no other sport can the players decide their own fate; so given this fact, it seems odd that in cricket, players are allowed to walk off and decide they are out, and be berated as immoral if they don't.

If an umpire say's not out, it should be not out. If the fielding side thinks the batsman has hit it, then the fielding side can challenge the decision. If the umpire gives him out wrongly; the batsman can challenge it.

That's how it should be, as that maintains respect for the authority of the umpire, and ultimately that is the cornerstone of playing fair and having an even, respectful game.

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Jack Mendel writes about cricket on the Sideline Agenda and runs his own blog, Stumpycricket. He tweets here

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Posted by Natarajan on (June 22, 2014, 12:23 GMT)

The batsman will clearly know if he had nicked and if he had nicked he should walk. Umpires are also humans and are bound to make mistakes - dont wait if you know that you had nicked. Walking proves the respect you give for the game, your opponent and understand the limitations of existing system!!

If a batsman thinks he has to wait for umpire's decision - pls dont complain if the umpire has given a wrong decision. Also, dont complain when you were mankaded as it is done per rules.

Introduce a new rule - Warn at the end of the match if a batsman has not walked - two warnings in a year would mean 1 match ban.

The underlying theory is the existing system has got limitations and players should understand and act in the best interest of the game!!

Players should help to keep the system in tact rather than abusing them by not walking!! Shame on Broad, we need more Gillys

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 21, 2014, 12:29 GMT)

Walking by a batsman amounts to the person's integrity and honesty. It is like when a person commits a sin and he confesses to the priest. Ultimately it is the individual's decision and was appreciated when cricket was Gentleman's game. Now for many of you it may look silly. That is why instead of appreciating the batsman you are hurling stones at him.

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 20, 2014, 19:39 GMT)

Totally agree with this article. A player is out when the umpire says so. He has no obligation to walk. The umpire is most certainly the decision-making authority on the field, and he should not be left alone to take decisions. I also think cricket consider getting rid of this appealing business as well. While its a request, it doesn't make sense that a player can be given out only if the fielding side has appealed.

Posted by Vikram on (June 20, 2014, 14:33 GMT)

Walking is absolutely fine. The umpire is not the primary decision maker in cricket - he is there to resolve disputes. So if the batsman is unsure that he is out, and the bowling team is appealing - only then does the umpire need to decide. As a corollary, even if the batsman has clearly edged the ball, but he doesn't walk and the bowling side does not appeal (i.e there is no dispute between the bowling side and batting side) - the umpire should not intervene

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 20, 2014, 8:07 GMT)

@Pradeep Guragain - It is very different. The bowler appeals to the UMPIRE to ask if it is out. The batsman that walks doesn't ask the umpire. He just walks off and undermines the umpire.

The rate of correct decision making for elite ICC umpires is very high. The majority of the time they get it right, and when they don't there are reviews. Why do batsmen need to intervene with walking?

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 20, 2014, 5:21 GMT)

The batsmen not walking is not any different than the bowler appealing when they know the batsmen is not out. Why is one unquestioned while the other is frowned upon ? Batsmen exit when the umpire wrongly gives them out, so it is fair that they stay if umpire wrongly gives him not out.

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 18, 2014, 20:09 GMT)

@ eggyroe 1. I wrote this article, so I felt I should take the time to respond. 2. That's a ridiculous and immature suggestion

Posted by John on (June 18, 2014, 18:09 GMT)

With regards to Jack Mendel's many posts on the subject of weather to walk or not,surely it is the decision of the standing umpire without the help of all the electronic devices that spectator's seem to think that all umpire's require because they are incapable of making a decision without all these electronic toys.If that is the case then why do they not hold a raffle amongst the crowd every day and find 2 spectator's to stand as umpires for the day without them having to make any decision at all because they have been made by the 3rd Umpire and all the electronic toys that are available for his use.But by using all these toy's the over's bowled will decline and yet again the paying customer is being seen off for entertainment that has been payed for but not provided by the participating teams.The sooner D.R.S. is consigned to the scrap bin the better,and Umpire's can give an honest decision that they are happy about without the decisions being dissected by electronic toys.

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 18, 2014, 16:24 GMT)

@karthik_ig I don't think Herath should have walked because A) he wasn't out and B) it should be the umpire's call.

I am saying it should not be up to the batsmen. His intentions may have been good - but I would prefer he kept his intentions out, and let the game be played out. There are systems in place to deal with decision making, without asking one of the protagonists in the decision making process to intervene.

Posted by karthik on (June 18, 2014, 11:06 GMT)

walking shows players honesty..its a player decision to chose how he plays the game..all are humans and everyone have their values and philosophies..herath behaviour is innocent and he may valued that more than anything else..he has not done anything wrong to anyone...appreciate him instead think it in a pessimistic way

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 18, 2014, 9:39 GMT)

@WeirdBeard420 - In the opening paragraph I said it is done with the best of intentions, and i recognise that for example at club level, walking is a good thing where there isn't technology. But, at International level where there are umpires and technology, both of which are finely tuned and professional in terms of decision making, I'd just prefer to let them do it. If an umpire does it wrong, they will come in for some criticisms, but at least it will be legitimate criticism.

Herath walked when he shouldn't have. If an umpire had given that out, and it had been reviewed, it would not have been given. Ultimately, there are systems in place to get correct decisions, and intervention by batsmen disrupts that.

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 18, 2014, 9:36 GMT)

@yujilop I agree it's a matter of personal morals, but personally I don't want morals in a game. I want laws and players to abide by them. Walking is a choice, not a responsibility or an obligation, so quite frankly, I'd rather they just didn't do it, and let umpires umpire.

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 18, 2014, 9:35 GMT)

@ David Cullum 'the batter should always wal' < Don't be ridiculous. Umpires decide on whether it's out. They have the authority in the middle. Batsmen have no responsibility whatsoever to walk. It is a choice based on their view of sportsmanship.

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 18, 2014, 9:33 GMT)

@eggyroe I'd strongly argue against removing drs. I just think we need full authority in umpires if there is also going to be technology

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 18, 2014, 9:32 GMT)

@ goldeneraaus I didn't include Broad in the article - it was added by the editor :)

Posted by John on (June 18, 2014, 4:01 GMT)

To walk or not as the case may be,one side of the argument is that the wicket belongs to the team and as such anybody who walks is giving away a team commodity.The other side of the argument is that the Batsman knows he has hit the ball is caught and proceeds to walk off.Who is to say which is right and which is wrong.Perhaps the solution lies in that the Umpire gives his verdict and the player either goes or carries on with his innings.D.R.S.should be removed completely and the umpires verdict is final.This will stop the game stopping for long periods while the Third Umpire watches numerous replays to give a verdict that the on field umpire has to make instantly.I have seen over the years many a batsman hit the cover off the ball,caught behind,stand their ground and given not out,I have also seen batsmen play and miss,caught behind and given out,so the batsmen can hardly complain when they get a rough verdict after all the umpire is only human like the players.

Posted by arnab on (June 17, 2014, 22:58 GMT)

I have no problem with not walking, no-one does and it should be left to the umpire, particularly now with reviews (though your stuart broad example is poor given he showed the floor in the system, australia had no reviews!). On the flipside Arguing that walking impacts the integrity of the game is foolish, if the player wants to save time and walk off when he has knicked it, I think the umpire will be relieved that the correct decision was upheld. This doesn't happen in other sport, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't in cricket, 100s of things don't happen in other sports, its not comparable. Umpires feel guilt just like the rest of us when bad decisions happen so anything that can prevent that should be encouraged, the Herath example is unique in that he didn't know the law, I think you will find most people do (i.e Philander in the most recent SA vs Aus test).

Posted by Yuji on (June 17, 2014, 15:30 GMT)

Walking or not is an individual decision, which may be based on multiple factors. A player's personal idea of morality is one of these factors. Someone might find it moral to walk when he believes he is out. Someone else might find it moral to let the umpire make the call. It is a personal judgment call.

Whenever anyone invokes the "spirit of cricket" clause on any issue, they are attempting to impress their personal ideals of morality on someone else. However good the intentions are, such an argument always feels petty and dismissive of others' moral standings.

Anything a player or team does with a clean conscience, which is not explicitly forbidden by the laws of the sport should be deemed "in the spirit of cricket"... Either that, or we can argue about every little detail that we do not personally condone and say it is against the spirit of the game.

Posted by Weird on (June 17, 2014, 12:29 GMT)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with walking when you know when you are out. Batsmen are free to 'walk' even if they are not out; they are within the Laws to retire their innings. Furthermore, Law 27.7 states "An umpire shall intervene if satisfied that a batsman, not having been given out, has left his wicket under a misapprehension that he is out. The umpire intervening shall call and signal Dead ball to prevent any further action by the fielding side and shall recall the batsman"

The fact that the umpire did not recall the batsman tells you that he walked for good reason. Well done to Herath for his honesty. Ultimately, cricket wins...

Posted by Dysan on (June 17, 2014, 10:33 GMT)

There have been occasions in the past where a Player was recalled to Bat when the evidence was found that he was not out. Also, this dismissal was not as clear as the Broad's (non)dismissal in the last ashes in England. I was actually surprised that the Umpire didn't use the Umpire's Referral at such a crucial stage in the match. I still believe it's right for a Batsman to Walk and an Umpire can call him back if he feels he's not out.

Posted by Dummy4 on (June 17, 2014, 9:47 GMT)

Under the Laws of Cricket the batsman is responsible for giving himself out if he knows he has been dismissed, and therefore the batter should always walk. The fielding appeal and umoire decision is only for when the batsman is unsure whether he has been dismissed.

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