Inzi, Moin, sporting spirit and all that obscure stuff

Sporting spirit: Inzamam-ul-Haq’s whinge about his Obstructing-the-field dismissal at Peshawar divided opinion across the world. Some panned him for his lack of awareness of the game’s rules, while others – including several former Indian cricketers – supported his contention that the Indian appeal had been less than sporting. But while Inzamam deserved some sympathy in the wake of what had happened to him against England at Faisalabad, Moin Khan – his former team-mate – stepped in to win the hypocrisy stakes. The man who once caught Sourav Ganguly on the second bounce in a Test match not only questioned Rahul Dravid’s integrity, but went on to suggest that Ganguly would have behaved different. About as rich as the Australians imploring players from other nations to “walk” when out.

— Dileep Premachandran on cricinfo

Moin caught Saurav on second bounce — the umpire (that blind V K Ramaswamy — perhaps that Tamil comedian with the same name could have made a better decision) deemed that it came of the short leg’s leg (my foot!). There was so much dust puffed up by the ball striking the turf and it took 11 dishonest players and 2 blind umpires to make that abhorrent decision.
Perhaps it would be prudent to stop Moin from writing, since he’s been suffering from the foot-in-mouth disease all the time. Perhaps, he too, like Jayawant Lele, has mastered the art of walking on one foot! Constant and consistent garbage — he should soon become the editor of TOI Sport!

Australia just whipped SL today, after being 10-3 in 3.0 overs. Good job, Ponting and Symonds. Murali missed his 100, with the ball though (10-0-99-0) [See here].

As for “Australians and walking”, it’s a big joke. When Gilchrist walked so (in)famously in the World Cup semi-final (I still don’t understand what SL were doing in the semis after losing to Kenya), no one spoke to him in the dressing room till the match concluded. I remember him saying that he wished that someone would at least abuse him! Secondly, people made a big hue and cry appreciating Gillespie (or probably Kasprowicz) walking in the last India series. Give me a break! You don’t need people like Venkatesh Prasad or Kaz to walk — they’d get out anyways. The bottomline is that “selective walking” is very dangerous. It can trick umpires, i.e., if Lara, who has a reputation of walking, does not walk after a nick, chances are that the umpire would not give him out. It’s better to consistently not walk instead. After all, why are umpires there for?

Back to the Inzi issue, Osman Saimuddin echoed many of my own feelings in his column:

Inzamam’s reaction leaves a bad taste

Osman Samiuddin

February 10, 2006

If you haven’t seen the incident referred to, then google.com has a video clip of it

Inzamam-ul-Haq makes his way off after being given out at Peshawar © AFP

It should first be clear that, by obstructing the field at Peshawar, Inzamam-ul-Haq was out.

Law 37 (1) states that a batsman is obstructing the field if he willfully obstructs or distracts the opposing side by word or action. It is also obstruction if a batsman willfully, and without the consent of the fielding side, strikes the ball with his bat or person – other than the hand not holding the bat – after the ball has touched a fielder. And Law 37 (2), on accidental obstruction, states it is for either umpire to decide whether any obstruction is willful or not. Inzamam patting the ball back appeared willful and, in any case, both umpires consulted each other before ruling him out. That incident and its aftermath, however, revealed two disturbing aspects.

The first was that Inzamam wasn’t aware of the law. Given the abundance of rules and subsections governing the game, it is futile – though not unfair – to expect captains to be intimately aware of their minutiae. At least, knowledge of those concerning dismissals is prerequisite for every captain and player. Granted, it is an uncommon mode of dismissal – he was only the third man in ODI history to be dismissed in such a manner – but rarity should not justify ignorance.

Inzamam wrote in his column for The News: “Such not very common laws need to be explained properly and in detail.” Is it not incumbent upon a player to know them himself? And if they need explaining to one with a 100-plus Tests and 350 ODIs, in a career spanning nearly 16 years, it reveals more about the player than the laws. That Inzamam should have known the law brooks no argument, defense or justification.

It wasn’t the first time either that he has been caught unawares; in Pakistan’s seven-wicket win at Wellington, in 2003-04, he shunned the extra half hour on the fourth day 28 runs from victory. Showers and inconsistent weather were expected on the final day and the decision bemused and shocked observers. To Pakistan’s horror, play was delayed on the final morning but, luckily, only for an hour. The win was duly completed. In quite a different way, that situation also reflected a similarly dangerous lack of awareness of situation and circumstance.

But more regrettable than his ignorance are comments in the aftermath which only compound his folly. By publicly accusing India of acting outside the spirit of cricket he raised a question, of sportsmanship and spirit of the game, when it needn’t have been invoked. The match was delicately poised in favour of Pakistan, Inzamam’s was a crucial wicket and India needed it. The mode of dismissal was legitimate and the appeal as sporting or unsporting as any for an edge, leg-before, stumping or run-out. Incidentally, the appeal was also as genuine as the one Pakistan made when Sachin Tendulkar was run out at Eden Gardens in 1999, another dismissal that sparked debate about the spirit of cricket.

Tendulkar appeared to have grounded his bat before colliding with Shoaib Akhtar inadvertently, causing him to lift his bat when the bails were dislodged and being given out; Pakistan could have withdrawn the appeal given the accidental collision but chose not to, which was their right. In Inzamam’s case, the decision didn’t even involve considerations of a collision as a loophole.

Ultimately both decisions were correct according to law and that, not ensuing debate in both cases about sportsmanship, is what matters. Moin Khan, who played in that match, called Inzamam’s dismissal deplorable, citing it as an example of India’s desire to win by hook or by crook and launching a scathing personal attack on Rahul Dravid. Conveniently, Moin forgets Tendulkar’s dismissal. Was appealing for it then not outside the spirit of the game as well? In a realm as grey as ethics, such accusations are damaging and unnecessary and though they hold less significance than Inzamam’s, Moin’s words are incendiary, misjudged and possibly hypocritical.

Worse still, Inzamam further implied it could affect relations between the two sides. Mostly, this series has been played in a cordial spirit, aside from some niggles at Faisalabad. Inzamam has thus not only made an issue from nothing, within the context of India and Pakistan, he has acted irresponsibly. As captain of a side in a series where so much is always at stake, where words must still be uttered cautiously, his comments are unnecessarily provocative; for a ravenous media on either side of the border not strangers to hyperbole and context-removal, they are gold-dust.

Already India has been compelled to issue a counter-statement, and although they have correctly called for the issue to be put to rest, it is unlikely that it will so easily. Inzamam claimed he has, “asserted on my boys not to make much of the Peshawar incident … however, in my personal opinion the appeal was not made in a sporting manner. Instead, it just might have left a bad taste in the mouth.”

How, though, can he expect his side not to make much of it when he himself has already done so? The bad taste has already been left in the mouth and it is not the Indians’ doing.

Wonder if Dravid should have appealed against Shoaib Malik in yesterday’s match, for the same reason! Guess public pressure/media made him decide otherwise. Gavaskar made a good point saying that Indian cricketers should be allowed to at least write, if not talk to the media, since it gives Pakistan an unnecessary advantage (of manipulating public opinion?).

Let these issues take the backseat. More cricket, please!!

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