A generous but illogical gesture — this is how the English media and former players described Indian skipper MS Dhoni’s decision to call back Ian Bell after he was controversially run-out in the ongoing second Test.
Dhoni allowed Bell, who was run-out after walking off the crease assuming that the ball had crossed the boundary, to play on after tea break.
The Indian captain was hailed for upholding the spirit of the game by many but there were others who felt Bell should have paid for his carelessness and that included English all-rounder Ian Botham.
“It was the right decision by the umpires, they did everything spot on. Bell had wandered off. He was out and he should have stayed out, in my opinion,” Botham wrote in Daily Mirror.
“I can understand why MS Dhoni withdrew his appeal and decided to go along with the spirit of the game, but I would have had no problem if he had upheld it and sent a message about dopey cricket. “If it was me I’d have run him out and let him think long and hard about remaining in his crease until the ball is dead while sitting on the balcony watching others score the runs he should have,” he said.
Even former Australian spinner Shane Warne agreed that Bell was at fault in the episode. “What a last delivery before tea — huge controversy. Much as we don’t like to see dismissals like that, Bell made a careless mistake,” he said.
On the other hand, England spinner Graeme Swann could not understand what the fuss was all about. “The big issue about “the run out that wasn’t” hasn’t been mentioned yet. I had already started a cheese sandwich, so it was definitely tea,” he joked.
The English papers, meanwhile, felt Dhoni was well within his rights to reject England’s request for a reprieve for Bell, who scored a hundred. Writing in the Daily Telegraph, former player Derek Pringle said, “The hurrah’s for good sportsmanship were quick to follow India’s generous and illogical decision, but Test cricket, as its participants are at constant pains to remind us, is meant to be tough, something India’s bowlers have certainly discovered after England amassed 441-6 in their second innings.”
“The spirit of cricket has its place but it was not being abused here. Bell, who’d played superbly to that point, should have remained dismissed, following his naive presumption that a leg-side flick from Eoin Morgan, which had been clumsily fielded at long leg by Praveen Kumar, had gone for 4.”
“His reprieve, after Andy Flower and Andrew Strauss visited India’s dressing room during the tea break to plead his case and ask Mahendra Singh Dhoni to withdraw his appeal, should be measured not in runs (Bell added only 22 more before Yuvraj Singh dismissed him fair and square), but in the improved relations between the two Boards.”
“Under Law 27.8, the reprieve shouldn’t have been allowed anyway, as any player must be recalled before they have left the field of play,” he explained.
The writer seemed to suggest that Dhoni’s decision was governed more by the bilateral Board ties. “...when there is potential horse trading to be done at Board-level, laws can obviously have a coach and four driven through them. India usually adopts a hard line on such matters though with Duncan Fletcher being a former England coach; perhaps a more conciliatory tone was struck.
“Perhaps they were feeling guilty that the wicket arose, not through any good play on their part, but by the incompetence of their fielding and Bell’s doziness. Bell was guilty of breaking the schoolboy dictum of never leaving your crease unless taking a run or the ball is dead, neither of which was the case here.”
The Daily Mail said India should not have bothered about the boos at Trent Bridge as they had not done any wrong by dismissing a careless player. “We almost had an international incident on our hands when Ian Bell was dismissed as he prematurely walked off for tea at Trent Bridge believing that Eoin Morgan had flicked the last ball before the interval for four.
“That we did not was due to an extraordinary piece of sportsmanship from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher that is being hailed as a victory for the spirit of cricket.
But, frankly, it was one that they did not have any need to make. India had done nothing wrong,” the newspaper said. “England might have been furious and the majority of the 17,500 crowd indignant when Abhinav Mukund casually removed the bails as Bell headed towards the pavilion with 137 of the most elegant, exquisite runs that you will ever see to his name. But England really had no cause for complaint.
“Bell was inexplicably dozy not to check that the ball had reached the boundary before he left his ground after Praveen Kumar had made a pretty hapless attempt at stopping it reaching the red marker.”
The newspaper said Dhoni should not have accepted England’s request. “Bell was out of his ground, no sharp practice had taken place and India had nothing to feel guilty about. (Eoin) Morgan had even gestured to Bell to return to his ground before realising that he was too late and decided instead that he had better walk off nonchalantly too.
“Dhoni and coach Fletcher would have had every right to show Andrew Strauss and Andy Flower the door when they asked at tea for India to withdraw their appeal.”
Keywords: India's tour of England