Ricky should have walked

23 March 2011

Written by: Ben Waterworth

Australia suffered its first defeat in a World Cup match since 1999 on Saturday night, losing to Pakistan by four wickets.

However, the Aussies’ first World Cup loss in 34 matches wasn’t the biggest issue that arose from the game.

During the Australian innings, captain Ricky Ponting clearly edged a delivery from Mohammad Hafeez into the gloves of wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal. Both men appealed enthusiastically, almost certain they had their man.

Ponting held his ground.

Umpire Marais Erasmus deemed the Australian skipper hadn’t hit the ball and gave him not out. Inevitably, the Pakistan team requested a review of the decision and video replays confirmed the number three batsman did in fact make contact with the ball.

Ponting surely can’t claim he was uncertain as to whether he hit the ball, as the replay showed he got a lot more than a faint edge. In cricketing terms, he ‘hit the cover off it’.

Perhaps the pressure on the captain to escape his form slump played a big part in his decision not to walk (give himself out). But for the sake of the game, he probably should have.

As cricket continues to develop, there seems to be progressively less etiquette amongst players. For some reason, it’s seen as unacceptable to walk as a batsman because you are disadvantaging your teammates, whereas it should be seen the other way around.

But walking, due to an increasing number of dishonest individuals, has seemingly become just another part of the game.

Everyone remembers the drama that surrounded Adam Gilchrist’s decision to walk during the semi-final of the 2003 ICC World Cup. But as the ex-wicketkeeper explained in his book Walking the Walk: ‘I felt it was time that players made a stand to take back responsibility for the game’.

However, Ponting memorably stated after the Gilchrist incident that he ‘won’t be encouraging players to walk’.

The problem with modern day cricket is that too much emphasis is being placed on winning. The price of this is ultimately the deterioration of the heart and soul of the game.

Somewhere along the line, it seems as though some cricketers, during their development, have stopped playing for the enjoyment or the love of the game and, therefore, in the spirit of the game.

As salaries have increased, it seems as though some players have forgotten why they started to playing.

Perhaps money plays a role in some players’ refusal to walk as individuals care more about their averages, which affects their pay, rather than the reputation of the game itself.

Proof that some players disregard the spirit of the game for money is evident in the Pakistan match-fixing saga, which resulted in Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt each receiving bans from the ICC.

Perhaps in future, Ponting should create a new name or image for himself as the Australian captain and try to reinvigorate cricket as a game for gentlemen, where an honest man won’t be scrutinized for walking.

However Ponting is not alone on this either. Dishonesty has become a regular occurrence in cricket with fielders claiming very questionable catches.

The most noteworthy example of this is Sourav Ganguly who infamously claimed a blatantly obvious bump ball, which didn’t even come off the bat during the 2003 World Cup Final. Ganguly threw the ball up in the air in an attempt to convince umpire Steve Bucknor he had caught the ball. Bucknor, however, was not at all moved by his ploy.

In years to come, perhaps a bit of honesty would make the game less reliant on video reviews and would see cricket return to being a game of class, where sportsmanship triumphs.

Jake D’Amato is a second year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. This is his second piece for upstart.