India’s match against WI on Sunday, 20-Mar, was an important one for India. Other than the fact that Sachin was out in the open in a bid to score hundred 100’s, it was more essential that India beat WI and go up the points table. It was a pressure match for both teams. And in such scenario, although the field umpire turned down the appeal, Sachin walked off the field as his bat faintly nicked the ball.
This was yet aother instance of Sachin not waiting for the umpire’s decision and walking back to the pavillion on his own. I vividly remember that during the famous Sharjah Cup, when India were on an important run chase, then too Damien Fleming appealed for a caught-behind which the umpire did not acknowledge but Sachin walked off the field after having scored a brilliant hundred. Its incidents like these that earns him respect from everybody, even the belligerent opponents stop by to praise him.
Sachin of course listened to his conscience and walked off, but that has stirred off an age old debate: whether to walk-off or not. Basically the decision to walk is based on 2 important things:
a. is cricket still a gentleman’s game where individual honesty and sportsman spirit is necessary?
b. is cricket a game where shrewd thinking and cunningly nature is required?
Lets see point [b] first. The most glaring example of this was the underarm bowling done by Trevor Chappell on instruction from his brother and captain Greg Chappell to prevent the opposition batsman from hitting a six on the last ball of the match. Chappell brothers played a wily card by exploiting a loophole of the game, but it was against spirit of the game. Winning was the most important thing for Greg Chappell and he did just that, win the match but lose respect.
From then on, Australians have been known for using sly ways to keep the winning streak. Be it sledging or standing the ground after having nicked a ball or be it claiming a catch after grassing the ball, they have done it all. Ponting and other Asutralians just continue the tradition of standing until the umpire does not raise the finger. In fact, Ponting and co. believe in grassing the ball and yet claiming the catch, thereby putting the responsibility of judging on the shoulders of the umpires. Gilchrist, on some rare occasions, has walked off immediately. But he too does not have a 100% track record of walking. He has stood his ground or walked off based on team’s situation. When the team needed him at the crease, he stood his ground and waited for umpire’s decision. But when he took a call that Aus is in safe position, he has walked off. Anyhow, one Gilchrist cannot be an example for the entire team.
Lets see point [a] now. Most of the greats have always walked-off without waiting for the umpire’s decision. In the past, Gavaskar, Shastri, Vengsarkar have walked. Even Richards, Greenidge, Gower have walked. But in this day and age, it has become a rarity. That’s why Sachin’s walking off has raised a debate. Honest players like Andy Flower, Jacques Kallis, Dravid etc have also walked; but just that it hasn’t happened so often with them.
Walking-off shows courage, honesty and respect for the game. It shows that individual records don’t matter much, but playing the game in the right spirit does. Its the selfish, cunning and timid people who stand their ground because they want to score more runs for themselves. But they don’t realise that in the process of not walking, they are belittling themselves in the eyes of their fan. With so many cameras and microphones, super slo-mo and snickometer, they cannot escape. They may score a few more runs but they cannot earn respect.
In my opinion, walking-off is sportsman spirit and restores the respect of the game, as well as it instils honesty and brings dignity to the sport. In this tough competitive championship, there should be moments of selfless behaviour too, so that we can keep alive the adage of cricket being a gentleman’s game.
This post was first published on Yahoo Network