On 31/7/2011 at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, it was the last ball before tea break. Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan had completed three runs. Ian Bell thought the ball had cleared the boundary and he left his place and walked towards Eoin Morgan. The umpire had not signalled boundary. Praveen Kumar had stopped the ball. He threw it to Mahendra Singh Dhoni. From Dhoni it went to Abhinav Mukund who dislodged the bails. Indians appealed. The field umpires referred it to third umpire who ruled Ian Bell out.
The matter should have rested there. But English players were aghast. The crowd was angry. As per reports English captain Andrew Strauss and English coach Andy Flower came to India’s dressing room and asked Dhoni to withdraw the appeal. Dhoni held a meeting with players and some were for withdrawal and some were against withdrawal. Ultimately Dhoni decided to withdraw the appeal and India’s coach Duncan Fletcher went to umpire Billy Bowden and informed India was withdrawing the appeal.
Much has been said by some that the appeal was “against the spirit of the game”. What is the spirit of the game? Ian Bell made a mistake in assuming the ball was dead. He should have checked whether the umpire had signalled four runs. The ball was not dead. As he later said “According to the rules, I should have been out. But both teams played a massive role towards the spirit of the game.” Spirit of the game requires that you accept umpire’s decisions, more so when you know according to rules you are out. England did not play any role towards the spirit of the game. Asking Indians to withdraw the appeal was against the spirit of the game. Ian Bell was on 137 at the time and finally out on 159 bowled Yuvraj Singh. If the crowd created problem it is for the host country to control it.
Rahul Dravid said “We thought what if it was one of our batsmen in Bell’s position. We wouldn’t have liked it if V. V. S. Laxman or Sachin Tendulkar was out in such a way.” In 1999 Sachin Tendulkar was run out in Calcutta when Shoaib Akhtar had blocked his way. The crowd was angry. Sachin Tendulkar appealed to the people to remain calm. That did not pacify the people. The Test concluded without the crowd to watch. India lost the Test.
Dhoni should not have withdrawn the appeal. As captain he is responsible. Those who play Test cricket should know the rules and accept the verdicts. Ian Bell has played Test cricket for many years. Withdrawing appeal is not generosity but foolishness. In 1980 in Golden Jubilee Test in Bombay an English player was given out. He appealed to India’s captain G. R. Vishwanath to allow him to continue. Vishwanath allowed him to continue. The batsman hit a century. India lost the Test. Vishwanath lost his captaincy.
In 1987 World Cup in a group match Courtney Walsh was bowling the last ball of the match. Abdul Qadir was ahead of the crease and Courtney Walsh had the chance to run him out and West Indies would have won by one run. He did not do it. Pakistan scored two runs off the ball and won. West Indies were out of World Cup.
The Ian Bell incident is similar to Alvin Kallicharan incident that took place in West Indies in 1974. It was the last ball of the day. Alvin Kallicharan was the non-striker. He was on 142. Bernard Julien was the striker. He had played the last ball. The players had begun to return. Umpires had not said “Over”. Tony Greig was fielding at silly point. He collected the ball and dislodged the bails of Kallicharan’s stumps and appealed. The umpire ruled Kallicharan out. The crowd was angry. West Indian and English officials had a meeting. At that time there were rest days during Tests. Rest day was advanced to next day. For the first time in Test cricket, umpire’s decision was reversed and Alvin Kallicharan was allowed to play. He was out on 158.
Where was the spirit of the game when V. V. S. Laxman was not given out when a Hot Spot decision went in his favour and Stuart Broad went to check his bat? Michael Vaughan tweeted that there was Vaseline on Laxman’s bat though he put the tweet as a question. When Gavaskar suggested Laxman should sue Vaughan he backtracked and said sense of humour required and did not accuse Laxman of using Vaseline. Ravi Shastri asked how did Vaughan know if Vaseline is used Hot Spot is not effective. He should have done it. Anyway, this controversy put a question mark over Hot Spot.
Shane Warne put it rightly “What a last delivery before tea — huge controversy. Much as we don’t like to see dismissals like that, no doubt — out!”