Ian Bell incident shows umpires have common sense
The "spirit of the game" philosophy within cricket was freshly examined recently. Ian Bell made a gaffe and assumed play was over for the session, and the blunder turned disastrous as he was adjudged run out.
The scorn was deafening at Trent Bridge in Nottingham as the expressive English crowd found out. India and their captain had a choice, withdraw the appeal or consider it Bell's fault and leave it.
The captain MS Dhoni decided to withdraw and maintain the "spirit" that is so highly regarded among cricketers.
Wise decision or not, it was the open-minded approach of the umpires that allowed for a decision to even be contemplated.
Compare this to the actions of Darrell Hair at The Oval with Pakistan and the flexibility of Asad Rauf and Marais Erasmus, the Trent Bridge umpires, is further highlighted.
In 2006, Hair did what most umpires steer clear of; taking the focus away from the game. Hair accused the Pakistan team of ball-tampering, accusations that could never be proved.
England were awarded five penalty runs and offered a replacement ball. In protest the Pakistani players refused to take the field after the tea break.
After 30 minutes the umpires removed the bails and declared England winners by forfeit.
It was the stubbornness of Hair that led to the match being abandoned that day. It was an individual giving his own actions precedence over the good of the game. It was an umpire unwilling to budge. It was the opposite of what occurred at Trent Bridge, recently.
Rauf and Erasmus could have comfortably remained firm with their decision. Based on the laws of the sport, play is not over until the umpire deems it to be. Thus according to the law, Bell had left his crease before Rauf or Erasmus had stopped play.
The umpires who were probably well aware of the potentially volatile situation, had even approached Dhoni to confirm that he was appealing for the run-out.
During tea, when Andrew Strauss, the England captain, approached the umpires asking if a recall was possible, no one could have argued with the umpires, if they had refused to budge. They had followed the rules.
The quote, "common sense isn't always common" comes to mind when looking back at "Ovalgate". The one thing that separated Hair's incident and the fiasco at Trent Bridge was this new phenomenon, common sense.
Hair acted without realising he was punishing the very game he was supposedly protecting with his accusations.
Hair was authorised to act in the manner he did, but was it really necessary? The fact his accusations were proved wrong later on do not help his cause.
The umpires at Trent Bridge showed what being an umpire is all about; they sacrificed their egos for the game.
They allowed the two captains to sort things out and proceed in the manner best for the sport. While little was made of their contribution, Rauf and Erasmus should be commended for the role they played in that match.
They handled the situation as professionals. They used common sense for the betterment of the situation.
It is the umpire's duty to make sure the situation on the field remains free from strife. It is their duty to understand, the game is nothing without the viewing public. The repercussions of the umpires being rigid would have taken away much from the match.
The players from both sides would have become volatile towards each other. The fans at the ground would not have let the issue drop.
Imagine the headlines if Dhoni later admitted that he was happy to recall Bell, but was prevented from doing so by the letter of the law passed down by the umpires. The umpires could have taken the spotlight.
Rauf and Erasmus made sure that is not how things transpired.
Perhaps, the two situations differ in nature slightly.
The ball-tampering accusations were of a somewhat more thorny nature compared to the run-out misfortune.
However, both situations placed the ball in the umpire's court even if the decision was on the captains. The spirit of the game was in their hands, one way or another.
The positive aspect of this entire fiasco at Trent Bridge is that cricket prevailed. This is a considerable improvement from 2006; the sport has finally taken precedence over individuals.
Sure, there are errors of judgement from umpires here and there, but umpires have learnt to be accommodating. This change of heart by umpires can be seen through how they have welcomed technology into the sport.
In the end, umpires and players are just as much fans of the sport as anyone else. They live and breathe the game.
The Hair incident was an unfortunate stain on the International Cricket Council's reputation, but the umpires at Trent Bridge should leave the ICC proud.
Perhaps, common sense is slowly becoming a trend in the cricketing world.
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Published: August 8, 2011 04:00 AM