Genuine sportsmanship seems to be a dwindling facet of world sport. It’s not surprising given the competitive fire of top sporting organizations and athletes yearning for the sweet taste of victory, along with the allure of ever rising financial incentives.
In an era where controversy reigns and athletes repeatedly push the boundaries of what we may perceive as morally fair and just, events pertaining the complete opposite seem to stand out like a sore thumb.
That’s exactly what happened on day two of the ongoing women’s test between Australia and India. In an innings that had me reminiscing of my own uninspiring but gritty playstyle, Punam Raut had grinded her way to 36 off 164 balls. Her 165th delivery seemed fairly innocuous; a prod forward against left-arm spinner Sophie Molineux that seemed to miss the outside edge on the way through to Alyssa Healy.
To say the Australians raised half an appeal would be generous, and it seemed as if the umpire had no real intention of raising the deadly finger. Yet before that could happen, Raut had trudged off on her own accord, much to the amazement of plenty in the cricketing world.
Would I have done it? No. Particular not after the hard work undertaken to get to that point. But maybe that shows the difference between us as human beings. Growing up I learnt that umpiring/referee errors were a part of any sport, and that it’s just something you needed to deal with. Knowing full well I’d cop a howler or two at some point, I was never about throwing away a piece of good fortune.
Recalling my brief playing days, there’s a reasonable list of memories where I was on the receiving end of a questionable umpiring decision. But what about the times I didn’t walk but knew full well I was out? I literally cannot remember one. I’m sure it happened, it’s just my memory chooses to conveniently leave out times where my moral compass may have skewed.
There was one time where I’m sure the umpire made up for a questionable decision against me seven days earlier. One Sunday he gave me out LBW where, as a left-handed batter facing a right arm off-spinner over the wicket, I was sure the ball pitched outside leg, hit me outside leg as I attempted to turn it around the corner, and wasn’t turning back enough to hit the stumps anyway.
The next weekend, having made my way to about 40 odd, I was sure I was plumb LBW to a right arm medium. You know, the ones as a batter where you just feel out. Anyway, the same umpire from the week before gives me a reprieve. Next ball I get a single and make my way to the non-strikers end. It’s here, during play, that he comes up to me and apologises for the previous weekend’s dismissal, saying he ‘wasn’t feeling well’ and that he’d ‘got the process wrong’. I’m of the attitude that umpires should never admit a mistake or apologise to a player, whether that be off the field or during play. Thanks anyway though because within a couple of hours I was raising the bat for a rare century.
My whole point is that in cricket, like life in general, we undertake our fair share of good and bad luck. Most of us tend to ride that wave and let nature take its course. Would we all love to see more Punam Raut’s in the world? Absolutely. But I don’t begrudge anyone or any cricketer from trying to make the most of what’s been given or put in front of them. That is, unless you’re Stuart Broad and you’ve edged one straight to first slip off Ashton Agar. Then you f*****g walk!