Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Cricket Caught Out

The second cricket test against India at the SCG 2-6 Jan 2008 has finished. The book show Australia won. But the last two days' media headlines have been all about controversy.

Poor umpiring decisions benefited Australia more than India. Sledging appears to have become more personal, and Australia complained about allegedly racist remarks from Harbhajan Singh towards Andrew Symonds. Harbhajan was subsequently suspended for 3 matched by match referee Mike Proctor in a hearing held after the match.

At the post-match interview, Indian captain, Anil Kumble, said "I think only one team was playing with the spirit of the game..." So exactly what IS "the spirit of the game"? The Preamble to the Laws of Cricket state:

"Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit of fair play rests with the captains."

The Preamble goes on to say that:
The Spirit of the Game involves RESPECT for:
• Your opponents
• Your own captain and team
• The role of the umpires
• The game’s traditional values (of behaviour and honesty)

5. It is against the Spirit of the Game:
• To dispute an umpire’s decision by word, action or gesture
• To direct abusive language towards an opponent or umpire
• To indulge in cheating or any sharp practice, for instance:
(a) to appeal knowing the batsman is not out
(b) to advance towards an umpire in an aggressive manner when appealing
(c) to seek to distract an opponent either verbally or by harassment with persistent
clapping or unnecessary noise under the guise of enthusiasm and motivation of one’s own side

It seems to me that there were players on both sides who showed disrespect for umpiring decisions, who disputed decisions, who showed disrespect for members of the other team, who appealed knowing the batsman was not out (mostly caught off the pads facing a spin bowler), and who were not honest when they knew they were out. I have previously umpired at local and district representative levels, and I have seen players not 'walk' when caught at first slip, but I can't recall it happening much in test cricket . It happened in this test match.

Australian cricketers have generally behaved worse, but allegations of racism against Harbhajan would the worst incident.

The management of both the Indian and Australian Cricket teams, along with captains Ricky Ponting and Anil Kumble must meet and discuss how they will play the remaining tests within the spirit of the game. That is, without personally derogatory or inappropriate comments, and with honesty. Australia might have won the match, but cricket, and Australian cricket in particular, has been the loser. Captains also need to be held accountable, by the ICC, for the extreme actions of their players - just read the the first paragraph of the Preamble!