Dhoni’s dubious gesture

Indian captain MS Dhoni has received a mixed reaction to his decision to allow Ian Bell to continue his innings after being run out on the stroke of tea on the third day of the second Test against England.

Opinions are clearly divided on whether it was the right or the wrong thing to do, but those who believe it was the right thing to do had better be consistent in their view and therefore admit that Dhoni’s decision to withdraw the appeal wasn’t his biggest contribution to the nefarious concept – the Spirit of the Game.

Bell’s crimes were, effectively, being lazy, taking things for granted and, finally, looking really stupid. His dismissal wasn’t even ‘dubious’, let alone open to interpretation. So, on that basis, Dhoni’s decision not to appeal against his own dismissal was a far more magnanimous decision than the one to recall Bell.

After all, he was guilty of all the same things – and looked even more stupid than Bell.

All the indications were that Tim Bresnan would bowl and away swinger when he ran in to Dhoni. If a bowler is getting a bit of movement through the air, then nine times out of ten he’ll look to shape the ball away from a fresh right hander and look for an outside edge.

Bresnan held the ball for an away swinger (or at least Dhoni thought he did) and set up for the away swinger in his ‘gather’. So Dhoni took it for granted that his first ball would be an away swinger. And played no shot. And was lbw. Horribly and embarrassingly.

But Dhoni did claim that Bresnan’s deceit was not in the Spirit of the Game, or sulk and ask to be reinstated. He walked off the field and accepted not just the umpire’s decision, but his own, blatantly stupid and careless mistake.

England captain Andrew Strauss, however, was having none of it. So off he stomped (behind his coach, Andy Flower) to the Indian dressing room to ask them to be ‘gentlemen’ and withdraw their appeal. For whatever reason (and preventing a restless, baying crowd from losing control seems the most likely) India did as they were asked. It set a horribly dangerous example to school and club cricketers the world over. If you think your decision was ‘unfair’ or ‘not your fault’, you can appeal and get it overturned. What rubbish.

Remember the last ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa? Graeme Smith, crippled by cramp and unable to run, requested a runner. His opposite number, Strauss, refused – based on the letter of the law. Was it in the Spirit of the Game?

When the game eventually does turn full circle and bite Strauss on his backside, it’s going to take a fierce lump out of it.

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