Thursday, October 21

That Walking Thing, again

It seems there is till much discussion about this walking trend. My earlier post on this would make it clear that I basically support the whole idea.

Yet there seem to be many issues that people pick with this way of thinking. Indeed, it is questioned if it is a way of thinking, or just convenient PR.

First off, there is the fundamental question- why do you need to walk? The game is fairly simple in the way it is drawn out- there is a bowler with 10 fielders to help him in his task of getting one of two batsmen out. An umpire out in the middle makes all the decisions. In keeping with the simplicity of this setup, there is no reason, really, for the batsman to add the unnecessary complication of 'walking'.
Alright, the umpire's job is to decide if a chap is out or not, and his decision being final, there is no requirement to put the onus on batsmen. Till here, I can completely agree. There is no necessity for a batsman to walk. Yet, I cannot see the problem in a batsman choosing to walk. His personal choice does not in any way complicate the game or compromise the current setup. It is just that, his personal choice.

There is, of course, the plainly absurd suggestion that a batsman 'walking' on his own is undermining the umpire's authority out in the middle, and this action is even tantamount to (a new form of) dissent. In a word, this is ridiculous. If a player chooses to accept he was beaten by the bowler, that is his choice. It is hardly an insult to the umpire, and definitely not embarassing for him. If we are constantly being told that the 'human element' that the umpires bring in to the game is vital, where is the shame in being shown by a batsman himself, that you were about to make a wrong decision? Where is the shame in knowing that the right decision was made, even if not by you?
As ol' Shepp puts it, "Nonsense. The game is bigger than the umpires"

Then there is the question of motive. What is the thinking behind 'walking'? It is obvious that the trend stems from a desire for fairplay- it is in the correct spirit of not only cricket, but of any sport. While it has become common, indeed the norm, in all sport for players to leave the decision to a referee or umpire, even when they are in a position to take the call, how can the exception to this (very convenient) reality be questioned? Let us be practical and not condemn a batsman for not walking when he has, say, evidently nicked a ball. But let us also freely commend a batsman who, in the same situation, decides to leave the field of play. Let us believe he does this because he chooses to heed his conscience, and not for some ulterior motive.

The hemispheric distinction that used to exist between Australian and English batsmen who stayed and walked, respectively, brought its own inferences. Australians never walked, Englishmen sometimes did, and were often accused of of selective walking and ulterior motives. Today you have a self proclaimed non-walking Englishman suggesting that this new un-Australian Australian trend could end in tears ("Australians Fail to see the Shame in Walking").
Atherton (the said Englishman) says the game would be a "self governing idyll" if everyone were to adopt such an honest approach. Of course this will not happen. As he asserts that, he says that it is acceptable for a batsman to not walk, and to leave the decision making to the umpire.
"I was a confirmed non-walker and could easily live with the fact that I was asking an umpire to perform a job he is paid to do. I didn't, and still don't, regard that as cheating."

I don't think anyone regards that as cheating. It would be like expecting a footballer to graciously point to the penalty spot as soon as he even slightly touched the ball. Yet, it still does not take away from the inherent merit in being honest. It is easy, from here, to question the motives, again. Will honesty in obvious situations eventually build your reputation enough for you to get the benefit of the doubt when everything is not as obvious? I can see the logic in bringing this up, but not the sense. For me it is a simple case of double thinking. There is no end to this line of thought- nothing is what it seems, everything has a hidden agenda.

There is another point. If your consicence is powerful enough to make you walk, how do you explain appealing for catches that weren't nicked or edged LBWs? For me, that's another case of just pushing it.
"(the cases when Sehwag, Patel and Irfan were wrongly given out)...raises the question of why the players in front of the wicket appealed and why they didn't then ask the captain to recall the opener. How far are they prepared to go?"
For one, on-field play and batting are different in one significant way- a batsman choosing to walk is an individual choice, not to be imposed as a team dictat. On field, there are three, four, sometimes more players appealing for a wicket. Eventually the umpire is in the 'best position' to judge, better than most players are. It is, like Athertons' choice not to walk, definitely not required for one of the players who may think that the batsman was not out, to tell the rest that he does, and be sure enough to make the captain call the batsman back! That too, is defnitely not cheating.

For another, I believe that technology makes it so much easier for us to decide what is obvious. On the field, there are too many factors in play. Just like (even)close-in fielders may believe there is a nick when there isn't, a batsman sometimes honestly does not know when a bat pad has taken his bat, or just his pad. It works both ways, and to expect not only physical traits like sharp sight and hearing to be impeccable on the field, but also honesty, is really a bit much.

The last case is the most pertinent. Will these new proponents of fairplay be as principled when the situation is really tight? Now that's one truly worth wondering, and waiting to find out. To my mind, the possibility that these very batsmen may, one day, not walk when it is obvious they are out, should not sully in anyway their choice to do so, today. The only thing bigger than a World Cup semi-final is the Final, and it is cruel to today to say that Gilichrist's nick was big enough that he thought it was sure to be given out. Either way, he did not do the 'done' thing- sticking on to see the umpire's decision. In Kasprowicz's case as well, in the Chennai Test, it was very evident that the umpire was not giving him out. Yet he walked.

The other defense for not walking is that umpiring decisions tend to even out over the years.
Whether there is merit in that or not, it is another belief that cannot be held against those who walk. In cricket, like in life itself (how often do we hear that), things tend to balance out- or, that is what we would like to believe. That does not in any way, absolve us of our responsibility to live upto certain ideals. At any rate, if you don't believe in certain principles, at least respect another's choice to live by them.

To probe and prod into the actions and decisions betrays one's own cynicism. It is a measure of our skepticism that we cannot accept that some things may be done just for their own sake. The basis of fairplay is belief in the inherent goodness of human beings, and the desire to perpetuate that belief. While it may be too sweetly sweeping a generality to be anything more than a fairy-tale, it is a sign of our own doubt in human behaviour to not acknowledge fairness for itself. It is almost as if the fact that fairplay is rare, is held against it!

Some things are done because they are not only just, but also fair, and because they are good.
Why do we insist on questioning them?

* * *

Shame in walking // Holier than thou // To walk or not (rediff)//
To walk or not to walk (smh) // Walking fad // Gilchrist leads // Dissent?

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