Matches (16)
ZIM v IRE (1)
Abu Dhabi T10 (6)
Legends League (1)
BAN v NZ (1)
BBL 2023 (2)
AUS v PAK (1)
SA v WI (A tour) (1)
Asia Cup [U19] (2)
SA v BAN (W) (1)
Ian Chappell

Why do we sympathise when batsmen are careless?

As a recent example shows, we still tend to think of fielding teams as wrong when they lawfully run sloppy batsmen out

Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
Marnus Labuschagne's run-out dismissal in Abu Dhabi was an example of a batsman not valuing his wicket highly enough  •  Francois Nel/Getty Images

Marnus Labuschagne's run-out dismissal in Abu Dhabi was an example of a batsman not valuing his wicket highly enough  •  Francois Nel/Getty Images

Recently we've witnessed behaviour on both ends of the batting self-preservation spectrum, ranging from the high-class to the downright stupid.
In the high-end category Virat Kohli again showed his class in scoring a brilliant century and becoming the quickest man to 10,000 ODI runs. Kohli displayed his usual exquisite shot-making ability and the skill to shift through the batting gears, but it was his determination to put a high price on his wicket - he remained undefeated despite being fatigued - that stood out.
In stark contrast were two other examples of batting from the Pakistan-Australia Test series that were totally devoid of any thought for self-preservation.
Firstly, Marnus Labuschagne watched transfixed at the non-striker's end - with his feet out of the crease and bat in the air - as the ball touched Yasir Shah's fingers and then trickled onto the stumps. It was hard to imagine what was going through the non-striker's mind but easy to ascribe a title to the act: stupidity.
Labuschagne was trumped by Pakistani pair Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, who contrived to outdo his performance with an act so careless it was beyond stupidity. Azhar and Shafiq stood mid-pitch chatting like old friends meeting on a street corner, while a streaky shot pulled up centimetres short of the boundary. Both seemed stunned when Mitchell Starc hurled the ball to wicketkeeper Tim Paine, who joyously whipped off the bails to complete the most needless run-out in the history of the game.
It was the sheer inability to put a high price on their wicket that stood out in both cases.
Following the self-induced demise of Azhar, some listeners called a radio station to complain that the Australians' performance was "poor sportsmanship". How is it that examples of carelessness in cricket always invite sympathy?
It was New Zealand wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum who was chastised after an incident in a Test against Sri Lanka. All McCullum did was his job: taking the bails off when Muttiah Muralitharan ill-advisedly left his crease to congratulate Kumar Sangakkara on reaching a century without first ensuring the ball was dead.
Then it was India captain MS Dhoni on the receiving end at Trent Bridge after Ian Bell was run out in a Test. Bell failed to ascertain the ball had reached the boundary before leaving his crease for the tea break, and Dhoni - quite correctly - assisted in completing the run-out. Following boos from a section of the crowd, Dhoni was persuaded in the tea break by England captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower to rescind the appeal, and Bell resumed his innings. Strauss and Flower should have been told to hasten back to their dressing room and explain to Bell that if he had valued his wicket more highly then he wouldn't have been dismissed.
It seems the fielding side always gets the blame for the batsman's thoughtlessness, going all the way back to the original run-out in 1947 of the Australian non-striker Bill Brown by Indian bowler Vinoo Mankad. Though Brown was the player in error, the dismissal was and still is described as a "Mankad", as though the bowler is to blame.
Following Labuschagne's brain fade I called former team-mate Ian Redpath and joked: "That's the worst backing-up since Adelaide Oval 1969." On that occasion the amiable Redpath was run out by West Indies fast bowler Charlie Griffith after he wandered out of his crease without first ensuring that the ball had left the bowler's hand. Nearly 50 years on Redpath still referred to Griffith as "bleedin' Charlie", despite the fact that he then repeated his mental error in the next Test, at the SCG, only to be reprieved when fast bowler Wes Hall did not remove the bails.
If a batsman puts a high price on his wicket and is always aware of the laws of the game, he can easily avoid being run out in bizarre circumstances. Until this lesson is learned, the public should cease feeling sympathy for a batsman's carelessness.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is a cricket commentator for Channel Nine, and a columnist