When the Bell did not toll for tea…

OK, lots and lots have been written on the Ian Bell non-dismissal, and I guess I just have to weigh in. Among my most loyal readers I can probably count 2 or 3 avid cricket fans and the rest being mostly agnostic to that part of the world. So here’s a warning for you, in case the latter part of the previous sentence describes you – you can safely avoid reading further.

As for those who made it to this paragraph, in case you haven’t been following, this is what happened. So was he right or wrong?

My initial reaction was simply this – Bell was out and should have stayed out. If someone is stupid enough to give you a wicket, take it. Don’t ask questions. Yes, I’ve played all my cricket, whether tennis ball, rubber ball or the one season with leather balls that way. As for concepts like ‘spirit of cricket’ etc, which fall straight into the realms of tricky concepts like moral relativism, I believe in playing by the law book and playing fair. So no, I wouldn’t feign a misfield to induce an extra run for a runout. I wouldn’t stand in the way of a running batsman to get a runout. And, going by precedents, I wouldn’t bowl a last ball no-ball to deny someone on 99 a century. (And no, bowling wide to get a stumping when the batsman is advancing is not against any spirit. The batsman was just stupid enough to let me know he was advancing.)

If there is a ball to be bowled, bowl it fair and proper. If there’s a ball to be played, play it fair and proper, and when fielding field as if it’s the first ball of the match, no matter what the situation. As simple as that.

So coming back to the Bell dismissal, there were many things that were totally wrong about it.
1. Bell was out and he knew it. He was looking for an extra run and was getting waved back by his partner. He decided to continue for tea and got run out. He knew he was out. Everything after that was a put on act. Bell came out as a total hypocrite and I dare say it, a cheat, after that.

2. Strauss and Flower were wrong in going to the Indian dressing room. It was convenient that it was tea. What if it wasn’t? Also, what kind of captain and coach go begging for their batsman’s wicket? And where was Bell’s pride when that happened? Sorry, this was a tad like parents going to the captain asking to give their spoiled kid one more chance to get another shot. Also, I can understand Bell not seeing the point. But the captain and coach should have been the persons being objective about it and deciding that that was out. I am surprised there was no voice of reason in their dressing room.

3. Dhoni’s gesture, while truly laudable, was definitely not necessary. But once the captain and coach came to his doors, I believe there was really no choice for him. It’s one thing to make a controversial appeal and get a batsman out, and totally another thing to turn down a request from their captain and coach. Once they had refused to see reason and had come down to his doors, there was really not much maneuvering space for Dhoni. But it surely made him come out the better captain. And yes, his generally detached attitude to things, would have helped him a lot to analyze the situation objectively. After all, it’s just a game of cricket, and he was right in turning back the decision once they had turned up at his door. [Sorry, I don’t buy into the Sachin was the sole voice of reason thing. MSD is capable of making proper decisions himself.]

5. The crowd got played. They thought Bell had been wronged. It’s the same reaction that comes out when Sachin (famously) plonks down his bat and sits on his haunches making it look like the ball did not bounce at all and sneaked in at ankle length, when it was just a normal delivery he did not read. Crowds boo when they don’t like a player. India would not have been the first team to be booed nor the last had it happened. Ponting was booed during the whole of the 2009 Ashes. Arjuna and Murali met the same treatment in Australia back in the 90s. KP gets booed everytime he plays in SA. It’s part of the game. You can’t please every crowd you walk into. Close to tea, however, the crowd is just a (big) bunch of drunk no-gooders acting boorishly. And am sure with all that experience in that dressing room, India wouldn’t have made the decision just to placate such a crowd. They’d have seen enough back in India. Remember that Rahul Dravid was booed off by a 100000 strong crowd at the Eden Gardens when they had dropped Ganguly.

6. The Umpires. What were they thinking? Mukund removed the bails and appealed. They had to judge whether the appeal was legitimate or not, and if yes, was the batsman out or not. What was that about asking the captain thrice if he really wanted to appeal?!

So what about the implications. I don’t think it had any. India looked really jaded and would have been massacred by the next batsmen anyway. But the best part is that MSD came out all the better for a grand gesture which was totally unnecessary. Personally I had a decent amount of respect for Strauss and Flower. Am glad that Flower decided to stay with England. Him and Strauss are made for each other in their immaturity and lack of objective thinking.

And one last thing. For the life of me, I can’t understand how they managed to get Bell back in. Here’s law 27.8 from the cricketing law book.

8. Withdrawal of an appeal
The captain of the fielding side may withdraw an appeal only if he obtains the consent of the umpire within whose jurisdiction the appeal falls. He must do so before the outgoing batsman has left the field of play. If such consent is given, the umpire concerned shall, if applicable, revoke his decision and recall the batsman.

If I remember seeing properly, Bell went in, had a change of clothes, some sandwich and a cup of tea before padding up and getting back into the ground. So is the spirit of cricket greater than the laws of the game? That’s like having a separate religious law overruling the law of the land as laid down in the constitution. OK, let’s not go there…


5 thoughts on “When the Bell did not toll for tea…

  1. Getting a little harsh are we?

    Yes, technically Bell was out … but I thought it was only fair that India called him back

    Following are the key events acc to me tht happened

    a.Bell hits the ball towards fence and PK makes a typical Pkish dive and somehow manages to keep the ball inside.
    b.But PK’s body language conveys that he has messed it up… maybe thats what he thought and Bell must have seen it while running the third probably and felt it was a boundary.
    c.However PK did not signal a boundary or tell that he thinks its a four, neither did the umpire
    d.Bell completes the third and then decides to head back to pavilion.
    e. Moment bell turns, Morgan indicates to him not to attempt a run… however Bell walks / ‘Trotts’ to the other end and along with Morgan (alomst)heads back to pavilion
    f.Meanwhile Indians had broken the stumps and appealed! pretty smart move infact …

    Now it is very clear that Bell was stupid to leave the crease and run to dressing room for tea. But point is he was clearly NOT attempting a run, that is very evident. Plus PK’s body language indicated that it ‘might’ be a boundary.

    So keeping these two factors in mind, I would say recalling Bell was ok … at some level this is still a gentleman’s game and need not go by rule book so much. As Ganguly was telling during commentary, such things spoil the spirit … tomorrow if batsman picks up ball with good intention, fielders might appeal for handling the ball etc … its a thin line …

    I want to compare this with another similar incident that I saw at ur place on TV few years back, when NZ was playing SL. Sanga gets to hundred and Murali with child-like enthusiasm runs over to congratulate Sanga when infact ball was in play.

    Here Murali is also stupid, but acted on his own … fielding team did not have any role to play in his decision to step out … hence I would say NZ was justified in running him out and ignoring Jayawardene’s plea
    ( for a minute I was wondering if I wrote more than you … but no, you have written a lot 😛 )

    1. Hmm.. I guess we can agree to disagree on that. Moving when the ball is not dead yet is a very stupid error. We come down to whether stupid errors should be taken advantage of. Like Murali, or Peter Kirsten who decided to back up for too much (was he stupid or being opportunistic?) or the Pakistani batsman whom Walsh refused to run out under similar circumstances.

      There have been enough cases where the batsman has been dismissed and there has been a lot of love lost between the teams for the most of the series. But then when it’s such a gentleman’s game, they should really be seeing it in the context of the game and just burying things and getting on with it, and not really sulking about it for the rest of the series, no?

      But then, all this gentleman’s game and all might just be carrying it too far. Sport is probably the closest we come to war without killing each other. Yes, there have been those who have been gentlemen, like Walsh, Vishy, Dravid or MSD. But then, you could argue they would have taken a similar stance in a similar situation in a different sport too, correct? (Am not taking a stance, just exploring the concept in this paragraph.) Or you could argue that they wouldn’t have fit into any of the other chapters at all. There’s an entire chapter dedicated to ‘spirit of cricket’ in the book ‘Cricket, lovely cricket’ by Lawrence Booth, which you had borrowed from me. He doesn’t get much anywhere exploring it. The thing is it’s an abstract concept which can be debated over and over without getting anywhere. Like many have pointed out, how would you apply that to walking, etc? 😛

      From Andy Flower’s statement one got the feeling he pretty much said we’ll have been sulking around for the rest of the series, so good thing he called him back. Seriously? You’d think kids had been playing this. And am sure if Sachin had been in a similar scenario in India, even then, when it comes to England they might not have withdrawn.

      But then, you could argue both sides forever. Better we just agree to disagree. There are always 2 camps for these incidents, and we sure are in different camps on this. 🙂

      Also, I can see the other point of view and am like 60-40 split between whether they should’ve appealed or not. But I find it weird they actually went to the rival camp and asked them to withdraw the appeal. That, I will continue to hold, was wrong on their part.

  2. Again my point is Bell was indeed technically Out … but since an Indian was invovled ( though not by intention) in misleading him into thinking its a boundary and hence setting into motion all these chain of events … maybe Indians had to give in and call him back

    In case of Murali … NZ players had no role to play in his decision to abandon the crease and rush out, hence NZ were right in running him out when they had chance.

    Kirsten incident is another interesting one, thanks for pointing it out … Kapil explained that he had warned him multiple times not to wander outside the crease, hence he was well within rights to run him out

    If Kapil had done it very first occassion, without warning it might have been technically correct… but not in good spirit

    I also remember an incident in early 90s during a test match when an opposition batsman defended and picked up the ball and Indians appealed for handling the ball … If I remember rightly the ball was not headed for the stumps, but Indians appealed and batsman was given out … Do you remember this one? That was violation of spirit I think

  3. Ok did a quick search and found that the incident i mentioned was not in 90s .. infact was in 2001, when Indians made a poor appeal against Michael Vaughan, who seemed to have picked up the ball to pass it to fielders … so maybe we are correcting bad karma!

    Also read an interesting incident involving our honourable neighbours, in a match between Pak and Aus there was apparently some bad blood after a Pak player was ‘Mankaded’ and during Aussie innings when the throw arrived, the Aussie batsman at non-striker’s end Andrew Hilditch(current selector) collected the ball and passed on to pakistanis who appealed for Handling the ball and he was given out

    Both these are technically out yes … but really ridiculous!

    1. Yeah that was Vaughan, but he was able to move on, and call it a mistake from his side after that. It wasn’t as simple as it is mentioned, the ball was not innocently patted down and handed around. They were not *that* stupid or cheap to appeal for that.

      As for Bell, it was just PK being totally lazy. He did not signal it was four, nor did he look at any point like he was going to save it. The max he can be accused of is of being lethargic and lazy. Not cheating. If someone reads things into it, it is like running for a misfield and paying for it, and saying the misfield was deliberate (as far as PK was concerned, that is all it is). The ball had to be relayed from Dhoni to mukund, so it wasn’t like he was gleefully “seizing the chance he had so artfully created”.

      For the Pakistani thing, there have been far worse that have happened on the field, better stick to those that are a lot more difficult to assess 😀

      But like I said, it’s probably 60-40, my main gripe is with people turning up at dressing rooms and bending written laws.

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