THERE is little doubt over the big talking point in sport over the past week – the run out that never was in the Second Test between England and India at Trent Bridge, which raised all manner of issues.
It all centred on the decision by Indian captain MS Dhoni to allow Ian Bell to continue his innings, despite being run out when he carelessly left his crease in the erroneous belief that Eoin Morgan had hit the ball for four.
The party-line being pedalled is that Dhoni’s decision will go down in history alongside other acts of sportsmanship over the years.
One of those cited was Jack Nicklaus conceding a putt to Tony Jacklin in the final match of the 1969 Ryder Cup, so that the contest would be tied.
It meant the United States retained the trophy, though the story not often related afterwards is that some of Nicklaus’ colleagues were non-plussed by his generosity and were fuming, wanting the outright win.
Honesty is not often a quality that you closely associate with soccer. In fact, the law of the jungle tends to apply and players try to get away with as much as they can.
However, two shining examples of honesty spring to mind – first, Paolo Di Canio passing up an opportunity to score for West Ham when Everton goalkeeper Paul Gerrard was lying injured; and then Liverpool striker Robbie Fowler claiming he had not been fouled by David Seaman after being awarded a penalty in a Premier League match at Highbury in 1997.
The referee insisted the spot-kick had to be taken, so Fowler hit a weak shot straight at Seaman.
Yet Jason McAteer had no such reservations about the award and thumped home the rebound.
Fowler later received a FIFA commendation for his actions.
On balance, it was right that Bell was allowed to continue, but we can do without all this sanctimonious guff from the International Cricket Council about the decision being in the spirit of the game.
It was lucky that the incident happened on the last ball before tea, allowing a 20-minute ‘cooling-off’ period for reflection, which would not have been the case had the Bell ‘run-out’ happened before any allotted break in play.
And what is the spirit of cricket when it’s at home? Players are known to stay at the crease even when they know full well they have nicked the ball.
During the discussions which followed the Bell incident, Sky commentator Mike Atherton was spot on when he alluded to the dismissal of Harbajhan Singh earlier in the match.
A lot of the England players must have realised that Singh had edged the ball on to his pad before he was wrongly given out lbw.
Would it have even have entered their heads to tell the umpire he had got it wrong?
Not a chance, though you could say that it was India’s own silly fault that the wrong was not rectified as they had decided before the series not to refer lbw decisions.
One thing is for sure, it was very bad PR to leave the Nottingham crowd in the dark over Bell’s reprieve until the players returned after tea.
Had they been informed during the interval, they would not have booed the Indians as they came back out and TV commentators would not have been misled either.
As the Indians emerged from the pavilion, a camera pointing at the England balcony showed Strauss and co. clapping. The commentator assumed this was sarcastic applause but they were actually saluting Dhoni’s gesture.
Either way, it made for gripping, compulsive television, but it should always be remembered that cricketers are awarded caps for Test appearances, not haloes.