Saturday, March 26, 2011

To Walk or not to Walk

Tendulkar walking after edging a ball through to the keeper in the West Indies game, has generated a large amount of media interest, and a large amount of rhetoric centered around the walking issue. This in my view, is a whole lot of nonsense. You have had Sidhu and Gavaskar giving Sachin immense praise and using the act to demonstrate why he is above all other players etc. etc. Sachin is above all players because he has been at the pinnacle of his sport for a period of 21 years. He is above all others because he has carried his team on those tiny, but immensely strong shoulders for two whole decades. He has been playing for such a long period, because he is still a little boy, playing the game he loves. He has played the game with class and dignity, and has not one black mark against his record. He does not need to walk to show that he is the best, and him walking is not a reason or even evidence of his greatness.

Sachin above all else is a very practical man, his walking was probably based on the fact that, there is a good chance for a review and in the review it may reveal that he has nicked the ball. In the end, the replays were inconclusive, and one would tend to believe that had the West Indies reviewed the decision, the on-field umpire was not going to reverse his decision on the basis of the evidence on display. However, we can say that, sitting and watching the replays, and in hindsight. At that point of time, Sachin could not have been sure that the nick would be that hard to spot, and that is probably why he walked. He has hardly ever walked in the past 21 years, and no one can blame him for that. The number of times Sachin has been given out to wrong decisions, at crucial junctures, is many, then why would you expect him to walk when he the umpire wrongly rules in his favor. The same would apply for any batsmen for that matter. That is the exact reason why the UDRS has been put in place, so that, crucial match changing, incorrect decisions do not affect the outcome of the game.

Now coming to the debate over whether all batsmen should walk or not, there is really no need to go into the moral debate of whether one should walk or not, I think this issue is going to be resolved reasonably quickly and with the improvement in UDRS technology and use of Hotspot the following trends will start appearing wherever UDRS is used (and I sincerely believe it should be used uniformly across all tournaments and series). Batsmen who nick the ball, and are caught cleanly will start walking, because the UDRS (with hotspot off course) will be able to show reasonably conclusively that they have nicked the ball, so there would be very little point in standing around and looking foolish, ala Ricky Ponting in the group game against Pakistan. Unless the technology to judge close-to-ground catches improves (and I don’t see that happening any time soon), batsmen are going to stand their ground in such situations despite what the fielders claim, because there is a very high chance that the camera angles will not show conclusively that the catch was clean. The LBW portion of the UDRS system needs certain minor tweaks, but in all, is a very useful tool for removing really bad umpiring decisions and will soon come to be accepted by most people, if not all.