Hold your head up, India; you lost but you won our esteem

Sir Don Bradman

By Kersi Meher-Homji


Sri Lanka beat India by 51 runs in the Tri-Nation match in Brisbane last night (Tuesday the 22nd) to go ahead of India on the Points Table.

The win was well-deserved but India’s captain Virender Sehwag and Little Master Sachin Tendulkar should hold their head high.

Why, you may ask? Sehwag made a second ball duck and Tendulkar scored only 22.

It was their sporting spirit that won over my esteem.

This is how it happened. Off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin was bowling the 40th over of the match. Sri Lankan batsman Lahiru Thirimanne was at the bowler’s end.

Lahiru Thirimanne

Thirimanne left the crease before Ashwin delivered the ball. So Ashwin broke the stumps and looked at the umpire for a run out decision. Technically and legally the non-striker Thirimanne was out but to avoid future controversy, the two on-field umpires consulted the third umpire.

However, rather than lifting the finger the umpires asked skipper Sehwag whether he would like to appeal. Sehwag had a chat with Tendulkar and both showed sporting spirit of the noblest kind and did not appeal. It was cricket played in the true spirit of the game.

Would an Australian or Sri Lankan or any other captain showed such sportsmanship? I don’t know but I doubt it.

Thirimanne survived. He was 44 and Sri Lanka 4-196 then and went on to top score with 62 as his country reached 289 and eventually won the game.

Would SL have reached this total and gone on to win by 51 runs if Thirimanne was given out in the 40th over?

It’s a grey area and no one can be sure as that would be subjective thinking.

What annoyed me was that Thirimanne continued rushing out of the bowling crease before the Indian bowlers delivered the ball a few more times. Also Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene said at the Press Conference that his bowlers would not have appealed if an Indian non-striker had left the bowling crease.

As if!

By the Rule recently introduced, what Aswin did was legitimate and the umpire should have declared Thirimanne out when he was 42 and not consulted Sehwag. The Rule reads:

“The bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and provided he has not completed his usual delivery, to attempt to rule out the non-striker.”


This incident reminded me of the famously controversial “Mankanded” incident 65 years ago.

Vinoo Mankad

On India’s first tour of Australia in 1947-48, India’s magnificent all-rounder Vinoo Mankad was involved in an episode which gave him unjustified notoriety.

When bowling against a strong Australian XI in Sydney he noticed Bill Brown at the bowler’s end leaving the crease before he delivered the ball.   He warned Brown once but next time ran him out by whipping off the bails in the act of delivering the ball. Mankad did the same in the Sydney Test and a new cricket phrase was coined: to be Mankaded.

The great Don Bradman (who was the captain on both occasions) defended Mankad in his autobiography Farewell to Cricket: “In some quarters Mankad’s sportsmanship was questioned. For the life of me I cannot understand why”¦ By backing up too far or too early, the non-striker is very obviously gaining an unfair advantage.”

When the team departed for India, the Don presented Mankad with an autographed photograph with the words “Well played, Mankad” inscribed on it. Mankad treasured this till he died.

Subsequently rules were changed and this type of dismissal was considered illegal.

But this year the Rule was changed again and the Indians would have been justified in appealing for Thirimanne for backing up before Ashwin delivered the ball.

Especially, as Ashwin had warned Thirimanne before breaking the stumps in the 40th over, to quote skipper Sehwag.

But just as MS Dhoni had recalled England’s batsman Ian Bell in the July 2011 Trent Bridge Test for walking off before the umpire had officially called “over” for the tea break, Sehwag showed true spirit of the game.

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