India vs. England: To Walk Or Not To?
I am reminded of the anthemic U2 song “Walk On” when I look back at the first test between India and England . Not just in a way to show my solidarity and ask people to chug along to the next test after what was a dismal outing for the Team India at Lord’s but particularly thinking about the Eoin Morgan’s dismissal in the first innings. I mean Praveen Kumar’s swinging delivery caught Morgan in an uncomfortable situation and it looked like it had just nicked the bat and gone to the ‘keeper and it felt that the batsman rightly ‘walked’. But later the replays showed that what seemed obvious was far from it and if Morgan had requested for the referral he may have been given the benefit of doubt in the case as did his compatriot Pietersen who not only survived being the only scalp of Dhoni –the bowler, but also went on to consolidate the English scorecard in the first innings with a gritty double hundred.
My first reaction on seeing Morgan walk was respect for him. With so much hype about the series and so much to play for, it was never expected that players will walk without looking at or questioning umpire’s decisions. Particularly, with the onset of DRS era, decisions by umpires have lost their relevance. Umpires themselves have lost relevance . If you are not happy with the decision you can just align your hands perpendicularly in basketball time-out style and you can cross check the decision with technology, that is close to cent percent correct . But we accept the technical flaws rather than the human ones. Players have the power to defy an umpire’s decision now and go on seeking redressal .But Morgan sticking to his instinct was an example of naivety or perhaps honesty and sensibility depending upon how one perceives his decision. This dismissal hardly got any attention barring when commentators discussed the player’s decision in the wake of another such dismissal, that of Ajay Ratra in the 2002 series between the two nations. Ratra, like Morgan walked but the replays suggested that he was not out . There have been many instances in international cricket where players have walked, the one in my memory is that of Adam Gilchrist in the semi final of the 2003 World Cup, which was perhaps the purest memory from the tournament. Everything about that act was magnanimous, everyone was in awe of the player because doing what he did at that juncture of the World Cup was no small thing.
Ironically Morgan was involved in a similar situation in the second innings where he was dismissed by Ishant Sharma, caught by a superb diving Gambhir, but Morgan, unsure of whether the catch was taken cleanly, stood his ground and thus the umpire had to confirm it with the TV umpire. The referral proved that the catch was clean and Morgan relented. Looking at the two dismissals, one could obviously spot out a startling difference in the manner that Morgan reacted. Was it the first innings decision that made him react like that in the second innings? Perhaps a case of ‘once bitten twice shy’, but obviously the first innings decision may have prompted him to stay at some level or the other.
It is right for a player to stand his ground if he is unsure of a decision, but there is the feeling that the future of cricket will see more of players questioning each other as to whether a catch was cleanly taken or not, if the batsman has nicked a ball or not, whether a shot was a six or a four etc., thus delaying proceedings. With the test format already testing the patience of viewers, reviews will add to the failings of the format. All that is needed is for players to show some spirit, respect and the play the game in an honest gentlemanly fashion.
Looking back at India’s 2008 tour of Australia, one can clearly remember that it was marred by personal confrontations, bad umpiring and players showing what can be called lack of character. Michael Clarke taking a catch that seemed to be on a half volley but confirmed it as genuine when asked by his skipper and the umpire taking the Australian skipper Ponting’s word for it springs to mind as the highlight. It would be harsh to label someone as cheat or dishonest in this case with so much on line in such matches of great importance. Its not that such instances did not happen earlier, but the count has increased many fold in today’s world with the press labeling every other series as Clash of the Titans or Battle for the Number One spot and sundry.
In the era of ‘Mental Disintegration’ as it is referred to as, walking may perhaps be in the right spirit of the game but it’s too much to ask from a modern cricketer. In fact it’s very two-faced where we applaud the astuteness of a batsmen when he somehow manages to run in the line of the throw in order to intercept the ball hitting the wicket and savs himself from a certain run out, then how can we blame someone for not moving his ground while knowing in his heart that he might have nicked a ball? But as the lyrics of the U2 song perhaps aptly go
Walk on, walk on
what you got they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it
Walk on, walk on…
Walk on, walk on
what you’ve got they can’t deny it
can’t sell it, or buy it
Walk on, walk on