There is a furore going on at the moment in world cricket. India is touring Australia having lost the first two test matches. The second match was won with eight minutes to go. That’s eight minutes in a game that goes for 30 hours. It’s been a stressful match with horrible umpiring decisions, racial tension, and repeated questions of integrity.
Part of the controversy surrounds the issue of honesty. Did you catch that ball before it hit the ground? Did you edge that ball? The Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, set up a meeting before the series with the Indian captain, Anil Kumble, to discuss a “gentlemen’s agreement” concerning catches. He suggested the word of the players be accepted when it came to determining whether a catch was legal. That sounds like a good thing for cricket.
Ponting backed that idea up when he refused to claim a catch early in the game. Unfortunately he also claimed a catch that wasn’t in the second innings. This problem came to a head on the fifth day when Ponting was apparently asked by the umpire if a catch had carried to Michael Clarke. The decision quite possibly gave the win to Australia. Ponting told the umpire the catch carried and the umpire immediately gave the batsman out. There is a third umpire with access to video replay who was not bothered to make a decision.
This may seem trivial. The problem occurs when this “system” is compared to that governing walking. Let me explain briefly to the Americans in the audience. A common way to be out in cricket is to edge the ball behind and have it caught. You can imagine that a ball traveling 90mph can touch a bat without much deviation. The person best placed to know whether the ball hit the bat is the batsman. There is an unspoken law in cricket that a batsman should never “walk”, that is, admit that he edged the ball. This should appear to you to be cheating. You’d be pretty accurate.
If players don’t walk, why should we believe that they actually caught a ball? This match made a wonderful point of this paradox. Michael Clarke refused to walk when he was caught out and was then the player whose catch was in dispute as the game was in the balance.
You can not claim integrity on one hand and ignore it on the other. It doesn’t work. Ever.