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Saturday July 13 2013

The Broad Incident (known about by all who care, not cared about by those who don’t know) somewhat spoiled my enjoyment of the closing stages of Day Three of the amazing Trent Bridge Ashes test match.  (Broad nicked an obvious catch to slip. The umpire missed it.  Broad did not give himself out, but instead stuck around.) England’s subsequent progress somehow didn’t really count.  That’s how it felt, to me.  To all those who say: The Spirit of Cricket is Dead, I say, I know just how you feel.  And I feel your pain.

But I think that what I think is that expecting batsmen to walk when they know (but the umpire doesn’t know) that they are out introduces an unfair imbalance.

After all, if you are given out, but you know that you are not out because you missed it by half a yard, but if your team has run out of referrals (as Australia had yesterday) or if no referrals are allowed in the first place, you aren’t allowed to say: “Ah well, you see, I know that I’m not actually out, so, actually, I’m going to have to over-rule the umpire on this particular occasion.  I’m going to stick around.  Sorry and all that.  Carry on everyone.”

This is not allowed, unless you are W. G. Grace.

On the other hand it would, I think, make perfect sense, if a batsman walks (Gilchrist style) having been given not out by the umpire, if the umpire were then to say: “Heh!  Where d’you think you’re going?  Get back here!  I said: Not Out.  How dare you over-rule my decision.  Outrageous dissent.  Totally against the Spirit of Cricket.”

Yet it would seem that The Spirit of Cricket, as expounded by all those who were saying yesterday that Broad had gone totally against it, says that the umpires are not after all the sole judges of fact.  Odd.

It was interesting that, amidst all the outrage, when Mark Nicholas asked his three assembled experts at the close of play on Channel 5 TV, what about it fellas?, they all said a shorter version of what I just said.  Boycott said: when you’re given out wrongly, you have to go.  So if the umpire makes a mistake in your favour, you should be allowed to stick around.  It’s up to the umpire not to get it wrong.  And the other two, Vaughan and Martyn, both agreed.

It was a bit like that Not The Nine O’Clock News sketch, where they all agreed that the answer to juvenile delinquency was castration, with no dissenting, balancing voices.

The good news is that England got on the wrong side of a couple of dodgy decisions on Day Two.  If Agar had been given out stumped, when in single figures, England would have been well in front of this game by now.  When I thought about that, and the dodgy dismissal of Trott, both circumstances having been copiously explained yesterday by everyone commenting or commentating, I didn’t feel so bad about the Broad Incident.

Day Four has just got under way, with England starting at 326-6, 261 ahead.  Broad has already got his fifty, and Bell has his hundred.  Worse, for the Aussies, they have already missed a catch, one of those embarrassing things where two slip fielders, either of whom could have caught it, just watched the ball go between them.  Broad.

Re dropped catches, see my piece here on that subject a couple of years ago, one of my better ones, I think.  The same thing applies to dodgy umpiring decisions.  Bad teams dwell on things that don’t go there way.  Good teams forget about them, and concentrate on making the next lot of things go their way, confident that this will happen.  On the evidence of the last few hours of this test match, England are the better team.

Blofeld of the BBC is referring to Aussie bowler Michell Starc as “Starkers”.

England 345-6, 280 ahead.

357-7.  Broad out for 65.

I haven’t seen the incident, but I think there may be an issue with respect to how bad the umpire’s mistake is. If it is a fine nick, not walking is not quite the same think as if it was heard by people fielding at third man and indeed the spectators. We don’t want cricket to deteriorate to the sportsmanship levels of, say, soccer, after all.

But England look like winning the test, which is fair overall.

Posted by Michael Jennings on 13 July 2013

On the other hand it would, I think, make perfect sense, if a batsman walks (Gilchrist style) having been given not out by the umpire, if the umpire were then to say: “Heh!  Where d’you think you’re going?  Get back here!  I said: Not Out.  How dare you over-rule my decision.  Outrageous dissent.  Totally against the Spirit of Cricket.”

Brian, you’re a bigger Cricket fan than I’ve ever been, but this is wrong. You’ve fallen into the trap of thinking that the umpire is a sort of policeman, an official sent by a higher authority to ensure order on the field of play. That might be true of lesser games, but not Cricket.

The giving of decisions unprompted notwithstanding, the umpire only acts to settle disputes between the teams. If there’s no dispute - Gilchrist agreeing that he was out - the umpire’s opinion is completely irrelevant. That’s the Spirit of Cricket, if anything is: the idea that the game could be played in a gentlemanly manner without any umpire at all, and that he’s only there in case some dispute should arise. It may sound archaic - especially half-a-century after Gentlemen were officially purged from the Test game - but then Cricket’s an old pastime.

Chris Broad must have known he was out. Yet he disputed it, knowing that the umpire might make a mistake, and that TV evidence, which would prove it beyond all doubt, couldn’t be used. Gamesmanship, not sportsmanship. Certainly, once the umpire had given him not out he was perfectly entitled to stay, but that’s just it: he was exploiting the rules, rather than living within their spirit.

I’m a keen videogamer, and to me, exploitation of the rules, finding the weaknesses in the code, is the Spirit of Videogames. It’s one of the things that makes them fun. (One thing I hate about online multiplayer gaming is that, quite understandably, that sort of thing gets you banned.) I’m also a motorsport fan, and the same could be said of that (Mark Donohue famously called his autobiography “The Unfair Advantage”), although the FIA might disagree. But it’s absolutely not the Spirit of Cricket.

Posted by Sam Duncan on 14 July 2013

From my post here, (which Brian commented on), this comment:

I like the comment on your post, in that it made me stop and think a bit.
But then…
Relying on the umpire to be human (with some assistance on occasion) is the only way right now.

How and when would a “continuous” third umpire get involved? How (and how often?) would he delay play to review decisions? Only when the commentator points something out, or the crowd, or…what? The game would be ruined.

So rather go back to Geoffrey Boycott’s remarks and accept that sometimes it works in your favour, sometimes it doesn’t. If it were skewed horribly one way or the other, an alternative should be sought. But that isn’t the case.

I disagree with Sam’s comment that the umpire “only acts to settle disputes between the teams”. That’s not what the Laws of the Game say. They say:

“There are two umpires, who apply the Laws, make all necessary decisions, and relay the decisions to the scorers.”

The necessary decision in this case *could* have been Broad’s to make, but eventually, it **should** have been the umpire(s) who applied the Laws and gave him out.

They didn’t do that and the rest, as they say, is history.

Posted by 6000 on 17 July 2013
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