Bell’s end: Standing in Dhoni’s shoes
One of the most bizarre run-outs in the history of Test cricket occurred at Trent Bridge on Sunday, sending Twitter into a conniption which could be equated to Arjuna Ranatunga finding out the all-you-can-eat-buffet at Sizzler was closing.
England’s Ian Bell was run out on the last ball before tea on Day 3 of the second test against India, after thinking Eoin Morgan’s leg-glance had gone for four.
Less than a second later, ‘Ian Bell’ was trending on Twitter, as fans across the globe struggled to make sense of what they had seen.
By the laws of the game, Bell was most certainly out. The lack of concentration by Bell was a brain fart so loud and smelly that there were reports of reverberations and the smell of sulphur as far away as Applethwaite in the county of Cumbria.
Unfortunately for anyone who wants to chastise India for running Bell out, MS Dhoni and the Indian brains trust decided to rescind the appeal for the wicket.
This came after a discussion with England captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower during the tea interval.
Bell returned to the crease after tea, and the act of rescinding the appeal has been roundly congratulated as being in the spirit of the game. Cricket, as it is so often declared, was the winner.
Since the incident I have had two main thoughts in assessing MS Dhoni’s actions on Sunday.
Firstly, my initial reaction is that I feel robbed of one of the most incredibly awesome unintentional sports comedy moments ever.
Sport is so serious most of the time, mistakes can be funny, and I believe quirky events like this help highlight that there is a lighter side to the peculiarities and nonsense that constitutes a sporting contest.
I realise that Ian Bell and England didn’t find it all too funny at the time but I reckon they would have over a few quiet ales at the end of the Test Match. In fact, they probably still will.
But now it is the run-out that never really happened. MS Dhoni has taken it away from me and I shall never forgive him (So it seems that maybe we can still chastise India for anything they do).
My second thought has been what would I do if I were in Dhoni’s shoes?
Last Australian summer I was the captain for a minor metropolitan cricket club’s 4th XI. I will concede that it certainly is not a level where the ownership of any sheep stations is riding on the result. The standard of play is best described as almost beers on the field (I repeat, almost).
However, the laws of the game are, for the most part, the same as Test cricket. The spirit of the game is most certainly the same.
Club cricketers in Australia tend to be competitive, willing to play by the rules and wanting to act in the spirit of the game.
Like most, I too want to win within the rules and spirit of the game. The problem is that these notions can at times be at odds with each other in a single moment.
Upon realising that a batsman had mistakenly wandered out of his ground thinking the ball was dead, would I have thrown the ball to a teammate to take off the bails?
Well, does Ian Chappell like the sound of his own voice? As a competitive individual I most certainly would have.
Would I have appealed for the wicket? We’re here to win and I’m not breaking any rules, so yes.
After a discussion with the opposition captain protesting that it’s not in the spirit of the game, as well as the threat of World War III breaking out in the mean streets of northern Perth, would I have rescinded my appeal? Possibly.
To be honest, I can’t say for sure. I’d like to think I would.
Either way, it is highly likely that my decision would be influenced by the threat of being hit in the head with a cricket bat so hard it would make what Nick D’Arcy did to Simon Cowley look like kiss on the cheek.
Whether Dhoni’s decision was made on Sunday while Strauss was glaring at him with a cricket bat in his hand we may never know.
If you had put the whole situation to Dhoni as a fictional scenario before the events of this past Sunday, like me, I believe he would like to think he would withdraw the appeal in order to uphold the spirit of the game.
Consequently, I think MS Dhoni acted exactly how anyone who is a competitive player in the game of cricket would have acted.
Was he totally in the spirit of the game at first? No, but he was within the rules.
Did he make the right decision in the end? Probably yes. Common sense prevailed.
Though it may be that his saving grace was that he had the tea break to think and make up his mind to withdraw the appeal.
For example, had the incident occurred at the end of an over in the middle of a session he may not have had the opportunity to check his spirit of the game’s moral compass (Every Test captain has had one. I believe Tony Greig misplaced his from time to time).
All in all, given the facts Dhoni has gone up a notch in my book for the way he handled the whole incident.
His actions proved his competitiveness and sportsmanship. Now if he can just rectify his wicket-keeping he might just go up one more.
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