Monday, August 1, 2011


The third day of the second test between India and England will be remembered years later by an incident that took place on the last ball before tea - a run-out that never was and a bit of sportsmanship that would have made John McEnroe look down at his feet in shame.

Ian Bell was batting superbly on 133 as a makeshift number three batsman when he watched, from the non-striker end, Eoin Morgan play a ball to the fine leg fence.

Praveen Kumar, known more for is wily swing bowling than his athleticism on the field, gave chase and put in a dive to stop the ball from reaching the fence. A valiant effort didn't seem enough, and the ball appeared to have gone for four. He picked himself up disconsolately, and fired a frustrated throw back to keeper Dhoni.

The batsman seemed to have come to the same conclusion that the ball had gone for four, and after congratulating each other, started making their way to the pavilion for some Earl Grey tea and soggy cucumber sandwiches.

But almost as an afterthought, Dhoni casually chucked the ball to Abhinav Mukund who was standing over the stumps. The young opener took off the bails, and along with a few other Indians, appealed halfheartedly for a run-out.

By this point Morgan and Bell were probably discussing how they would tackle the Indian bowlers after they returned from tea.

After some deliberation, umpire Asad Rouf (who I have met at Dubai Sports City in 2009) called for the third umpire's decision. The man upstairs first checked weather Praveen had stopped the ball cleanly, thus making the ball alive until the umpire called over and tea.

Several replays showed that Praveen had indeed stopped the ball before it reached the fence and was not making contact with the boundary ropes whilst handling the ball.

A few minutes later the words "OUT" appeared in red on the big screen at Trent Bridge, prompting loud cheers from the Indian fans and disgusted boos from the English supporters. A bewildered Ian Bell was more than halfway to the dressing rooms when the verdict was given.

The Indians, as well as the two umpires, were heartily booed all the way to the changing rooms - captain Dhoni receiving extra stick from the crowd for his decision to go ahead with the appeal.

Apparently what happened during the tea break was that England captain Andrew Strauss and coach Andy Flower visited the India dressing room and asked them if they were standing by their appeal to run Ian Bell out.

Dhoni and his team unanimously decided to withdraw the appeal, meaning that despite being given out, Bell would come back out to bat with Eoin Morgan after tea.

Unaware of Bell's reprieve, more boos greeted the Indians 20 minuted later when they returned to the field of play.

But the boos quickly turned to loud cheers as the sight of Ian Bell descending the stairs to enter the field became apparent to all. The news spread around the ground, "Dhoni had withdrawn his appeal."

The Indian skipper had turned from zero to hero.

My thoughts on the event are twofold.

Bell was blissfully ignorant when he walked off for tea after he thought Morgan hit a boundary. Growing up as a cricketer, you're always taught to be on your toes and never consider the ball dead until its obvious. Perhaps the thought of a steaming cup of tea along with some English tea biscuits got the better of old Belly.

The England batsman even admitted he was "a bit naive" in prematurely walking off.

The second matter on hand concerns India's glowing um - sportsmanship. I don't know about you but if the captain of the opposing team (Strauss is a big man) stormed into my dressing room along with his fuming coach and asked if me if I wanted to stand by my appeal against one of his top batsman, I would probably hide behind a couple of bats and mutter something that would make him stop spraying it instead of saying it.

On a more serious note, veteran Rahul Dravid spoke after the days plays of how the atmosphere in the dressing room at tea "just wasn't right."

Dhoni's withdrawal of the appeal showed that India play their cricket in accordance to the spirit of the game. After all, they were well within their rights to run out Ian Bell.

Oh yeah, England trounced India by a massive 319 runs to take a 2-0 lead in the four match series.

Will Virender Sehwag's return in the third test at Edgbaston help revive India's struggling batting lineup? Probably not, but it sure as hell is fun to watch that guy bat.

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