The first Test of the Ashes series being played in England has opened up the debate yet again regarding the morality of standing one’s ground when the batsman is aware that he is out. The incident in question happened on the 3rd Day of the first Test when English all rounder Stuart Broad edged a delivery from spinner Ashton Agar to first slip and was caught by Australian captain Michael Clarke. You would not expect someone to stand his ground after edging to slip, would you? However, that is what he did and the umpire Aleem Dar ruled in his favour and since Australia had no more reviews left, Broad stayed at the wicket and staged a match winning recovery. Replays clearly showed that Broad had edged it and whatever he did was not against the letter of the laws of the game. Once the day’s play was over the pundits dissected the incident and from the next day onwards the age old debate started whether a batsman should walk if he knows that he is out.
The Basis of the Debate: –
Let’s not start with the whole ‘Gentleman’s Game’ cliché; such behaviour is sought from every sportsman involved in any sporting endeavour and cricket as a game does not have the divine right to have participants who would be fair, honest and gentlemanly. Even FIFA promotes ‘Fair Play’ and so as you can see; fair play is sought from sportsmen in every sport. The point I am driving at is this: – walking is the right thing to do because honesty and fair play is something that is deeply associated with sports at large; not something that is unique to cricket. Walking is something that has always been regarded as a hugely courageous and honest approach towards cricket and there have been cricketers who have practiced it, irrespective of the consequences. One camp declares that cricketers should walk if they are convinced that they are out and hence do the decent thing while on the other hand there are those who claim that if the umpire does not give the batsman out then he is well within his rights to stay his ground.
The most sensible view in this regard is that it is the choice of the batsman whether he chooses to walk or not, since at the end of the day the powers that be can never amends the laws of the game which would make walking obligatory. No doubt it is an excellent gesture but at the highest level of the game when one is representing his country, there is a very thin line between being smart and outright cheating. Imagine a crucial World Cup game which is at a decisive juncture; would the batsman simply walk if he has not been given out by the umpire and if he knows that he is out? No, no one would and it is foolish to accept something of that sort happening in top level sports. Adam Gilchrist was perhaps the last batsman who revived the custom of walking after he famously walked in the World Cup semi final in 2003 versus Sri Lanka but even he maintains that it is a personal choice and he has never tried to influence any of his team mates to follow his ways.
The display of honesty and gamesmanship does not necessarily lie with the batsmen because even the fielders often claim bogus catches on the field and I have never seen that being condemned for that except in case of Dinesh Ramdin in the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy. At the end of the day, the people associated with the game need to understand that when a wrong decision by the umpire can claim your wicket then the batsman is well within his rights to stand his ground till the umpire has raised the dreaded finger. After all, the umpire’s decision is the final decision.