Defining spirit: A player’s integrity should not be questioned for something that is entirely in the rules

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Defining spirit: A player’s integrity should not be questioned for something that is entirely in the rules

By Shahid Judge

In the past few years, the cricket rule book has often been opened to determine the legitimacy of specific types of dismissals. Of late, a wicket by the method of the run-out at the non-striker’s end has been fairly frequent. On Monday, the book was cracked open again.

When Sri Lanka took on Bangladesh in a round robin match of the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup in New Delhi on November 6, Angelo Mathews became the first player in international cricket to be “timed out.”

The timed out rule declares that a batter is out if the player, if at the striker’s end, fails to appear at the crease and be ready to receive a delivery within a pre-determined period of time. At the cricket World Cup, it is two minutes. Mathews, due to a faulty helmet, failed to be ready in that time. Bangladesh captain Shakib Al Hasan appealed for a timed out dismissal, and the umpires upheld that decision.

The cricket universe, both online and offline, erupted with opinions supporting or criticising of Al Hasan’s decision. As it so often has when it comes to rare types of dismissals, the “spirit of the game” argument came into question.

It did so when Ashwin Ravichandran dismissed Jos Buttler at the non-striker’s end in an Indian Premier League match, and when Deepti Sharma ran out the non-striker Charlie Dean in a One-Day International between India and England last year.

Yet that argument holds no water. If a dismissal was completed – however it may have occurred – within the laws of the sport, that is all that should matter.

Going by the statistics, Mathews has a strong batting average of 58 against Bangladesh. Al Hasan saw the opportunity to give his side an advantage, which was presented on a platter by the Sri Lankan’s tardiness.

A news report published on November 8 said that one of the umpires during the match, Richard Illingworth, had even warned Mathews that he was running out of time when he came out to bat.

Of course, you may spare a thought for Mathews, who may have been ready had his helmet strap not broken at an inopportune moment. Just as one could feel sympathy for a batter who was, for example, run out after a strap of the pad came undone while the player was running between wickets.

But in both cases, the player is out.

Perhaps more than discuss Al Hasan’s integrity using the “spirit of the game” argument, there is a need to praise the Bangladesh skipper – or perhaps the unnamed teammate who Al Hasan claimed had informed him of the rule – for his knowledge of the various types of dismissals available in cricket.

As a captain, there is a responsibility to ensure you provide your team with every possible chance of a win, as long as it is within the rules of the game. Be that running-out a non-striker or timing out a batter who is late to the crease. If it is in the rules, it is there to be applied.

In this era of cricket where technology is available and used at will, there is perhaps a need to fine-tune those instruments to check for time. There was a difference of opinion as fourth umpire Adrian Holdstock asserted that Mathews had started to have problems with the helmet beyond the two-minute mark, while the Sri Lankan uploaded a video on social media, that showed him signalling for a new helmet with 10 seconds left on the clock.

Al Hasan was awarded the “Player of the Match” award for his crucial bowling and batting performances, but that was overshadowed by the nature of Mathews’ dismissal.

An entirely legal dismissal that is well within the laws of the game. That Al Hasan and his Bangladesh teammates had the knowledge of the cricket rulebook, showed their respect for the sport and their spirit of the game.

Fun fact of the week: As Virat Kohli equalled Sachin Tendulkar’s record 49 One Day International centuries on Sunday in the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup match against South Africa, he also became the fastest to reach the milestone. Kohli reached the milestone in 277 innings while Tendulkar reached there in 452 innings.

Here's a recap of the top stories from this past week

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