Antoinette Muller

Under the Broad walk

2013-07-17 11:16
Sport24 columnist Antoinette Muller (File)
Cricket fans are a peculiar bunch. They feel that their sport is superior to something like football, for instance, because it is played according to some nonsensical moral code. That code apparently governs the so-called morality of the sport and anybody who doesn’t adhere to it is a bad, bad person. If this were the dark ages, those who ignore the code would probably be lynched and have their effigies burnt from Kingston to Kerala.

Stuart Broad became the antagonist of all of cricket’s morality when he decided not to walk after so blatantly edging a ball that he could only have been more out if it had cantered his stumps. Instead of doing what, according to cricket observers would have been the moral thing, Broad stood his ground.

A petulant pout and a stiffening of the shoulders were his tell-tale signs. Then, a dawn of realisation overcame cricket’s Draco Malfoy. The umpire had not given him out. So Broad stood still while the Australians around him were thrown into a bewildered frenzy. They could do nothing since they had already wasted their reviews.

And, just like that, this year’s Ashes had its cult villain born. Fast forward a few days and two other batsmen also didn’t walk. Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin both edged the ball, both immediately turned around and looked behind and neither walked. Clarke insists that he was convinced he had not hit the ball, so convinced he even opted for a review.

The question of walking and not walking is one which has raged within cricket for ages. Cricket, apparently, has some sort of Spirit which guides it. If it’s a spirit animal, it’s probably a pink unicorn with three legs. 

The rules of said spirit contains a set of unspoken of moral codes of conduct which is carted out of the cupboard whenever somebody wants to  make a point. Those who claim dodgy catches are most often at the receiving end of the Spirit’s appearance. Those who show dissent or who celebrate in peculiar ways, like brandishing badly written notes after scoring a century, also feel the wrath of the Spirit. Incidentally, you can ask Denesh Ramdin about both of those.

The implementation of the Spirit of Cricket lends itself to some serious double standards. If it were to be implemented consistently then all batsmen who do not walk should be fined and suspended. Ramdin never appealed for his catch and Broad never said he wasn’t out. The two aren’t very different. It would, however, be impossible to police walking. How does one tell if batsmen really know? Should they all be made to take a lie-detector test at the end of the match? 

It’s easy to see, then, that the whole notion is not only ridiculous, but also hypocritical.

If that notion is eliminated, then what is so wrong with attempting to manipulate circumstances to one’s advantage?

The problem with having certain aspects of a game governed by an unspoken code of morals is that everyone has different morals. Some will say a little bit of cheating (not walking when you edge it through to the keeper, but walking when it’s tonked to midwicket) is okay. Others will argue that not walking is simply playing the situation.

The umpire is there to do a job, give the batsman out. With technology there to assist them, batsmen will be shamed anyway once the evidence goes against them. Yet, the technology is still failing and umpires are still making bad decisions. Some players then simply play to and exploit the rules, the actual written rules. Not the rules which are open to interpretation.

One of the biggest problems is that sport is played by humans. Human beings are inherently flawed in some way or another. To expect that others should live up to one’s own personal code of ethics is rather naïve. To label those who don’t adhere to open interpretations of those ethics as morally corrupt is a grotesque overreaction. 

That a game which is largely ruled by those with only self-interest and few morals themselves is apparently governed by a mythical moral code is preposterous.

Broad might not have been entirely honest, but whoever always is?

In recent memory, there has only been one consistent “walker”, Adam Gilchrist. The rest might say: Walk? Well, maybe if you’re out of petrol.
Antoinette Muller is a freelance writer who writes mainly about soccer and cricket for The Daily Maverick or anybody else who will have her...

Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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