This is an article about walking in cricket.
No, no wait! Come back, it’s not going to be that kind of walking article!
You see, we were originally going to waste your precious time going back over the standard, meat-and-two-veg ‘Stuart Broad is Evil’ arguments. We were going to remind you to be wary of Alice-band wearing sportswriters and cricket coaches who look like white supremacists from Oz (the TV show, not the country). We were also going to do a bit about ‘wait Broad got slated but what about Brad Haddin? LOL’ to show how the whole thing was skewed by a vast media conspiracy to do down our brave Ashes heroes.
We were then going to move onto the latest in the walking debate, such as the recent Cricinfo articles by the coquettish Rob Steen and by broadcasting behemoth (and occasional 51allout writer) Mark Charles Jefford Nicholas.
(To summarize: Steen makes the case that Stuart Broad is really very evil indeed. Meanwhile Nicholas, in one of the great articles, asserts that if you don’t walk, you’re a cheat, though he does chicken out a bit by declining to say whether he walked or not and if he told his Hampshire team to walk during his playing days. Incidentally, were we not basically living on the breadline, we’d pay good money for pay-per-view coverage of Nicholas arguing this face-to-face with Geoffrey Boycott and Ian Chappell).
We would then wrap things up by talking about the recent awarding of the CMJ Spirit of Cricket to Derbyshire captain Wayne Madsen, who walked at a crucial stage of a Championship game. Not to belittle what Madsen did, but we would have pointed out the oddity of the award, best illustrated by this tweet by @tickerscricket:
“If not walking is cheating, then walking is just not cheating. So why are we dishing out awards for merely not cheating?”
But after we’d done all this work, and thought we’d written the article that sorts out the walking debate out once and for all, we realised: why the hell are we doing this?
Not as in, why do we do anything at all (which is an article for another day), but rather that cricket as a formal, codified sport, has been played for around 150 years, and the walking debate has been going on for about as long. Shouldn’t this thing already be sorted out? And if not, why not?
The answer of course is that no-one can properly be arsed to do it. The MCC are the people who really should have done so, but haven’t. There’s nothing in the Laws about walking or not walking. It’s mentioned nowhere in the guff about the Spirit of Cricket. There are no pronouncements from its World Cricket Committee either.
Even the MCC’s own Laws Department doesn’t help. They have a Laws blog where you can read about giant stump-wreckers and the truly exciting world of back-foot no-balls. They’ve even got a frickin’ Spirit of Cricket blog. But is there anything about walking, anywhere here? Nope. Not a sausage. And that’s a bit odd, given that MCC has made a kind of statement in giving an award to Madsen. It’s just that it’s the kind of off-the-record, you-didn’t-hear-it-from-me statement that ultimately fails to do right by the game.
The MCC, by saying nothing, leave the walking question to the players. In doing so, they leave pundits and press free to throw the ‘cheat’ label at those who don’t walk, despite virtually no player having a problem with it. That is an abdication of responsibility; MCC should be taking the debate out of the players’ hands and into theirs.
This is not to say that the authorities can just magic an acceptable answer into existence. They may decide walking is good. They may say it’s bad. They could even just say “you know what, we haven’t got a f**king clue on this”. But if guidance was provided, then at least people would have something concrete to argue over, rather than a phantom. People’s opinion could change over time, thereby changing what’s acceptable, but it would apply consistently to all, and everyone would know where they stand.
That’s not too much to ask for it is really? It could mean an end to all the endless walking piffle. And if an MCC presided over by Mike Gatting can’t provide this sort of moral guidance, then who can?