The wicket of the future Australian test captain Michael Clarke at the end of the 4th days play was another example in a list of players who knew they were out, but stayed around and waited for the umpire to give them out. Of course they should. Umpires need to be left to do their jobs. That’s what they’re there for after all. Not in cricket. Since cricket began, players have been encouraged to walk off the field if they know they’re out.
“If you nick it to the keeper, walk off the field, don’t wait for the umpire to give you out – you know you’ve hit it. It’s cheating otherwise.”
I heard those words at the first two junior clubs I played for, from both the captain and the coach. Once I started playing adult cricket I found the rules had changed. I was informed it was bad for the team, by the same coach – who claimed they had to encourage ‘the spirit of cricket’ to junior players. Now, I knew many players in the junior ranks, including myself who never walked. Ever. I’m a wicket keeper and I’ve caught batsman after batsman, who’ve hit the ball but haven’t been given out by the umpire. They didn’t walk and I don’t blame them. So what’s with the apology from Clarke? Either admit you theoretically cheat, like most players; or walk. Don’t bloody apologise afterwards on a social network.
There has been a famous example of an Australian legend, and the best wicket keeper I’ve ever seen, Adam Gilchrist – who in the last few years of his career was known to walk off the field if he hit it. The idealist in me loved it. On the big stage, under the intense pressure, he still decided to set an example. Other players were not so keen. You can’t win.
As I’ve got older, I’m leaning toward the Gilchrist way of thinking. Another famous name within cricketing circles, Christopher Martin-Jenkins, explains it better than me,
That is the way I was taught to play cricket. I believe it to be in the true spirit of the game and that what one might call the Southern Hemisphere view – that the umpire is there to decide if a batsman is out or not – is rubbish and has been responsible for a demeaning of that spirit. I give you simple evidence. When a batsman is bowled; he walks; when a batsman hits the ball in the air to mid-off and is caught; he walks. When a batsman snicks Monty Panesar to slip via the wicket-keeper’s glove and is caught by slip; he walks. But when a batsman snicks it into the keeper’s gloves only – and not into a fielder’s hands – he doesn’t walk – in the hope that the umpire might not be certain… Where is the logic, or the honour in that?
Umpires need the help of players because there can be no organized game without umpires. Walking helps them. It used to be the convention in England, still is for most county players and it should be again, here and everywhere, because is the honest and decent thing to do. Not walking when you know you are out is dishonest. I did it only once – for a good reason it seemed at the time, but still the wrong one. I felt so guilty that I got out immediately afterwards.
Cricket would instantly become a better game if young cricketers in every country were to be taught from now onwards that walking is the right thing to do when they know they are genuinely out. Most wickets fall, after all, to catches. Essentially it would reduce the umpires’ contentious decision-making to lbws, run-outs, stumpings and those rare occasions when it is not clear whether or not a fair catch has been made.
If you’ve got time, read the whole speech. It’s a spirited and passionate plea that I hope becomes the norm, although I’m not convinced that it will. I went to play cricket again this year for the first time in 10 years. I had this exact conversation. I then batted 2 weeks later, and walked. My captain was furious. I explained why, and he seemed okay but we’ll see what happens next time it happens. Thankfully, he’s given me out LBW twice since when the ball hit me outside the line of off stump. I’m not too sure what his logic is, but he’s not the captain (or if I’ve got anything to do with it, umpire either!) next season so swings and roundabouts…
Yorkshire broadcasting great and avid cricket fan Parky also makes the case for walking here in The Telegraph.