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Spirit of cricket or were umpires ignorant?

india Updated: Feb 22, 2012 00:03 IST
Amol Karhadkar
Amol Karhadkar

The 'spirit of cricket versus the laws of cricket' debate was back to the fore on Tuesday when India withdrew an appeal after off-spinner R Ashwin 'Mankaded' Sri Lanka's Lahiru Thirimanne.

As Ashwin ran in to bowl the third delivery of the 40th over to Angelo Mathews, he saw that Thirimanne had backed up too far even before Ashwin had released the ball. He quickly flicked the bails and appealed to the umpire.

Skipper Virender Sehwag, standing at short cover, appeared to be hesitant in appealing. Thirimanne stood his ground and both the umpires consulted each other while the Indian players came together for a huddle. When umpires Paul Reiffel and Billy Bowden asked Sehwag to join them for a discussion, senior statesman Sachin Tendulkar also walked up and a decision was made quickly to withdraw the appeal.

Ashwin's warning
"I think Ashwin warned him once in the previous over and then in the next over he just took the bail off and appealed. The umpires discussed and asked me. I said we can give him one more warning. If you will give him one more warning then we will go for that," Sehwag said.

"I decided that (we should withdraw the appeal). Everybody was discussing but the umpires called me and I said, 'we can give him one more warning but if he does it again we will (run him out).' That's the ICC rule. If somebody is taking an early start than bowlers have the full right to run him out."

If Sehwag was so sure about the ICC rule 42.15 in Laws of Cricket, why did he withdraw the appeal?

"Because if you appeal and the umpire gives him out then somebody will criticise us for that saying that's not the spirit of the game, so we gave him one more warning. It is soft, but that's the way we are."

What's the rule
While Sehwag's explanation appeared to be fair enough, once the rule states that it is unfair on a batsman's part to back up before the ball is bowled, it was inexplicable on the umpires' part to not rule the batsman out once Ashwin appealed.

Had the Indian team withdrawn the appeal, which they anyway did, the umpires could have then recalled the batsman.

Perhaps Bowden and Reiffel were not sure about the rule, which forced them to not adhere to the laws of the game.

Now, is that within the spirit of the game?