Once or twice a year something happens in cricket that gets the bedroom umpires, the sofa referees and the internet crusaders all worked up into a tizz. Sometimes it’s in outrage – for example seeing twitter alive with eulogies about Shane Watson’s retirement as if he was the Australian Imran Khan when in fact he’s the Australian Comical Ali – and sometimes it’s to do with cricket administrators being about as reputable as the members of Ashley Madison. But usually it’s when controversy knocks on the door and the concept of the spirit of cricket comes in to play.
Being the sort of chaps who like nothing better to do than jumping on a horse a week or so after it bolted and seeing if they can ride it back to the locked stable, we thought we’d hold an invetigation.
Matt H: To begin at the beginning: should Ben Stokes have been given out? And who should have made the decision?
Nichael Bluth: In a word, yes. In a few more words, by the letter of the law, he absolutely had to go. Had he been stood inside his ground at the time it would have been a very different kettle of fish though, and much more ambiguous. As such, you can’t blame the umpires – as soon as the appeal was made, they had no choice. And Australia had every right to appeal, given that Stokes would have been run out otherwise. So in my view it’s an open and shut case.
James K: What he said. Although I’m mostly here to say how shit a thing the ‘spirit of cricket’ is.
Aussie Matt: Probably not, no. It ticked all the boxes, but the law is baffingly ambiguous, however people wish to interpret it. It probably should have been left with the on-field umps and given not out, even if only just to avoid awkward precedents.
MH: In that case, did either captain breach the spirit of cricket?
NB: Much as I’d like to criticise Eoin Morgan, it’s hard to see how he can really be blamed for any of this. As for Devereux, I think he might regret it when he looks back. Given that he’s a week into the job, it’s a tough situation. Much as we love Paul Collingwood – more than our own fathers – he made a similar decision when he was England captain.
JK: The spirit of cricket is shit. England’s reaction was a bit shit as well – they do a great line in holier-than-thou outrage whenever something like this happens. See also: the Buttler Mankad. And that time Ian Bell ran himself out in slapstick fashion against India. It’s always a real achievement to come out of an incident looking like bigger dickheads than a team of Australians but I think they managed it here.
AM: I wish to subscribe to James’s newsletter, should he have one [or perhaps he could put his newsletter efforts into writing more for 51allout – Ed]. Nothing that occurred here had anything to do with the spirit of cricket. Other than, perhaps, some English players taking exception at the decision of an umpire. The issue is that certain members of the English media seem to believe that they are the final arbiters of what is and is not ‘fair’ in a game of cricket. Unless someone is prepared to actually commit what constitutes the ‘Spirit of Cricket’ to writing, the impression will remain that its purely something that the English media will interpret in whatever way suits their purposes. Which is almost always to use it as a stick to beat the opposition with.
Also the insinuation that Devereux should have cause to regret any action also causes me to experience spiritual pain. Devereux is infallible, and it is high time he was recognised as such.
JK: Probably not. Although I like to think that ultimately a batsman being out obstructing the field is something everyone can enjoy. Even more so when it’s a really angry ginger man.
AM: I doubt he would have cared. He was hardly an angel as far the ‘spirit of cricket’ was concerned, and didn’t have a problem with sledging or players not walking. Other than being outspoken on the underarm incident Richie was happy to let players get on with it. The only rule that mattered was that the umpire’s decision should never be questioned.
NB: I’m with Aussie Matt on this one. I think one of Richie’s great strengths was recognising that the game changes all the time. Just because this sort of thing didn’t happen in 1963 doesn’t mean it can’t now. Which is also some advice for the Doctor Who traditionalists out there.
MH: You know what? You’re right. Can we go back to laughing at Shane Watson now please?