Spirit of the game!

Vaibhav Arora

With Suraj Randiv resorting to ‘unethical’ tactics to prevent Virender Sehwag from reaching a thoroughly deserved century during a tri-series ODI in Dambulla, the debate of sportsmanship and fair play has once again come to the fore.

The Indian master batsman was on 99 with India needing just a run to win the game when Randiv decided to bowl a deliberate no-ball. Although Sehwag stepped out and smashed the ball out of the park, the six did not count as the game was considered complete as soon as the bowler had overstepped.

The Sri Lankan cricket board handed a one-match ban to Randiv for his unsporting behaviour and fined Tillakaratne Dilshan for instigating the bowler to bowl the no-ball as an aftermath of media bashing across the globe.

Although it was a deplorable and condemnable act, it was not the first time that a team showed such shoddy tactics in the gentleman’s game.

One such infamous incident was the underarm bowling episode that took place almost three decades back, but is still a point of contention between the nations involved.

New Zealand were playing Australia in the third of the five-match ODI series in 1981 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The Kiwis needed six runs to win off the last ball when Oz skipper Greg Chappell told bowler Trevor Chappell to deliver the last ball underarm so that it will roll along the ground and leave the batsman Brian McKechnie absolutely no chance of hitting it in the air. The bowler followed his captain’s advice and the rest, as they say, is history.

Although the bowler did not flout any ICC rules by indulging in such an act, it was widely criticised as being against sportsmanship.

The game assumed all the more significance as the series was tied 1-1 with New Zealand winning the first game while Australia had made a strong comeback to clinch the second encounter.

Bruce Edgar, who scored a tremendous ton and remained unbeaten, had his effort completely overlooked by the freakish events witnessed in the tie.

Although Australia won the game, they were jeered off the field by the large gathering of spectators.

Amazingly, McKechnie, who quite understandably threw his bat in disgust after the final delivery, was condemned for bringing the game into disrepute!

The on-field incident on the day also figured in the political arena with the then Kiwi Prime Minister Rob Muldoon describing it as the most disgusting event in the history of cricket and an act of cowardice.
His Australian counterpart, Malcolm Fraser, too, condemned the incident as contrary to the game’s traditions.

The International Cricket Council rightly stepped in and banned underarm bowling for being against the spirit of the game.

Years after the incident, a member of the New Zealand team, Warren Lees, recounted the fateful day. He recalled how there was deathly silence in the Kiwi dressing room long after the game, which was suddenly shattered by Mark Burgess, another member of the squad, destroying a tea cup.

In 2005, more than 24 years after the incident, Glenn McGrath mocked the episode by pretending to bowl an underarm delivery to Kyle Mills during the first ever T20 international between Australia and New Zealand. The crowd applauded and umpire Billy Bowden, too, jokingly showed the bowler a mock red card.

Jokes apart, such incidents do not do any good for the game and ICC should take strong measures to make sure that cricket is not allowed to be disgraced by the actions of a few people.


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