Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The spirit of the game

In case you are an Indian, and have just returned from Mars, let me tell you, India won the test series against Australia. For the first time since 1988-89, the world champs lost a test series by a margin of 2 matches. Even when Steve Waugh's team were stumbling at the last frontier, the margin was never more than a match. It is an intriguing time, when Aussies battle hard to maintain their lofty standards. Unfortunately, this rather interesting situation is getting clouded with the so called violation of the spirit of cricket by the Indian team.

Did Dhoni and co really violate spirit of cricket? Let's examine it.

Fact(repeatedly stressed by Australian media - Chapell, or Roebuck or Malcolm Conn): 
(a) MS Dhoni packed the offside with 8 fielders 
(b) At the same time, he asked his bowlers to bowl wide of the off-stump, which amounted to ultra-defensive negative cricket.

Charge: Dhoni violated the spirit of cricket.

Facts (the ones being ignored in laying the charge)
1. Nowhere do the rules bar a captain from doing this (to be fair, Ian Chapell seeks to remedy this by changing the rules)
2. Australian team, upon arriving in India, immediately made it clear that the best way to get the strong Indian middle order out, was to play on their patience, set defensive fields and restrict run-scoring. What's more, they implemented it through out the series in all four test matches.
3. Australian strategy was unsuccessful, as Indian batsmen improvised and scored runs.
4. Mitchell Johnson, in particular, kept bowling a foot outside the off-stump, hoping the batsmen would get frustrated, reach out and throw away their wickets. Not just in one match, but all four matches.

Inferences: If MS Dhoni did violate the so called spirit of cricket, then Australians were equally guilty, if not more; what they did for four matches, India did for a single innings in a single match, albeit, much more clinically. Considering that when they chose to play defensive cricket right from the outset, by trying to merely restrict run-scoring by Indian batsmen, they termed it as "strategy", and when Dhoni did the same, they labelled it as "against the spirit of the game", it seems Aussies belabor a nice fancy spirit that lives only in the baggy green souls :)