Bad sportsmanship, or part of the game?
The first Ashes test match between England and Australia was a gripping contest that had just about all the drama that one could ask for right up until the final moment when the winner was decided.
It was amazing sporting entertainment which thrilled those who were fortunate enough to be able to see it live at Trent Bridge as well as those who watched on the television in whatever country they may be. While it may be true that the series was rather over-hyped, there is just something about the Ashes.
By far the most polarising incident of the test match was when Stuart Broad edged an Ashton Agar delivery that then deflected off wicketkeeper Brad Haddin’s gloves and was caught at slip by Australian captain Michael Clarke.
The celebrations were a mere formality and for the Aussies, the necessary breakthrough had finally come and would put them in an even stronger position in the match as things stood then. Broad did not walk off and the umpire, Aleem Dar, did not lift his finger to give him out. There were no more reviews available to Australia.
While cricket is called the gentleman’s game, it is ironic that nicking the ball and not walking has really been accepted practice for many years, with players mostly of the opinion that the umpire has a job to do and whether he does it correctly or incorrectly, his decision will be accepted.
By the letter of the law and going by the accepted practices of cricket, Stuart Broad was well within his rights to stand there and wait for the umpire to make a decision one way or the other. That the umpire made a wrong decision is in no way the player's fault. However, the question of sportsmanship and the spirit of the game comes up and in that regard, even Broad would admit that he fell way short of it.
The question of “walkers” and “non-walkers” then naturally came up and the fact that one can count those known for not sticking around when they had edged one can be counted on one hand is for some a damning indictment on how players conduct themselves in the game.
One could take it a step further though and ask these questions; is the player being dishonest by standing when he knows he hit the ball? Is the player cheating when he claims a catch that has hit the turf? Are the bowler and his teammates within their rights to put the umpire under pressure by appealing for a catch behind when they know the batsman has not hit it or an LBW when they heard the inside edge?
It seems there are some things that are just accepted and then others which, despite being similar in my opinion, are looked upon as despicable.
The great contradiction seems to come from technology and its use within cricket. On one hand there is the acknowledgement that the umpires are only human and so will make errors, so the Decision Review System (DRS) must be used to improve the accuracy of decisions and eradicate blatant mistakes.
On the other hand the reason given for DRS – “to get rid of the howler, the blatant mistake” – is interesting in that it essentially says if the mistake is not too bad then it must just be accepted.
The correction of mistakes by umpires is left in the hands of the players who can ask to have a decision reviewed, but once those reviews are used up, then nobody else can step in and change the wrong judgement that ultimately could change the course of the game.
Some look upon this as a good thing and say it adds to the uncertainty of sport and others say it is silly to half use the technology rather than go all the way with it so that all blatantly incorrect decisions can be corrected, perhaps by the third umpire without the players getting involved at all.
Of course part of the reason that Broad was the recipient of abuse is nothing to do with his decision to stand, or at least it seemed so from the sentiments expressed by some on the social networking sites. It is just a case of him not being liked by some and so a subjective barrage rather than a really objective one. Oftentimes it is the emotions of those watching that are stirred by such events and hence the rather passionate venting of frustration.
The questions are then: should cricket go the whole way with technology and take the players out of it, or should the uncertainty of the umpire’s decision remain? Does the charm of the game go with machines coming in more?