I'm stumped by cricket hypocrisy
The West Indies youth team is currently in the quarter-finals of the ICC Under-19 competition. Their victory against Zimbabwe to push them into the top eight has been overshadowed by that controversial last wicket when pacer Keemo Paul ran out the non-striker, who was backing up too far.
The cricket world is divided on this issue. People like Australian coach Daren Lehman and former New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming have both come out swinging against the West Indies. The runout was labelled "disgraceful", and it has been suggested that the West Indies ought to be embarrassed at the way victory was achieved. There are those, on the other hand, who saw absolutely nothing wrong with what the youngster did. I go further. He ought to be commended for having the presence of mind to do what he did.
Those of us who insist that there was some breach of the spirit of the game need to get with the times. Cricket, when it was first conceptualised, was a pastime for the English aristocrats who saw it as a pleasant way to pass the long summers. The 'gentleman's game' was indeed popularised by people who were called just that: gentlemen. It was an amateur sport then, and at the end of the game, people would shake hands, everyone had a good laugh, and then headed for the nearest pub.
That was a long time ago. Cricket is now a billion-dollar industry. The competition for places at the top is fierce because the really good ones, especially since the advent of 20/20, are really well paid. As time advances, the younger generation wouldn't necessarily be aware of those little time-honoured nuances of the game. Why should they? They will see cricket as any other game. One where they play as hard as possible to win, and may the devil take the hindmost.
Keemo Paul simply saw an opportunity to run somebody out in a high-profile match with a lot at stake and went for it. The cricket rule says that a batsman backing up too far can be run out by the bowler as long as he wasn't in his delivery stride. Keemo Paul clearly knew the rules. He never at any time attempted to wind up to deliver. He simply ran through and took the bails off. I was impressed.
Those who say that the batsmen should have been warned are talking fluff. Why does a bowler need to warn a batsman that he intends to try getting him out in a particular way. Does a fast bowler warn the batsman that he is going to bowl a bouncer? Does a leg-spinner warn the batsman that he is going to bowl the googly? Why is the running out of a non-striker backing up too far seen in such a negative light as opposed to any other form of dismissal?
Some say the fact that the bat was still on the line means that the non-striker was not seeking an unfair advantage because he wasn't yards down the pitch. But so what? There are 10 or 11 dismissals in cricket. When I as a fielder catch the batsman or run him out when he is turning for two, does it matter whether he is gaining an advantage or not? I'm simply trying to get him out, and one way of getting him out is to break the bails if the non-striker is backing up too far. Why is that seen any differently from any other mode of dismissal?
Those who feel the West Indies did wrong should direct their anger at the ICC. Get them to change the rules. But as long as the rules allow you to Mankad a batsman, we shouldn't frown when it happens.
I can't be accused of cheating if what I do is well within the rules. If the attitude of young Keemo Paul is consistent with this younger generation, maybe, just maybe, there is hope for the Caribbean team.
- Orville Higgins is a sportscaster and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.