The Spirit of Cricket

Ian Bell and M. S. Dhoni

Ian Bell (right) shakes Sri Sreesanth's hand after losing his wicket.

A game of Test cricket can last up to five days. Each of those days is made up of three sessions of two hours each, split by two breaks—the lunch and the tea intervals. On the third day of the recently concluded Test match between England and India at Trent Bridge in Nottinghamshire, Ian Bell and Eoin (pronounced YOU-un) Morgan were batting for England. On the last ball before the tea interval, Morgan hit the ball toward the boundary’s edge, and the batsmen ran three runs. Praveen Kumar, the Indian fielder, dived and pulled the ball back from the edge, and threw the ball back. Bell thought the ball had gone over the boundary (an automatic four runs) and that the ball was “dead” (in baseball terms, the play had been called) and began to walk off the ground for tea. However, the ball hadn’t left the field of play and the the umpires hadn’t called for the tea interval. When the Indian fielders thus broke the stumps at Bell’s end, and appealed to the umpires that Bell had been “run out” (i.e. in baseball terms, not touching base) technically Bell was out. The umpires correctly called the situation, and much to his astonishment and embarrassment, Bell was out.

During the tea interval (it lasts twenty minutes), the England captain and manager went to the Indians’ dressing (locker) room and asked the Indian captain, M. S. Dhoni, to withdraw their appeal. Bell hadn’t been trying to take a run, they said; he’d simply assumed, wrongly, that play had concluded. After some deliberation, the Indians withdrew their appeal, and when play resumed, so did Bell’s innings. Boos from the crowd turned to cheers; Bell admitted that he’d been stupid to think the play was over; Dhoni was lauded by everyone for honoring the spirit of cricket over the letter of the law; and a potential shadow over the rest of the series was lifted.

If the above paragraphs are incomprehensible to baseball fans, then I (Martin) hope you’ll get one message loud and clear. Cricket can be as crafty and cut-and-thrust as baseball; but, like baseball, it also can have a grace and sense of fairness that separates sleight-of-hand from boneheadedness. As it turned out, Bell didn’t score many more runs after the incident, and it had very little bearing on the eventual outcome of the game. Nonetheless, the game of cricket was enhanced, as was the series between these two teams. India lost badly, but in this way, they won.


About rightoffthebatbook

Co-author of the book, "Right Off the Bat: Baseball, Cricket, Literature, and Life"
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