Thanks Ian Bell. You spared us the trouble. By admitting that you are “a bit stupid” and “pretty naive” you have spared us another moral dilemma- to say it or not to say it- lest we be judged for the poor spirit in which we humble Indians, once ruled by you, and who by some divine contravention seem to have reached the top of the cricketing heap, now seem to play our cricket.
His acceptance of the crime was bit like a criminal out on the amnesty from the president, free to earn a living without having to carry the burden of paying off for his sin. But the president himself had to face a dilemma of a double edged sword- do I let this guy go off because he pretended that the crime happened because he was ignorant, or to be stern and punish him for his ignorance of the law, especially when he was playing in the highest form of the game? If the president tilted towards the latter, the criminal would earn public sympathy and the president risks being damned, ridiculed, or worst be called inhuman for having absolutely no heart for a man in pristine form and who was batting on less than miserly 137*. It’s a no win situation. Such a promising innings, such a promising young talent deserves to be applauded, not confined in the rules of the land, no?
Problem is, it wasn’t the job of the president to make that decision. It was the job of the umpire to put his hand up and say, ”Rules are rules guys, we are not playing a charity here.” Nor can we sympathize with the ignorance of Mr. Bell who had bailed England out of a precarious situation by then. Here is a man who admitted : "I think if you're going to go right down to exactly how the rules stand then yes, I'm out.”
If his inner conscious knew that he was out, I wonder how Bell managed that "act” near the boundary and what arguments did Strauss and Andy Flower present in front of Dhoni and company to win that reversal of heart. Now Dhoni has earned high praise for upholding the spirit of cricket and letting Bell go on, much to the delight of Notts who had heckled the Indians near the boundary throughout the game.
In his Daily Telegraph piece, Vaughan was to say, "The way they bullied India was reminiscent of the great Australian team of the past. They bossed them on the field and even managed to convince India that Ian Bell should be given another chance - a brilliant performance in every respect."
A certain Broad also went out to check the edge of Laxman’s bat sometime just to ensure that there was no vaseline on it, deviously put to hoodwink the hot spot. That ain’t out of spirit. Broad was being stupid and probably a bit naïve. That’s it. He possibly has never heard of a thing called “Laxman’s integrity.”
So did Dhoni have to reverse it really?
There are two sides to this coin- by the rule and by the spirit of the letter. Let us assess both.
After completing the third run off an Eoin Morgan clip off the final ball before the tea break, Ian walked off the crease, assuming that the ball had crossed the boundary and it was over, time, and tea- all at once. What he did not know- Praveen Kumar made a diving effort at boundary and threw the ball to Abhinav Mukund who clipped the bails at the striker's end. The Indians appealed and the batsman was given out after replays showed that the ball was within the boundary.
While all this was happening, Asad Rauf was watching the ball being relayed to the fielder. There was no signal for a boundary, nor the call for tea. When the bails were taken off and Bell turned round to see what was happening, he knew he was in trouble, but he chose to carry on walking towards the pavilion assuming that “the ball was dead, it was over, and it was time for tea.”
The rule of Law
- Law 23 (Dead ball)- The ball is dead when it is finally settled in the hands of the wicket-keeper or of the bowler, a boundary is scored, or when it is clear to the bowler’s end umpire that the fielding side and both batsmen at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play. Whether the ball is finally settled or not is a matter for the umpire alone to decide. Neither the call of Over (Law 22.4), nor the call of Time (Law 16.2) is to be made until the ball is dead.
- Law 16. Cessation of play: The bowler’s end umpire shall call Time when the ball is dead on the cessation of play before any interval or interruption and at the conclusion of the match. It links ahead to Laws 23.3 (Call of Over or Time) and 27 (Appeals). After the call of Time, the bails shall be removed from both wickets.
When you subject the situation to the acid test of Laws, you would not need to read any further to draw your conclusion.
Spirit of the Game
Once we are done through the objective analysis of the rule, let us look at the subjective aspect of the Spirit of the Game. In the Preamble to Laws of Cricket
, MCC holds the captains responsible for the conduct of players on the field and mandates them to respect the umpire’s decision. It is against the Spirit of the Game to dispute an umpire's decision by word, action or gesture. It is in the sole authority of the umpires to intervene in cases that may relate to “unfair play.”
It should also be noted that MSD was well within his right to appeal and they had not indulged in any sharp practices like excessive appealing, aggressive behavior, or an attempt to distract.
What in essence tells you is:
1. It was Bell who was not playing in Spirit of the Game by standing his ground.
2. It was Captain Strauss who was acting out of the Spirit when he decided to walk up to Dhoni to ask him for a decision reversal.
3. Asad Rauf should have exercised his right to tell Strauss to play by the rule of the book and not meddle in the process of objective judgment
It then amuses me how the responsibility of making this delicate decision was passed on to Dhoni? Being a gentleman that he is, he offered to take back the appeal and Bell walked out to bat. The logic that “what if it was one of our batsmen in Ian Bell’s shoe?” is built on the assumption that if we uphold what is right, the opponent earns an automatic right to be wrong!
So what did India get out of the whole fiasco? A meaningless pat on the back by the ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat and some further mauling by Bell in the second session. As it usually happens in cases of moral judgment, the real culprits walked scot free.