Mon | Nov 12, 2018

Tony Becca | The two sides of cricket

Published:Sunday | January 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM
West Indies Under-19 captain Emmanuel Stewart.

Cricket, it is said, mostly by those who love it, is the sport of life, the sport that teaches some important values and principles of life.

Cricket is also the sport that encourages one to play according to the rules of the game, which frowns on anyone who does not, and which, at the same time, encourages, at certain times, that one should, in the interest fair of play, ignore the rules.

From the beginning of time, there really have been, in cricket, two kinds of rules. There have been the rules as set out in black and white which are expected to be followed to the letter, and there are the rules, not printed in black and white but expected to be followed in the "spirit of the game".

Over the years, that has been the cause of confusion as some people recognise the "spirit of the game" in some situations, but in other situations, such as their own circumstances, or that of their team's, the cold, hard facts of the rules are what guide their action, or appeal.

Recently, at the Under-19 World Cup tournament in New Zealand, the West Indies, playing in their second match, appealed for "obstruction" against a South African batman, and after some five minutes delay, he was given out, and rightly so, according to the rules.

Based on the television, batsman Jiveshan Pillay had edged the ball on to his pad, the ball rolled towards the wicket, the batsman stood over the ball until it had stopped rolling, he then picked it up and tossed it to the wicketkeeper, Emmanuel Stewart, and a few West Indies players appealed.

Rule 37.1 states that "either batsman is out obstructing the field if, except in the circumstances of 37.2, and while the ball is in play, he/she wilfully attempts to obstruct or distract the fielding side by word or action".

Rule 37.2 states that "a batsman shall not be out obstructing the field if obstruction or distraction is accidental; or obstruction is in order to avoid injury.

According to the rules, Pillay was out. No doubt about that.

Stewart has been blamed for appealing, or as the captain, for upholding the appeal.

Fortunately, he was not blamed by the South Africans, but unfortunately, by others, especially by those who believe that despite Stewart's age and the pressure of the occasion, such behaviour cannot and should not be condoned.

The action of appealing under those circumstances, especially remembering that the West Indies were somewhat in trouble at the time, and also remembering that they were involved in a similar incident in 2016 when they won the competition, really left a bad taste in the mouth, at least in my mouth.

The incident in 2016 may have been slightly differently for as Ian Bishop has said, on that occasion, the batsman may have been attempting to gain an advantage by backing up too far.




Such actions, however, although they are within the rules, probably gave the impression to some fans that the West Indies had to win, win, and at all or whatever cost.

The last incident, especially, was very unfortunate, and the ICC should look at the rule, and others, which can lead to confusion, or problems, with some players abiding by the strict interpretation of the rules while others play to the "spirit of the game", and especially whenever it suits them to do so.

It was, however, pleasing to hear Stewart saying, after the game, "Moving forward, if I am in such a situation, I'd withdraw the decision to go upstairs", and also to hear Raynard van Tonder, the South Africa captain, saying, "As it happened, the team wasn't really happy, but if you think about it, that is the rule. We made a mistake and we paid for it."

The South Africans really did not pay for it, however, not after a brilliant innings of 99 not out by Wandile Makwetu lifted them to 282 for eight off 50 overs with 58 runs coming off three overs in the last 10 during which they scored 120 runs before dismissing the West Indies for 202 and denying them of a chance of successfully defending the title.

There have been many instances of the West Indian way of playing cricket, of their many attempts to play "in the spirit of the game", and maybe it would be good if, as many have suggested, the West Indies captain expressed his regrets to his South African counterpart, and to Pillay, and for West Indies Cricket to do likewise to the United Cricket Board of South Africa.

That would be a "big shot" from the former Under-19 champions, and from the former world champions, especially in memory of Nelson Mandela, South Africa's late distinguished president, and the man who, in 1991, at his home in Soweto and in the presence of Garry Sobers and Sunil Gavaskar, said that West Indies cricket was one of the things that kept him alive while he was in prison for 27 years, most of the time, 18 years to be exact, on Robben Island.

Cricket is a game like every other game. It is played, especially at the international level, to win. As the saying goes, however, some things are "not cricket", and what happened at the Bay Oval in Taraunga recently was simply "not cricket."

And although it was a part of the rules, it certainly was not "in the spirit of the game."