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It’s not cricket

Ezra Stuart

It’s not cricket

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Unsportsmanlike, unacceptable and inexcusable.
The action of young Jamaican fast bowler Christopher Powell in dismissing Barbadian opener Craig St Hill for backing up too far at the non-striker’s end during last Saturday’s opening day of the third round match of the ongoing Regional Under-19 Tournament is not one to be proud of.
Neither should the similar incident, which happened a few weeks ago in a LIME Under-15 match between St Leonard’s and The St Michael School, be encouraged.
Having watched the dismissal of St Hill on television later in the night, I didn’t think the batsman was seeking an advantage. It wasn’t like a run chase was on or the batsman was desperately trying to gain a run to get a tail-end batsman off strike.
St Hill was merely doing what nearly every batsman at the non-striker’s end does in terms of backing up. I won’t put it down to carelessness because he only drifted out of his crease as the bowler was about to go into his delivery stride. But instead of making that jump before delivering the ball, Powell saw an opportunity to run the batsman out and broke the stumps without any warning – not that he was obliged to do so.
Whether or not Powell’s action contravened the recently amended laws for such a situation by the International Cricket Council (ICC) is immaterial. The act simply wasn’t in the spirit of the game and coming in just the seventh over the match, clearly did not set the type of tone for the contest. And as his five-wicket haul in Barbados’ disappointing display indicates, Powell doesn’t have to resort to such actions to reap success. I am shocked that the appeal by the Jamaicans wasn’t withdrawn by the captain and that the umpire gave the batsman out as it looked as if the bowler’s back foot had already landed.
But if I were the Jamaica manager or coach, I would now sit Powell down and remind him of the sporting gesture of his legendary compatriot Courtney Walsh many years ago.
Faced with a situation against Pakistan which could possibly have earned a victory for the West Indies when he had a chance to run out Abdul Qadir, Walsh opted not to dislodge the bails.
That is why Walsh, now the West Indies Under-19 team manager, is held in such high esteem universally and admired for his gentlemanliness. Walsh set an example in courteousness that should be followed by all and sundry.
Then we had the unconventional situation where the Jamaicans failed to take the field after lunch from the pavilion but chose to do so from the western end of the ground. This is where the match referee must step in and inform the team’s management of what is expected in terms of protocol.
But there has been constant tinkering with the rules of cricket with the implementation of some regulations by the ICC.
The upshot is that cricket is now no longer a gentleman’s game. What will happen next? Will fielders start appealing any time a batsman picks up the ball after playing a defensive shot? Will the fielders seek to run out a batsman who, though not attempting a run, moves out of his crease before the ball is considered “dead”?
Will batsmen go for an extra run after a ball, thrown by a fielder in attempting a run-out, bounces off their body? We all know that there is an element of flexibility and relaxation in the rules which cricketers don’t seek to exploit, all in the spirit of the game.
However, it appears some players will still go to all lengths to achieve success, including using some bowling actions that in the good old days were regarded as throwing or, in Bajan parlance, pelting.
But the blame must be placed firmly in the ICC’s lap for allowing 15 degrees leeway to accommodate what used to be illegal bowling. Umpires now stand at square leg, reluctant to no-ball bowlers who blatantly hurl deliveries at batsmen and get them out to boot. Still, we are told the umpires are the sole judges of fair and unfair play.
We also have a regulation in the Under-19 Tournament that limits a fast bowler to six overs in a two-hour session regardless of the match situation.
Consequently, batsmen are given a respite, as was the case when Barbados had the Leewards reeling at 16 for five after the first 12 overs in the second-round game at Bayfield. While the intent of this rule is to protect the fast bowlers early in their careers, one wonders if the day will come when it would also be mandatory for a tired batsman to retire after scoring a century in humid, energy-sapping conditions.
Finally, but not surprisingly, I feel vindicated after hearing the manager of the Trinidad and Tobago team expressing disappointment at the small size of the dressing rooms at Friendship on the Midwicket radio programme after I was taken to task for similar sentiments.
I just hope that the officials at the grounds that have been chosen to stage matches would ensure that the facilities are up to an acceptable level and that the Barbados Cricket Association would offer all the necessary support, especially where additional covers may be needed.