Ashes HQ ASHES HQ 2010-2011

Get on with the game please

Get on with the game please

St Stephen’s Day was not a good one for Australia’s cricketers. In fact it is difficult to imagine there has ever been a worse one and it is hardly surprising that skipper Ponting finds the shortcomings of his teammates, while under pressure from his own lack of form, as well as an injury, to be a burden that he struggles to bear.

When Ryan Harris got past the edge of Kevin Pietersen’s bat, just short of a half century that would further boost his already repairing confidence, Australia thought he had got a feather on the ball as it went through to Haddin. Their appeal turned down Ponting referred the matter and the whole of the MCG turned its gaze to the replay. Hotspot seemed to suggest a nick at the toe of the bat, in fact it looked pretty clear there was some contact. The difficulty was that the normal slow motion replay had confirmed what the real time pictures had demonstrated, that the ball had passed the edge of Pietersen’s bat several inches above the toe. Something of a mystery in all the circumstances but certainly, in the absence of any other helpful evidence, not out.

Ponting wouldn’t let go and remonstrated with Aleem Dar. Still not satisfied as Dar moved towards square leg to take up his position for the next over Ponting had words with Pietersen and, not surprisingly finding no support there, insisted on saying his piece to the other umpire, Tony Hill, before finally giving up and getting on with the game.

What did Ponting do wrong? He showed dissent and admitted a breach of a level one “offence” in the ICC code of conduct. In fact he was probably “guilty”, given the way the code is drafted, of one at level two.

The whole incident took me back to a series in the Caribbean when Vivian Richards pressurised Lloyd Barker into giving out England’s Rob Bailey, caught behind down the leg side, clearly against Barker’s better judgment. Richards, who in fairness to him was at short leg and therefore in a decent position to see what had happened, charged to the bowler’s end and proceeded to wag his finger vigorously at poor old Barker. It certainly intimidated me, and I was sat comfortably in my armchair on a different continent. The incident was quite disgraceful and a bleak day for the game, particularly when respected commentator Christopher Martin-Jenkins called it for what it was, and was promptly accused of racism. Nothing happened to Richards despite every moment being captured on camera.

Richards may or may not have believed that Bailey got a nick on that delivery from Curtley Ambrose, only he knows that, but I have no doubt that at the time of Ponting’s protestations he genuinely believed he and his team had been wronged. Let us keep this in perspective. Umpires are professionals, and like all who stand in judgment over their fellow man they will get whinged at from time to time. More often than not the complaints will not be justified, as here, but the stakes are high for Ponting. He overstepped the line, but he has apologised and that, in my opinion was all that was required.

In the Sky commentary box I heard David Lloyd, a former umpire himself, expressing that oft quoted view that the authorities must stamp down on this sort of behaviour or everyone will copy it, and where will the game be then? – sorry Bumble but I can’t agree – after all I’ve never seen another umpire have to endure quite what Lloyd Barker had to put up with – and Sir Vivian “got away with it”

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