Saturday, June 28, 2008

Winning At All Costs?

With the final ODI between England and New Zealand just a few hours away my mind is still on the controversary from the 4th ODI. Just to refresh everybody's memory, with the game hanging in the balance and New Zealand in the midst of a fight back 8th wicket partnership the spirit of the game came into question.

England's fast bowler Ryan Sidebottom collided with New Zealand's batsman Grant Elliot and knocked him to the ground. With Elliot flattened, Bell picked up the ball and ran Elliot out. After some moments of confusion and indecision England's captain Collingwood was asked by the umpires if he would like to uphold his appeal; Collingwood made the decision to still appeal for the runout thus tilting the match to his side's favor. The New Zealand dressing room erupted understandably so as this seemed completely against the spirit of the game. Was it? Had Collingwood crossed the fairplay and decency limits of the game?

My initial reaction and thought, more than likely purely emotional, was that Collingwood and England had violated the spirit of the game and crossed cricket's line of decency. With the batsman being flattened by a collision with your bowler it just seemed wrong not to call the batsman back. It just would have been the right thing to do to call Elliot back.

But then one has to contemplate on the fact that there have been many runouts resulting from an incidental collision between the bowler and the batsman. Sidebottom was going for the ball and did not knock Elliot down on purpose. So were Collingwood and England okay to appeal and get Elliot to take the angry walk back to the dressing room?

I am a huge fan of good sportsman spirit and because of that I think the right thing to do was to call Elliot back; actually the best thing to do would have been not to appeal in the first place. Actually, why is nobody talking about Bell throwing the ball to get the runout - if he did not throw the ball to run Elliot out then there would be no controversary!

In the end it was poetic justice with New Zealand winning on the last ball. Everybody made the right statements after the match - Collingwood saying he should have called Elliot back and Vettori saying that his team overreacted. I cannot help but feel that New Zealand's victory helped save the spirit of game and preserve the sport from being tarnished.

Make your pitch on this post...

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19 Pitched:

  1. Trideep said...


    As u said, the best thing would have been not to run the batsman out. Bell could have just thrown the ball to the keeper and the ball could have become dead then... It reminds me of the incident in Eden where Sachin was given run out in a test when he collided with Shoaib.

  2. Q said...

    Trideep - Nazhar wrote this, not me :-)

    As for my thoughts on this incident - I've been saying it on other blogs. It was fine. Its cricket, it happens.

    If you watch it again, you'll see that Elliot ran down the wrong side of the wicket. Had he run down the other side, sidebottom would have picked the ball up and run him out. So it was alrite really.

  3. Anonymous said...

    Nothing like victory to soothe any soreness.

  4. NAzhar said...

    If you read about the incident it seems/sounds okay - but seeing the incident really made one think that Elliot should have been called back :-)

  5. Q said...

    I saw it Nazhar - Elliot ran down the wrong side :-)

  6. SledgeHammer said...

    @trideep: the difference between the Shoaib/Sachin incident and this is that Sidebottom ran into Elliott. Obviously Sidebottom didn't do it intentionally, but still he holds some responsibility.

    Shoaib did (mysteriously? ;) come out of nowhere, but he did not run into Sachin. In fact, Sachin swerved slightly toward him.

    Neither of the wickets were particularly pleasing, but the Elliott run out has much more culpability on the fielding side written on it.

    Here's the video of the Shoaib/Sachin incident:

  7. SledgeHammer said...

    BTW, New Zealand have also had their own "Collingwood" moment. Let's not forget the Murali run out. IMO, that was much worse than the Elliott incident. Here's a video for those who don't know what I'm talking about:

    The question here is this though...the umpire immediately gave it out. Could (or would) New Zealand have asked to withdraw the appeal themselves, even after the umpire made his decision?

    Benson delayed his decision until he talked to Collingwood first.

    Every team makes "unsportsmanlike" decisions every once in a while in order to win. So for New Zealand to react so strongly to Collingwood and England is a bit weird, but understandable in the heat of the moment. But, common sense prevailed after a brief period of hostility, which is nice to see.

  8. Q said...

    Just like it was fine for Shoaib to run out Sachin, it was fine for McCullum to run out Murali, and for Bell to run out Collingwood.

    Its cricket, it happens.

    Has anyone thought that this was only a mere ODI of a 5 match series. What would happen if this was one of those matches where the players earn a million or nothing?

    England will be playing one of those soon - is Collingwood going to apologise again?

    He didn't have to this time either.

  9. SledgeHammer said...

    @Q: I agree that you can do it according to Law, but I'm not sure if I agree it is "fine" when the fielding side is the culpable party and then decides to appeal. Sidebottom ran into Elliott, albeit unintentionally. NZ knew that Murali stepped out to congratulate Sangakarra, and that was a poor move on their part to appeal. Shoaib's case was, as mentioned before, slightly different in that the batsman ran into the fielder.

    It could also be argued that the Trevor Chappell underarm ball was "fine" - it was in accordance with the Laws. But, everyone agrees that it may have been the worst on-field incident in cricket (well, Inzi did attempt to bash a spectator with a bat ;).

    True, Collingwood has no need to apologize. But his career will be remembered for this moment, and he has to live with it. In the confusion, he focussed on the moment over the sport as a whole and legacy. No one would ever have criticized him for letting the batsman play on, regardless of the result.

    And yes, you are right, the magnitude of the event does matter. This was a standard bilateral ODI, which makes it all the more lamentable that he did not withdraw the appeal. If it was a World Cup final, or a million dollar game, it would be more understandable.
    Still though, you normally only get praised for sportsmanship.

    Think about how people remember Courtney Walsh for not getting Saleem Jaffer run out in 1987. Winning that match would have had huge implications for the Windies, but Walsh believed in spirit over the moment. And forever, he will be remembered for his sportsmanship.

    Mr. Collingwood, you ain't no Courtney Walsh! ;)

  10. SledgeHammer said...

    BTW, here's what McCullum said about the Murali run-out:

    "After 109 test matches you know better than to walk out of your ground to celebrate a guy's hundred when the ball's still alive," McCullum said.

    "I realise they're pretty upset about it but as far as I'm concerned it was an opportunity to take a wicket. I'd do the same thing again."

    Within the Law, but (IMHO) not within the spirit.

  11. Q said...

    I understand your points Sledge and agree that to a certain extent it does go against the spirit but then isn't the goal to win at all costs as the title of this post questions?

    I think it is. Australia have proved that u have to be ruthless.

    Continuing on the examples u gave, would u say Inzi run out by Harmison and out obstructing the field against India were against the spirit?

    England and India shouldnt have appealed?

  12. SledgeHammer said...

    Inzi run out by Harmison was a complete mistake by the umpire. The umpire had no right to give it out - it was not out according to the Laws. If Harmison knew the rules and still appealed, then I believe that was against the spirit. But in the end, the umpire is to blame here.

    As for Inzi run out against India, he was out by his own fault and ignorance. India were right to appeal, and he was rightly given out. India tried to get him run out, and he blocked the ball intentionally. So definitely not against the spirit.

    Murali was not trying to make a run, he was not trying to prevent getting out. He was going to congratulate his partner. Yes, he should have been more cognizant, but NZ showed a lack of spirit in that case.

  13. Q said...

    No no.. Inzi was just standing outside his crease against India. He wasn't attempting a run. In usual circumstances the fielder would have thrown the ball to the keeper or given it to the bowler, instead he threw it at Inzamam.

    Either Inzamam could have swayed away, in which case he would have faced what he faced against Harmison of he could have fended the ball away which was coming towards his body.

    He did the latter and was given out obstructing the field when he wasnt attempting a run.

    Was it right of them to appeal?

  14. SledgeHammer said...

    BTW, I never said Inzi was attempting a run in my comment.

    However, watch the video again, and you will see he did initially attempt to take a run, then stopped, and lazily tried to make it back to his crease.

    The fielder threw the ball when Inzi was well out of his crease, in an attempt to get him run out (or at least threaten to do so).

    That's a completely fair appeal in my opinion.

    Had Inzi walked back in his crease, and then walked out to talk to the non-striker, or to the umpire, or a fielder, and the ball was still technically in play, then that would be equivalent of the Murali situation. In that case, I would say it would be against the spirit to appeal.

  15. Q said...

    I just saw the video again Sledge - even Micheal Holding questions the spirit behind that appeal by India. And if u notice after arguing with the umpires, Inzi turns around and says something like "its ok" to an Indian player - probably a player who felt sorry for him.

    I stick by "its cricket, it goes, it happens, win at all costs"... but if getting Elliot out was against the spirit so was this.

    One can't help feel sorry for Inzi after what he says at the post match conference. Haha.. realy funny that.

  16. SledgeHammer said...

    I just don't see how anyone can defend Inzi in this situation. A fielder sees Inzi out of his crease after attempting a run, and throws the ball to run him out.

    So far so good, right?

    OK, so if the ball hit the stumps directly, he would be out and no one would have questioned it. It would have been a great play by the fielder.

    I think we can all agree at this point.

    Now, Inzi intentionally blocks the ball. That's obstructing the field, and there is absolutely no culpability on the fielding team in this case.

    Elliott getting out was different. The fielding side had a level of culpability since Sidebottom ran into Elliott (whether intentional or not).

    In any case, determining something is against the spirit is an opinion. And my opinion is that Elliott's and Murali's dismissals were against the spirit.

    I'm curious to know what your opinion of Trevor Chappell's underarm ball? Win at all costs?

    Here's the video of that event for those who don't know what I'm talking about.

  17. SledgeHammer said...

    Q - yes, Inzi's post match press conference was hilarious!

  18. Q said...

    I agree Sledge, the spirit thing is a matter of opinion.

    Trevor Chappell's underarm ball was genius I think. Again, I would not say it was against the spirit of the game, but it was a cowardly act.

    Completely coward! But genius was the man who thought of it.

    About the spirit yaar? they all play to win, they tamper, they scuff th pitch, they swear, its all abt gamesmanship... later on they apologise like Collingwood did just to get back into the good books of sponsors and advertisers, etc.

  19. SledgeHammer said...

    I'd rather lose a thousand times over, than to win once the way Trevor Chappell did.

    Sure, everyone does a bit of gamesmanship (a sledge, a nudge, a scuff), but there are varying degrees.

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