Tendulkar shows that walking hasn’t completely disappeared from cricket

Walking from the crease has always been an unwritten rule in cricketIndia’s favourite son Sachin Tendulkar has re-ignited the debate over whether it is acceptable to stand your ground and wait for the umpire’s decision on caught behind appeals and other close run decisions.

In India’s final group game yesterday in Chennai, the leading run scorer of all time in both forms of the game was caught behind off an inside edge off the bowling of West Indies fast bowler Ravi Rampaul. The Indian star duly proceeded to turn and walk off the pitch; it was as if the crowd had just been switched off. Subsequent replaying of the dismissal didn’t show anything conclusive to suggest there had been an edge, not that it mattered, as Tendulkar didn’t even wait for the umpire’s decision and made his way back the pavilion.

This 2011 World Cup has also seen other instances of controversy such as Sri Lankan batsman Mahela Jayawardene standing his ground when he felt that a catch may have been grounded by Nathan McCullum. The decisions went to the TV match official and he ruled that Jayawardene should be adjudged Not Out due to the inconclusive nature of the replays.

Over the past few years the ‘Should a batsmen walk?’ debate has gone from one extreme to the other. In years gone by it was a common occurrence for a batsmen to walk when he knows he is out, but without the extensive television scrutiny of today, there could have been countless episodes of dishonesty that aren’t remembered.

The MCC have called for schools and clubs to do more to uphold the etiquette of the game, much like the unwritten rules that are strictly followed by golfers. The’ Spirit of Cricket’ campaign aims to teach young cricketers that the game they enjoy playing so much owes a lot not only to the rules, but to the spirit of the game. It also encourages respect for the match officials, the game should never descend to the lowly heights of football with regard to the treatment of referees. However there have been incidents, especially recently, that suggest that cricket is heading in that direction.

There are some players that do walk when they know they are out. Ex-Australian wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist was renowned for leaving the crease after edging the ball behind. This isn’t to say that he didn’t play the game as hard as he could, every time he stepped on the field he was giving 100% for his Captain and his Country.

There’s an argument that implies standing your ground is perfectly acceptable. ‘Walking’ is not in the rules of the game. The rules dictate that a batsman may only be given out by the umpire pending an appeal by the fielding team. The batsman is well within his right to stand his ground and wait for the umpire’s decision.

In the modern cricketing climate, the decision of whether to walk or stand has become a lot harder for a player to decide. He could be making his debut for his country and the rest of his career could depend on whether he walks or not. He could go on to make 10000 Test Match runs if he’s given not out but if he walks he may never be selected again. These are the stakes for professional cricketer’s, trying to make a name for themselves in the modern game.

The introduction of the Reviewing system has revolutionised cricket and cut out the majority of umpiring errors that used to be so frustrating. The standard of umpiring across the world is extremely good but we must remember that they are only human. Umpires make mistakes just like players do. The advantage of the review system is that it eliminates obvious umpiring errors and this can only be good for the game.

It is good to see that the etiquette of cricket still lives on but we shouldn’t blame players for standing their ground on fifty-fifty decisions that could help win their country a match or make a difference to the rest of their career. Hopefully, due to the Review system there shouldn’t be a need for this debate for much longer and the decisions that are made, or not made, are the right ones.