The Question Of Ian Bell’s Run Out

By now, the freak incident is moot. M.S. Dhoni, bowing to good decency, excellent tea, a crowd baying for Indian blood, and Andy Flower and Andy Strauss’ knocking on his door, decided to withdraw an appeal for Ian Bell’s run out. When Bell finally did get out, India were already well on their way to losing the match and this game will not be remembered (one hopes) as the Sydney Test is.

But let’s talk about it just a little bit. Technically — that is, according to the rules of the game — Ian Bell should have been given out. He left his crease before the umpire declared dead ball and he was out of his crease when his bails were taken off. In his defense, people say: a) the spirit of the game should take precedent; Bell obviously wasn’t running for a fourth run and shouldn’t be penalized for being under the wrong impression; b) Bell may have seriously thought the ball was dead because Praveen Kumar sat on his ass for a good three seconds at the boundary rope, implying a ‘4’ had just been hit; and c) even the umpires were looking like they were headed off for a nice cuppa.

In India’s defense, people say: a) Don’t ever leave your crease until you’re absolutely certain you should, a lesson every schoolchild knows; b) at a crucial moment, Eoin Morgan can be seen, rooted in his crease, say something to Bell who then, already halfway down the pitch, suddenly stops, looks to his right in a bit of shock, before ambling on his way. That suggests that Morgan knew what was on, and tried to warn Bell, who chose to neglect his plea; and c) Bell’s intent — or, rather, lack of it — doesn’t really matter. When a batsman is out ‘backing up’ — that is, when a bowler touches a ball on its way to the stumps — no one has any issue with the dismissal. It’s just accepted.

So where does this leave us? Cricket is an exceptionally complex game, and it’s made all the more complicated by an expectation of fairness not apparent in the law’s letters. Moreover, no matter how specific the rules, there are always exceptions, which can’t be fairly adjudicated in the heat of the moment. I just finished a scratch game over the weekend wherein a fielder caught a ball, stayed in control, then turned around and touched a 15-foot tall fence (around the park) to steady himself. Is that out? Is that six? Is that six-and-out? The fielder said — and quite rightly, I think — that the dismissal was fair, since in real life, only the location of his feet would have mattered. The other side countered that he could take real life and shove it up…well, you get the drift.

So how was the Trent Bridge conflict decided? The Golden Rule, it seems: Indian team members asked themselves how they would have reacted if Laxman or Dravid had suffered a similar fate, and they concluded they didn’t like it one bit. It’s interesting that when Bell was asked the same question — what would you guys have done if you were in the Indians’ shoes — he said it was difficult to say. All in all, what we have seen is a resounding endorsement of the concept of ‘tea’: a time to take a little break, reflect on your actions, place yourself in another person’s shoes and know wisdom.

(For the record, my cricket game dispute was resolved this way: the batsman was given ‘not-out,’ but he did not get to claim a ‘six.’ Win-win.)


6 thoughts on “The Question Of Ian Bell’s Run Out

  1. Russ says:

    DB, actually the law is far from clear cut here (or in many similar cases). Law 23b states that:

    “The ball shall be considered to be dead when it is clear to the bowler’s end umpire that the fielding side and both batsmen at the wicket have ceased to regard it as in play.”

    Whether the ball went for 4 or not is somewhat irrelevant. Kumar’s lax approach to ball retrieval and weak throw back – as well as the several Indian players heading to the pavilion themselves – are grounds for believing that the ball should have been called dead. A view I believe the Indian team concurs with, given what they said in the post-match press conference, and the unanimous decision to withdrawal the appeal.

    A similar situation comes up semi-often in lower grade cricket with new players. Ball is hit to the in-field, batsmen don’t run, fieldsman picks it up, maybe shines it and tosses it to mid-off, the batsmen do some gardening (without necessarily ever regaining their ground). Zoomer at mid-off sees the batsman out of their crease, throws at the stumps and it goes into the outfield. The ball was dead, and can’t be reanimated, but you get batsman who would have complained about being out then looking for runs.

    The point being the sensible umpiring option would have been to say the ball was dead. I’m somewhat non-plussed how the batsman can walk/jog to the other end of the pitch in the time it took for the ball to be retrieved when Kumar was obviously near enough that they hadn’t gone for a fourth, and for Rauf to consider it live. He had already held out the sweater, so what was he thinking waiting around?

    (Actually, whether it was a 4 is itself poorly resolved. None of the replays ever showed Kumar picking up the ball, but it was sitting right next to the rope and he was outside it, which means noone checked whether he was on or outside the rope when he picked it up. But that is a digression).

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Interesting points, Russ. I do think that Asad Rauf should have done better in stating clearly or not what had actually happened to the ball. At the very least, he should have begun reviewing the ball’s progress to determine whether or not a boundary had actually been scored.

  2. Poorvi says:

    What annoys me a bit is that Bell said (in an interview) that ‘both’ teams acted in the spirit of the game during this incident. He seemed very reluctant to give the Indians credit for taking back the appeal. I’m not sure what exactly England did which he considers in the spirit of the game. Does he mean Strauss & Flower asking the Indians to reconsider? How exactly is pleading your case considered acting in good spirit? So why exactly did he say ‘it’s difficult to say’ when asked what England would have done. I’m pretty sure that England wouldn’t have ‘reconsidered’. Or else Broad or Anderson might have pouted & thrown a fit.

  3. Simon aj says:

    I’m English and a big Cricket fan, but I think the spirit of the game is a load of toot. Cricket is a complex game and referring to the ‘spirit’ of the game does not help. The spirit of cricket works at a lower level when you don’t have TV replays and hundreds of hours of footage to catch out any cheating but at the top end professional level it’s just a load of nonsense. It’s a batsmans job to protect his wicket… don’t walk not ever! It’s the fielders job to take his wicket, it really is that simple. the umpire is there to make sure every one plays with in he rules of the game. Ian bell should have been given out, once the bails left the stumps it should be out of the players hands. All this rubbish about it been ‘technically’ out… Haha, you mean just out plain and simple no technically about it.

    I am not a bad sportsmen I just feel the ‘Spirit’ of the game had a role to play back in the day when the umps needed a bit of help from the players to keep the game moving but now-a-days there is no need for it. Let the players do there jobs, let the umps do there jobs and let the game continue. no need for spirit when you have actual laws that everybody understands! this is a game not life so we can afford to be black and white about it.

  4. What a load of rubbish … Bell admits that he was a bit stupid to have walked off without making sure. That is the point – he wasn’t paying attention. And he made a foolish mistake and he was penalised for the mistake. Honestly, who cares what Dhoni or Vaughan feel is the correct thing to do. They will always be subjective. The unpires are employed to make these decisions. Why don’t they do their job!

    I say the spirit of the game is in danger if a couple of players whining at an OBVIOUS mistake on part of their batsmen and the crowd’s anger is enough to force the tables to be turned.

    Lets state the obvious:
    a) If this match was played in India, the outcome would’ve been different.
    b) If India was on the receiving end of this issue, the outcome would’ve been different.

    So why the special teatment for England?

  5. Simonm aj says:

    Crookedcricket, you will see from my previous comment that I agree almost entirely with you except when you say ‘Let’s state the obvious’ and then presenting points (a) & (b) because it is not obvious but ‘subjective’ also suggesting that England get ‘special’ treatment seems a bit petty and makes me think that you have an axe to grind with England rather than the actual problem in all world cricket which is the ‘spirit of the game’.

    The fact is that the spirit of the game clouds the lines between what is aloud and not aloud gives BOTH captains a chance to change the outcome of an event with a meeting. In sport you are punished for your mistakes and cricket should be no different. What amazes me is that bell looked like he thought he had been hard done by. I would have been so ashamed to come again I would have removed my own bails when I got to the middle.

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