A Sticky Wicket
January 16, 2015 5:32 PM   Subscribe

It's summer in Australia and that can only mean one thing: lots and lots of cricket! (Some previous discussions of cricket on Metafilter.) Cricket has long had a reputation as a "gentlemanly game", which quietly ignores the increasing popularity of women's cricket that has existed since 1745. Times change and some substantial technology is now being used to assist the umpires and referees. As the sport becomes more professional and attracts more money, controversy is increasing in these less genteel times. However, there is now one great ethical dilemma facing cricketers: should the batter voluntarily walk (dismiss themselves) when they know they are out, even if the umpire fails to give them out?

While the Decision Review System (DRS) is available, some countries opt not to use it, although this is being reviewed, and this then pushes the ethical onus back on to the batter. If the batter knows that they've hit the ball but the umpire doesn't hear it, should they stay or should they go? Friday's One-Day International in Australia, between Australia and England, highlighted the issue because not only was Stuart Broad regularly , because he chose not to walk at an earlier test match, but an Australian cricketer who didn't hit the ball was given out.

One of the major problems that occurs is the extensive use of post-decision analysis of an umpire's decision by the commentators on radio or television, where everyone except the umpire is able to look at the HotSpot Infra-red indicators and the estimated path of the ball and then determine whether the batter had actually hit it or not. Even without DRS, it's becoming increasingly hard for a batter to hide whether they were really out or not. For years, the luck of the batter or bowler has been described as "the rub of the green". Today, technology shows where that rub is.

Where does the cricketer's duty lie? Winning the game or following his or her conscience?
posted by nfalkner (23 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Integrity is what you do when nobody is looking.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:34 PM on January 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


As Glenn McGrath said.
posted by Wordshore at 5:50 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


If this is the primary ethical dilemma facing today's cricketers and not match-fixing or spot-fixing then the game has come a long way already.
posted by all the versus at 5:54 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


One of the boxes on my list I need to
check off is the boxing day test at the MCG.
posted by eriko at 5:57 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


On the ethical question at hand, I take the position of applauding a batsman who walks, while refusing to condemn a bastman who wouldn't. My (probably flawed) position is that the latter is adhering to the letter of the law (not 'given' out) while the former is adhering to the spirit of the law (is 'out' but not 'given' out).
posted by all the versus at 6:03 PM on January 16, 2015 [4 favorites]


I read the title as Austria, and was damned confused for quite a while.
posted by Windopaene at 7:48 PM on January 16, 2015


It's summer in Australia and that can only mean one thing: lots and lots of cricket

I always get homesick for Australia when it's the middle of winter here and the middle of summer there, but you have just reminded of one of the downsides to Australian summers. Thanks!
posted by retrograde at 7:57 PM on January 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


No? You start in with unwritten rules and then you have the bullshit like baseball's hitting the batter in retaliation for daring to celebrate a homer. You play to win and the ump needs to call it. ( or umpire if cricket doesn't use that shortened form)
posted by Carillon at 8:19 PM on January 16, 2015


Where does the cricketer's duty lie? Winning the game or following his or her conscience?
A friendly game in the local park is somewhere I would expect someone to walk voluntarily. A professional game where the technology is there to tell definitively when someone has caught an edge? No player should be expected to walk without being told to by the umpire. If it's absolutely obvious to everyone, sure (eg clean bowl) sure, but not in cases where there may be some doubt. Not when you are playing to win and your short-term career could hinge on that call.
posted by dg at 10:03 PM on January 16, 2015


should the batter voluntarily walk (dismiss themselves) when they know they are out, even if the umpire fails to give them out?

Absoutely - otherwise they're lying, and cheating.

Not when you are playing to win and your short-term career could hinge on that call.

So a cricketer's duty is to their own personal glory and gain? Not quite what I understood 'sportsmanship' to mean, and certainly not for cricket, which sets an especially high bar for doing the right thing. We label dishonest, immoral and unethical behaviour 'not cricket' for a reason.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 10:43 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Gentlemen" in cricket historically has been about class and income, rather than gender:

Gentlemen (i.e. amateurs) vs. Players (i.e. professionals)
posted by Bwithh at 12:30 AM on January 17, 2015


So a cricketer's duty is to their own personal glory and gain? Not quite what I understood 'sportsmanship' to mean, and certainly not for cricket, which sets an especially high bar for doing the right thing. We label dishonest, immoral and unethical behaviour 'not cricket' for a reason.
No, a professional cricketer's duty is to perform at their very best in order that their team wins. Wanting to win is well and truly within the bounds of being sportsmanlike, as long as it's done by the rules. Those rules are enforced by the umpire and you're not out until the umpire says you are. Cricket used to place a lot of stock in players (particularly batters) 'doing the right thing' in ways like admitting if they had caught an edge or if the ball had hit a pad, especially when they are likely to be the only one to really know. However, the administrators of the sport have decided this is not good enough and have introduced technology to negate that. This removes any onus on players to take on that role. It's really not fair on a player to say both 'we expect you to act like a gentleman and own up if you think you might be out' and 'we actually don't trust you, so we're going to use all sorts of technology to monitor you'. You get to pick one of those things, but not both.

Waiting for an umpire's call before walking off the pitch is in no way dishonest, immoral or unethical. It's simply placing the decision-making ability directly with the umpire where it belongs. If it's true that umpires can be influenced by a bowler's cry of 'howzat' (ie are more likely to deem someone out when the bowler makes a strong call), it's equally true that they would be influenced by a batter walking off (ie could call them out even when they aren't sure whether they are or not).

It's been a great many years since cricket was a game played in the way you seem to think, at a professional level anyway.
posted by dg at 2:46 AM on January 17, 2015


should the batter voluntarily walk (dismiss themselves) when they know they are out, even if the umpire fails to give them out?

Yes. Because one of the qualities and hallmarks of the game of cricket is the fair and generous behaviour of its players towards those on the opposing team. 'Cricket' epitomises fairness. It is synonymous with 'playing true'. The term "it's just not cricket" means "it's not fair, honest and equitable". Cricket players are like lawyers - their highest duty is to the game (the court). Their team-mates, supporters and everything else comes second. Backyard or MCG, it shouldn't matter. It's the principle of the thing. It's the vibe. Yes cricket is about class; the class that comes with honesty and integrity. Sportsmanship (sic) and being sportsmanlike (sic) include the attributes of honesty and integrity. In fact I'd wager that 'winning', especially winning at the expense of honesty and integrity, is not an element of sportsmanlike (sic) behaviour at all.

TLDR; If cricket is not played with honesty and integrity... well, it's just not cricket.

On preview: I agree with obiwanwasabi.
posted by Kerasia at 3:44 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's a very similar argument about Mankading (bowler runs out the non-striker if he/she has left his ground before the ball is even bowled). Cricket has become very polarised between people who think it's an ugly, ungentlemanly move, and those who point out it's perfectly legal and punishes a batsman who is clearly trying to gain an unfair advantage.

Here's the unique twist of cricket: every time this tactic has been used (AFAIK) the bowler has warned the batsman at least once before doing it. And still there are howls of outrage.

The much fabled, and much debated, Spirit of Cricket does run the risk of trying to exclude players who don't play the game "our way". But cricket is proud to be different, a game where opposing fans can sit side by side and share food and a great play is cheered irrespective of allegiance by everyone. There's a lot of talk of respect and fair play, and although the game often falls short, it tries, and you can't knock it for that.

If a player knows he's out and he walks, he'll be considered a far better player than the one who stays and makes a century (at least by me).

Of course, all those rumours of match-fixing are going to come home to roost one day, but that's another story.
posted by welovelife at 4:04 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't feel it's an outrageous stretch to consider the odium in which the Mankad manoeuvre is held to be a reflection of the balance of power between bowlers and batsmen in the game; their relative incomes, the active playing years physically available to them, who generally administrates the game, and who decides exactly what constitutes attractive cricket — which is inevitably rapid run scoring. Which prolongs the game and pays for the stadium. Early finishes mean foregone audience.

This tiny bit of cod Marxism bought to you by Big Bowling. Cheers.
posted by Wolof at 5:06 AM on January 17, 2015


. Gentlemen" in cricket historically has been about class and income, rather than gender:

Well, obviously. That's because being male was so intrinsic that you might as well specify that it was about humans - you'd have to be crazy to think there might be any other group involved.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 5:39 AM on January 17, 2015


There's cricket. Then there's Dave Podmore.
posted by Paul Slade at 6:52 AM on January 17, 2015


'Cricket' epitomises fairness. It is synonymous with 'playing true'. The term "it's just not cricket" means "it's not fair, honest and equitable". Cricket players are like lawyers - their highest duty is to the game (the court). Their team-mates, supporters and everything else comes second. Backyard or MCG, it shouldn't matter. It's the principle of the thing. It's the vibe. Yes cricket is about class; the class that comes with honesty and integrity. Sportsmanship (sic) and being sportsmanlike (sic) include the attributes of honesty and integrity. In fact I'd wager that 'winning', especially winning at the expense of honesty and integrity, is not an element of sportsmanlike (sic) behaviour at all.

This could, word for word pretty much, apply to Ultimate as well, although in (most*) Ultimate there's no referee/umpire to make the call - it's all on you. Perhaps unsurprisingly the same sort of discussions about sportsmanlike behaviour vs doing what you need to do to win are often had about the higher level, more competitive echelons of the sport.

*Some high level competitions use officials although this pretty much only happens in North America AFAIK.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:17 AM on January 17, 2015


One of the boxes on my list I need to check off is the boxing day test at the MCG.

Very much me too. And I'm lucky in that my "home" cricket ground is New Road, home of Worcestershire and arguably one of the most scenic cricket or sports grounds in the world*.

A few pictures of the MCG:

- February 1, 2008.
- Boxing Day, 2008.
- Boxing Day, 2008 again.
- January 2011, Australia vs England.
- Boxing Day, 2014.

* slightly less so since they recently built a fucking hideous hotel on one side, but such is life.
posted by Wordshore at 7:44 AM on January 17, 2015


If you aren't being paid to play and you nick one, you walk. I know we've all been screwed by bent umpires but non-walking doesn't even it up; it exacerbates the problem.

If you are being paid, you are being paid to win. I cant believe pros who walk.

But for an amateur there are more important things than winning. If you hit it, you've got to go.

However, if you're on 46 and its going great and one ball misbehaves and you glove it but you reckon it was so soft you can pretend like you didn't feel it, well, then you stay.

If anyone has any more ethical questions, dont look at me.
posted by devious truculent and unreliable at 5:23 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


No, a professional cricketer's duty is to perform at their very best in order that their team wins.

Including staying in when they know they're out? That is, straight up fucking lying for personal convenience? Jesus, even my eight-year-old son knows that's wrong.

Your suggestion that professionals should be held to a lower bar of ethical accountability is frankly bewildering. I'm a chartered professional, and I have to meet a higher bar to do the right thing, not a lower one.

It's simply placing the decision-making ability directly with the umpire where it belongs.

How convenient, to be able to wash your hands of any personal moral duty, because that guy is holding my cap. I can't think of any other area of life where 'I did the wrong thing but I didn't get caught so cool magools' is a grown-up way of thinking about ethics.

It's been a great many years since cricket was a game played in the way you seem to think, at a professional level anyway.

That doesn't make it right.

Seriously, mate, you've got some pretty pissweak excuses for being a gutless cheat here, and for making excuses for gutless cheats. 'It's somebody else's problem and they're being paid and but career and but winning and but everybody does it for like ages now'? That's your foundation for a sound moral code? You can have it.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 8:02 PM on January 17, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, I was talking about a specific aspect of cricket, not describing the foundation of a moral code. Even then, to describe someone who places decision-making responsibility on the person with sole responsibility to make decisions as a 'gutless cheat' is a bit strong, to say the least.

The administrators of cricket have decided it's not acceptable to rely on decisions made by humans in professional-level competition and (as have so many sports) introduced technology that allows decisions to be reviewed in minute detail and with the luxury of time, slow-motion, repeated views and all the various advantages the technology brings. This is incompatible with the idea that a participant be expected to voluntarily remove themselves from the game based on their human perception that they may have done something wrong. It's totally unfair to expect someone to do this when they believe they may be out and then call up the technology to assist in decisions where the batter isn't aware they may have nicked the ball or the ball may have nicked a pad. Either you trust the players and the umpire or you don't. It's clear that the administrators of cricket don't trust either.

Remember, I'm only talking about cases where it's not absolutely clear - I'm not suggesting that someone clean-bowled stand there and demand a video review. It's not unreasonable that a player may think maybe they nicked the ball but not be sure - there's a lot going on in that fraction of a second.

None of this has anything to do with ethics or morals. Professional cricket players are not 'held to a lower bar of ethical accountability', but there are technical resources in those games that have taken over the role of making those 'edge case' decisions from the participants - resources which don't exist pretty much anywhere else in the sport. It's neither unethical nor immoral to defer to the umpire where there is doubt about what the right decision is. In any case, if players (in any sport at any level, really) were capable of following the rules without help, there wouldn't be umpires in the first place.
posted by dg at 2:01 PM on January 18, 2015


I can't think of any other area of life where 'I did the wrong thing but I didn't get caught so cool magools' is a grown-up way of thinking about ethics.

Well, there's Wall Street and speeding drivers and copyright violations and god only knows how many more, so I think that just means you didn't think very hard.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 8:27 PM on January 18, 2015


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