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Are You Upholding The Appeal?

by achettup

So asked the umpires, and Paul Collingwood later admitted he probably made the wrong decision. The subsequent reactions from first New Zealand and later the press must have affected the English captain and a short while later he resigned from the position. New Zealand's reaction was viewed with cynicism by some, considering wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum infamously ran-out Muralitharan when the latter walked over to congratulate his skipper on reaching a fine century in December 2006, a move that then skipper Stephen Flemming justified by saying

You can't just wander off when the ball's in mid-air and if we'd had an overthrow I'm sure they would have taken that.
Yet little over a year later, when McCullum pulled the stunt again (apparently he'd even managed to do it once more between these two occasions when he ran out Chris Mpofu as he walked out to congratulate his partner on scoring a fifty) to run-out none other than Paul Collingwood, skipper Daniel Vettori withdrew the appeal after Daryl Harper spoke to the Kiwi skipper.

The circumstances in which each of these incidents took place are interesting. In the first instance, the game was close and Elliot's run out swung the game heavily in England's favor. In the second, Sangakkara played an absolute blinder and with New Zealand batting last obviously would have wanted to chase as little as possible. In the final case New Zealand were in a reasonably strong position with England struggling at 27/3 in the 11th over but Collingwood's dismissal at that stage would no doubt have improved their chances of making the semifinals of the Champions Trophy. So its not like you could say that sides are ruthless when they need to be and willing to adhere to spirit of cricket only when the odds are already stacked heavily in their favor.

But the key issue here is that all three incidents could have had a decisive bearing on the match's result, and but for an umpire's intervention, all three captains were happy to stick within the laws at the cost of cricket's over-hyped conduct of sportsmanship because at the end of the day, as RajaB said in the last post, it comes down to the numbers. For this generation, maybe even the next, the circumstances will leave an indelible mark, but what about after that? History will remember the numbers, the stats and it takes considerable digging up to find the fascinating story behind the numbers, an effort that all too often will be too much bother unless the incident has been researched for that specific purpose.

Which is why sometimes in focusing too much on the numbers, in striving too hard to maintain the only records that history will judge you by, you do something that gains you notoriety. How you then react is what makes the difference between whether the issue will be deemed inconsequential and confined only to a paragraph in annual review, or whether it makes the centerpiece of the decade's review. Jardine's "I'm not here to win friends. I'm here to win the Ashes" gave writers the opportunity to paint him as cricket's primary villain for years.  Steve Waugh's "They make the rules, we try to make sure we play within them" response* fitted perfectly with the ruthless, ice-man persona the press had created. Indeed you would find such retorts litter the landscape of events in cricket that went down as controversial, right from W.G.Grace to Fleming's stubborn support for McCullum.

By his early action on the field though, Vettori managed to successfully quash a controversy before it had the chance to become one, and but for the line about Harper's instigation, even if you did notice the event you would believe Vettori had conducted himself strictly by the Spirit of Cricket immediately. Collingwood made the wrong decision but did apologize after the match, which while not sparing him from criticism at the time, didn't leave him with the ridiculed legacy Brad Haddin will have to live with for flatly denying and refusing to believe even with available video evidence that he had made a mistake.

It would appear then that the only place where the spirit of cricket seems to find a place today is in making a qualitative assessment of a cricketer's morality in determining the degree to which an incident is reported and recorded, as inconsequential or outrageous. The only exception being in justifying whether an Australian captain is capable of counting and organizing, skills you would have thought were prerequisites for leading your national side, but that is another issue.

Which brings me to Randhiv. He might have been coaxed into bowling the no-ball, but whether by volition or by instruction, he did apologize and he hasn't complained about SLC's punishment. But the board's reaction is interesting, and not just because the common consensus is that it is over-the-top. In recognizing the place where the spirit has the most relevance, which is most certainly not on the field, they have acted in a manner that shall forever taint Randhiv whilst reflecting their actions in a quite different light. After all, can it honestly be asked a few decades from now whether theirs was an overreaction? Quite likely it will be remembered as the days when administrators felt they had an obligation uphold the spirit.

I'm not criticizing them. What I'm trying to say is, they felt they were asked "Are you upholding the appeal?" to which they answered decisively in the negative and so lives on this fascinating aspect of the game... where all manner of individuals use the spirit as required at the moment and then react based on how they believe history will judge them for it.

*In the match in question, Aus vs WI, the Windies had been bowled out for 110 and Australia crawled to 111 off 40.4 overs (in stark contrast to their lightning quick chase of 180 in under 20 overs against Bangladesh in the previous match) as they tried to prevent the West Indies' nrr from falling too far behind New Zealands'. The reason being the Kiwis had won against Australia and would carry those points forward to the Super Six stage which would mean Australia would carry none. With only a game against Scotland left, New Zealand would have to win by a large margin to overtake the West Indies nrr, which they did.

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