The Nottingham tea party

Published: August 2, 2011
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PHOTO: AFP

Courtesy should fall flat in front of the rules. The state of affairs, in sports is run by a system agreeable to the ones who need to follow it to earn their living. Some just follow it for the sake of righteousness but either way, the convention exists to guide and contain, and to reduce digression if not stop it altogether.

Lewis Hamilton didn’t become a world champion and one of the most exciting drivers by moving over to the dirty side of the track and allowing his rivals an easy pass.

Similarly, Amir Khan plays for a knockout, not the 12th round. Simply put, you’d want to finish off rivals as soon as possible, pound on their every mistake and act on it swiftly.

MS Dhoni’s decision to withdraw an appeal and recall a dismissed Ian Bell not only defied the rules that the MCC has strived to keep in place but also ridiculed his teammates and the officials by first appealing, then ensuring Bell goes off the field only to reverse it following guests over for tea.

Why is sportsmanship being touted as the greatest winner?

Isn’t the number one ranking at stake?

Won’t millions of Indians at home and at the ground want India to win?

The fans don’t throng the stadiums to catch a glimpse of sportsmanship, not for £90. Dhoni won’t tell Praveen Kumar to send half trackers down, ensuring the opposition get a sizeable total in the name of sportsmanship.

Applause notwithstanding, the opposition should be striving to go one better for not just the winner’s cheque but also the beloved ranking points that straddle along with the bragging rights.

Why bother with a nagging line, unerring accuracy, vicious bounce and the sweet outswing to outclass the likes of Kevin Pieterson and Matt Prior if sportsmanship is what may ruin it all. Why put in a short-leg, devise strategies, oppose DRS, spray some jelly beans? What are laws there for then? Surely Inzamamul Haq must be pulling off the white strands of his beard, twice suffering when trying to protect himself with no evil intent.

Sachin Tendulkar wasn’t recalled after that collision-forced runout at the Eden Gardens. The Indian team would’ve loved that, the crowd even more. It was neither side’s fault, same in the case of Bell who, unaware of proceedings despite his partner’s warnings, felt the need to wander about.

Bell should’ve stayed where he ended up at tea. Dhoni, and the officials, should’ve gone on with the game for this is a Test match, not an exhibition of sportsmanship. And what of the ‘delegation’ that paid the Indians a visit during the interval? Leaving Dhoni and the Indian management’s bizarre u-turn aside, the England camp’s request left the spirit of cricket dying a brainless death.

And while the spirit of the game is being called into action time and again, the debate about walking, DRS and Vaseline rages on…in the same Test.

Faras Ghani

Faras Ghani

Sports editor of The Express Tribune who is also the author of the book "Champions, again" farasghani.com/championsagain.html

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • http://saidcanblog.blogspot.com Said Chaudhry

    On the contrary, there are many occasions in cricket where spirit of the game is upheld beyond the laws of the game, i.e not taking a second/third run after the ball ricochets off a batsman in a runout attempt. Cricket is supposed to be a gentleman’s sport, and there are people who still believe in that. I think in that moment, when Dhoni/Mukhand ran out Bell, they were confused as to whether Bell was attempting a third run or jogging off for tea, which became clear to them during the tea break & they changed decision. Bell, later admitted that he was naive and wrong to jog off assuming the ball was dead. It was definitely a moment of great sportsmanship but considering Bell only added 20 runs to his tally after that run-out, it really impact the match in a big way. India’s batting, bowling, fielding and fitness levels, all have a big question mark next to them and thus, emphasis needs to be put on those areas when it comes to discussing the number 1 ranking. England have outplayed India completely for 9 days and won both tests convincingly. Had Dhoni not reversed the appeal, this petty incident would have resulted in one more point of concern in a cluster headache for team India. We all know how the British tabloids & press would have blown it out of proportion (as usual). Good on Dhoni. Recommend

  • 10th

    Actually, I doubt people paid £90 to watch the visiting team cheat like that.

    I don’t know about you, but for me, being ranked #1 with a reputation of being a cheat holds no value.Recommend

  • Shoaib

    Well if Dhoni had not called Bell back, people would have tagged him as a cheater and they would have been seen retorting “Where is the spirit of the game” (just like it happened between SA and Srilanka’s test match, when Murali was runout).. And now that he took the right decision, people are saying rules have been defied.. huh! Recommend

  • baloch

    i dread to assume that you are just another pakistani who just cannot stomach a good being said about India or Indian Cricket. Else you would have mentioned Imran Khan calling Srikanth back as well. Did you declare that rubbish too?

    Bell was recalled because he did not intended a run, he has apologised for his carelessness and what Dhoni did was a generous decision. We should just learn to appreciate good things regardless of nationality. Period.

    Regards, a test cricket fan!Recommend

  • Deb

    @Said Chaudhry

    Thank you is not enough, but that’s all that comes to mind.
    You really appreciate the ESSENCE of the sport that, Cricket is. Just as societies goes through transformation and we get evolved people’s perception about life changes.And sports is no exception.The author is logical, no doubt, but there are things in life which logic cannot fathom or capture. The romance of cricket like in life defies logic.In an age of instant gratification your’s and my views on cricket will be considered old fashioned and sentimental. I wouldn’t regret it and I have a feeling, you wouldn’t do it either.
    Thanks again for a refreshing post. Recommend

  • vickram

    I can see where you are coming at.

    Your Pakistan is neck deep in controversies, ball-biting captains and spot fixing bowlers…and generally perceived to be a team with low ethics and dubious values.

    And here is a team of Dhoni that loses badly and still manages to win the hearts and minds people and even generous praise from the normally stingy British Press…

    For a Pakistani, I know this must be very hurting….:)Recommend

  • Cynical

    @10th

    Visiting team cheating!!!!

    Which series you are following? and in which planet it is being played?

    Surely not the one commentators here are following.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/379/vaqas-asghar/ Vaqas Asghar

    Courtney Walsh refused to run out Saleem Jaffar for backing up too far on the last ball of the match in the 1987 World Cup. It lost his team the match (Qadir scored the winning runs off the last ball), yet nobody said or wrote a bad word about him, in fact he was praised for being a man of honour. Pakistan won the match but Walsh showed the world that losing with your head held high is better than winning by bending/breaking the rules.

    My father made me watch a tape of that game time and again to teach me the value of sportsmanship.
    Cricket players are role models for kids. Telling that that winning is more important than playing a fair game and respecting an opponent will make them grow up into adults who have little social conscience and prioritise getting ahead by any means necessary, rather than hard work.

    Link to a writeup of the Walsh incident>
    http://www.espncricinfo.com/wctimeline/content/story/500463.htmlRecommend

  • usman

    to all the indians here, it’s not that pakistanis are jealous or anything..
    I’m a pakistani, and i still think this article is a load of crap! Recommend

  • UmarJawed

    What Dhoni did was wonderful.It was a grand sporting gesture that is lacking in most sports which is unfortunate.Dhoni acted like a gentleman anyone decrying him must look at themselves in the mirror..At least at the end of the day he’ll be able to say to himself that I had a chance to make right decision and I availed it.Dhoni should be great plaudits but I am baffled to see that there are people who are criticizing him.Amir Khan example is also flawed.Recommend

  • Bhola

    Nobody congratulated the ‘generosity’ of Pakistani team when they gave 5 chances to Tendulkar in the semifinals. Pakistan also did it for the ‘sportsmanship’ and being gentlemen; we wanted Tendulkar to win during his last world cup :-)Recommend