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Soup of This Day #323: This Mean Old Town

July 16, 2013

Maria Spelterini at Niagra Gorge
Sometimes deciding whether to take a walk to high ground means treading a fine line. For Maria Spelterini in 1876 the line was 2.25 inches wide and the walk along it to a superior position was across Niagra Gorge. For some reason Maria strapped peach baskets to her feet for the journey. Tightrope walking is otherwise known as funambulism. Doing it with peach baskets strapped to your feet is otherwise known as being weird – Photo: George C. Curtis, 1876. George C. Curtis is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72 while not wearing peach baskets for shoes.

Like Chuck Norris’ eponymous Texas Ranger, I’m a Walker*.

To be fair, despite my capitalisation, I’m only a Walker by nature. My name is not actually Walker. For me, being a Walker is more than just a handle – It’s a statement about how I play cricket, and therefore, about how I pretty much approach life.

In cricket circles, Walkers are bats who don’t wait for the umpire’s call – They know when they are out, and so they choose to walk back to the pavilion with, I think anyway, good grace and honourable dignity.

You can guess how prevalent that kind of thing is in the modern world of professional cricket. Or you can skip guessing and take a rewind of the 1st Ashes Test of 2013, played recently at Trent Bridge in England. Because this match featured a number of controversial umpiring decisions – Points in the proceedings that allowed a player to search his feelings, Yoda-style, and work out whether to walk or not. Let’s pick on the 3 most prominent: Australian debutante Ashton Agar, given not out on 6 off of a stumping appeal – He would go on to make 98; England veteran Jonathan Trott, given out 1st ball leg before wicket (LBW); and finally experienced England bowler Stuart Broad, given not out caught at 1st slip on 37 – He went on to make 65 and England won by 14.

In the case of Agar’s non-dismissal by stumping the replays available were inconclusive. There is no benefit of the doubt written into cricket’s laws but in most cases the general rule is that it is given to the wielder of the bat. This is a fair standard – If a game of cricket could be translated into a court of law then the batsman would be the defendant facing the serious charge of having got out. As with a lot of serious charges the burden is on proving guilt – If there is reasonable doubt then the verdict must be not guilty.

There was much reasonable doubt in the case of the Agar stumping and so the decision that he remain at the crease was not a bad 1. Nor could it be argued to be the wrong 1.

The Trott LBW decision was not so righteous. The England No.3 was surely plumb unless he’d hit the ball – Something the field umpire must have believed as he gave him not out. The Australians clearly believed he hadn’t hit it and so they asked for a review.

And this is where things got gnarly.

The front-on thermal image showed no hot spot of contact with the bat. This is not unusual – You generally need the side-on view to adjudge whether there has been a genuine nick off the edge of the bat.

The side-on view was not available. The operator had not reset the appropriate camera as a wicket had fallen the previous ball and he was holding the image from that 1st dismissal for TV replays.

Oops.

What made the situation worse was that the Hawkeye tracking software showed that Trott was indeed struck plumb in front, with the ball going on to hit roughly halfway up middle-stump. On the face of it, that’s as dead to rights as if Chuck and his Rangering cohort had caught Trott in the act of criminally blocking the stumps with his leg.

Except that those Texas Rangers would have looked to check every angle – And with the 1 key angle missing, Chuck would have had to keep his balletic kicks and Vulcan neck grips in his holsters.

I may have mixed some metaphors there. And made up a word.

Whichever way you swing it, Trott should not have been given out. Just like Agar, he should have got the benefit of a reasonable doubt. He didn’t though and he was sent down by the TV umpire, Marais Erasmus, for a stretch in the dressing rooms, the victim of a bad decision.

It wasn’t necessarily though a wrong decision. That we will never be able to clarify, because even though he shouldn’t have been given out, it’s now impossible to tell if he really was out.

Unlike Broad.

Stuart Broad clearly edged the ball to Clarke. The Duke in fact took such a deflection off of the willow that Chuck Norris would have done it for failing to indicate at a T-Junction – Simply, the ball had made significant contact with the bat and then gone straight into the hands of Clarke at 1st slip.

Cricket can be a complicated game at times but that’s a pretty simple equation.

That is out – If Chuck Norris was to stand nude outside of the Texas Legislature and announce that he was really very fond of men then Chuck** would still be less out than Broad was.

Or should have been.

Because the relevant umpire Aleem Dar somehow missed the edge. And because the Australians had used up their 2 reviews opportunities already and so could not refer Dar’s glaring omission to the 3rd umpire. And because Stuart Broad is not like Chuck Norris’ eponymous Texas Ranger – He is not a Walker.

Yep, Broad stood his ground and abided by the umpire’s disregard.

Some have argued that he did the correct thing. His team-mate, Kevin Pietersen is 1 of those, dramatically stating:

‘Every batsman around the world has the right to wait for the umpire’s decision and Stuart waited for the umpire’s decision.’

Erm, ok Kev. Not entirely sure that every batsman around the world has that right – I am completely around the world and when I play The Noah in the back yard, every batsman apparently has the right to be dismissed for not allowing themselves to be clean bowled. Every bowler meanwhile has the right to send down each delivery while standing stark naked in a wading pool. There is though, absolutely no right to await the umpire’s decision.

Mostly because there is no umpire – Just a fickle 5 year old with a hunger for power.

Beyond just humouring Kevin, I’d also like to respond seriously that ‘rights’ don’t always equate to being ‘right’. For a start ‘rights’ tend to have responsibilities attached – For instance, it might be within your rights to speak freely, however the responsible and right thing to do is to make sure that in doing so you don’t unduly hurt someone.

Stuart Broad hurt the game of cricket.

Aleem Dar’s decision was a bad 1 and it was the wrong 1. Stuart Broad was within his rights to stand his ground but was wrong to do so.

And no, Broad standing his ground was not a square-up for the Agar and Trott situations. Chuck Norris would tell us that you don’t balance the scales of justice that way. He’d probably explain that along with a restraining hand and a warning to let the law do its work through its avenging angel of Chuck.

Anyway, Stuart Broad knew he was out. Ashton Agar could not have possibly known if he was out and Jonathan Trott was, and probably remains, utterly convinced that he was not out.

Stuart Broad should have walked.

And because I know that I’m a Walker, I can say that I would have. Sure, you can charge me with the accusation that it is an easy thing for me to say – I’m not playing in the Ashes. Actually I’m not even playing cricket these days, at least not in the physical sense.

I do play a game on my iPhone, called FlickCricket.

It’s what it says it is – You flick your finger at the pixelated ball and hope that your timing and your placement score runs, without losing wickets. It is not a lot like actually playing cricket, at least not in the physical sense. It does share some characteristics with the noble game though.

The umpire cocks it up regularly.

Yes, there is no actual umpire – Just an AI that, like all good games, contains some lovable quirks. For instance, if you get out on the last ball of an innings, which happens a lot, then you won’t actually know for sure if you were dismissed because the game instantly cuts to the end screen with only an abbreviated scorecard. You can sort of guess at it though – There are sometimes subtle hints that you got out and you can extrapolate on these to make a reasonable conclusion. Which I do, and here’s where I’m a Walker.

I count the wicket.

Yep, I credit the AI of a computer game with an extra wicket. I take a virtual walk.

Chuck Norris would surely salute that with gay*** abandon.

*It’s pretty much a long bow I’ve drawn between me and Chuck Norris – Politically speaking, I tend to bat southpaw and with an open but angled face. Chuck favours the right-handed stance with a straight but closed bat.
**This is a hypothetical situation – We all know that Chuck doesn’t love men – Men love Chuck.
***That’s ‘gay’ as in cheerful. Chuck Norris is not homosexual – Homosexual is Chuck Norris.

This Mean Old Town

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