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Guilty by television - Column by Suresh Menon
by Suresh Menon
Feb 04, 2009
In sport, it is very rare for a wrong-doer to be unaware of doing wrong. Diego Maradona was fully aware that the goal he scored against England in the World Cup was off the only part of his body that could not have legitimately pushed the ball in. Yet he laughed it off saying that it was the "hand of god" which had scored. Slip fielders know when they have picked up a catch on the bounce - but that hasn't prevented them from making loud, persistent appeals on occasion. Tony Greig once ran out the West Indies batsman Alvin Kallicharan after the last ball of the day had been bowled and players were beginning to return to the pavilion.

All this is by way of leading up to the latest case which has been called "disappointing" by the New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori, but identified for what it is by the Australian captain Ricky Ponting who responded, "Basically he is calling Haddin a cheat isn't he?"

New Zealand beat Australia off the last ball, so the dismissal of Neil Broom, bowled by Michael Clarke for 29 might have been a crucial one. Replays, however, showed wicket keeper Brad Haddin's gloves dislodging the bails and the ball missing the stumps.

The umpires failed to spot this. If there was one person on the field who knew what had happened, it was the wicket keeper, and he wasn't about to confess. It was a tight situation, and in such situations some competitors are blind to the difference between right and wrong.

Unfortunately for Haddin, the millions who watched the incident on television also saw what had happened. Had New Zealand not won, perhaps there might have been a bigger outcry, but that cannot take away from the fact that an Australian team has once again been seen to be less than an honourable bunch. Just over a year ago Michael Clarke himself was guilty of claiming a catch that wasn't, much to the chagrin of the Indian team.

The ICC which has all kinds of fines for walking slowly, for bowling slowly, for shaking your head when given out wrongly, for not washing hands before shaking an opponent's has no ruling which says that a player may be fined for making false claims in the field, or, not to put too delicate a point upon it, for cheating.

To be honest, the notion of cheating is a matter of convention. It is fairly established that a batsman is entitled to wait for an umpire's decision and under no obligation to walk if he knows he is out. This has to do with a personal moral code; no captain can force the player to act one way or the other. Some infractions are judged by the unwritten code while others have specific crime-and-punishment sequences laid out.

There aren't too many regulations regarding the wicket keeper in the laws of the game. He has to remain behind the wicket till the ball touches the bat or batsman, or passes the wicket or till the batsman attempts a run. That's the sum total of his responsibilities under Law 40. He is, of course, obliged to tell the batsman if he has accidentally knocked off a bail and the batsman begins to go back thinking he is out bowled.

Australia were under pressure, Haddin was under pressure and the umpires had no clue - yet no set of circumstances can excuse the wicketkeeper's behaviour. You can fool some of the umpires some of the time, but you can't fool the all-seeing television camera.
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