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Opinion | Don’t cry for batsmen in bizarre run outs

Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq stood in 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 wicket-keeper Tim Paine, who joyously whipped off the bails.

cricket Updated: Oct 28, 2018 09:22 IST
Ian Chappell
Ian Chappell
Hindustan Times
ian chappell,azhar ali,mitchell starc
File image of Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali.(Action Images via Reuters)

Recently we’ve witnessed both ends of the batting self-preservation spectrum, ranging from high-class to downright stupid.

In the high-end category, Virat Kohli again showed his class, 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. However, it was his determination to put a high price on his wicket – he remained undefeated despite being fatigued – that stood out.

In stark contrast, there were two examples of batting devoid of any care for self-preservation in the Pakistan-Australia Test series.

Firstly, Marnus Labuschagne watched transfixed at the non-striker’s end — feet out of the crease and bat in the air – as the ball touched Yasir Shah’s fingers and trickled on to 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.

RUN OUT WHILE CHATTING

Labuschagne was then trumped by Pakistani pair Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, who contrived to out-do his performance with an act so careless it was beyond stupidity. Ali and Shafiq stood in 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 wicket-keeper 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 absence of putting a high price on their wicket that stood out in both cases.

Following the self-induced demise of Ali some listeners called a radio station to complain that the Australians’ performance was “poor sportsmanship”. How is it that examples of cricket carelessness always invite sympathy?

It was New Zealand wicket-keeper Brendan 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.

WHEN DHONI WAS BOOED

Then it was Indian captain MS Dhoni on the receiving end at Trent Bridge after England batsman 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’ve been told to hasten back to their dressing room and explain to Bell that if he’d valued his wicket more highly then he wouldn’t have been dismissed.

WHEN MANKAD WAS BLAMED

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. Despite Brown being 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 teammate Ian Redpath and joked: “That’s the worst backing-up since Adelaide Oval 1969.”

On that occasion the amiable Redpath was Mankaded by West Indies fast bowler Charlie Griffith, after he wandered out of his crease without ensuring the ball had left the bowler’s hand. Nearly fifty 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 refused to 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.

(The author is a former Australian Test captain. Views are personal)

First Published: Oct 28, 2018 09:22 IST