Sydney: On the day he became the first overseas cricketer to be presented with the honorary life membership of the Sydney Cricket Ground, Sachin Tendulkar was in the middle of a controversial dismissal that reignited the spirit of cricket debate.
The incident occurred during the seventh over of India's chase, when Tendulkar was run-out in controversial manner. Gautam Gambhir tapped a delivery from Brett Lee towards point and Tendulkar responded for a single. Lee, after his follow-through, ran across the pitch towards the bails but then stopped as he saw David Warner swoop in and under-arm the ball onto the stumps. Warner's superb throw hit the stumps with Tendulkar well short of his ground, and the third umpire ruled it out.
Tendulkar had immediately thrown his arms up in frustration, but per the laws of cricket he was out. His content_cnion was that Lee had obstructed him, but there was no avenue for appeal as Lee did not appear to intentionally block Tendulkar.
This was the second controversy of the day. Earlier, during Australia's innings, David Hussey was involved in an obstructing-the-field incident. Off the final ball of the 24th over of Australia's innings, Matthew Wade tapped the ball into the covers and set off for a quick single. Hussey, the nonstriker, was running towards the danger end and as the throw came in from Suresh Raina, he instinctively put a hand out to shield himself from the ball. The camera angles showed that Raina's throw was headed towards the stumps, and so MS Dhoni immediately appealed for Hussey’s wicket on the basis of obstructing the field.
Hussey was clearly not getting in between the ball and the stumps, even though the throw was not strong enough to cause him any serious harm. Per the new ICC rules, a batsman can be given out for doing what Hussey did and hence Dhoni appealed. Billy Bowden and Simon Taufel, the on-field umpires, took their time while the third umpire, Simon Fry, reviewed the footage extensively.
The umpires' view was that Hussey had not stuck out hand to avoid being run out, but to save himself from harm. Dhoni saw otherwise. In Tendulkar's case there was no willful obstruction on Lee's part, but the incident did enough to leave a sour taste in the action.
This was not the first time in the series that India had been linked with the spirit of cricket debate. At the Gabba this week, in the 40th over of the Sri Lankan innings, R Ashwin saw that the non-striker Lahiru Thirimanne was about three feet outside the crease even as his back foot was about to land. Ashwin didn't go through with his delivery, turned around, ran Thirimanne out, and appealed.
And as per rules that was out, but the Australian umpire Paul Reiffel didn't rule him Thirimanne out and went on to consult with the leg umpire. He then asked Virender Sehwag, the stand-in captain, if he indeed wanted to appeal. That, despite the rule changes last year, which clearly state the bowler is permitted, before releasing the ball and to attempt to run out the non-striker without giving a single warning.
Keeping the spirit of cricket in mind, Sehwag and Tendulkar decided to withdraw the appeal as they felt it was against the spirit of the game.
A similar incident had occurred in England last year when Ian Bell was given run out during the Trent Bridge Test. Dhoni had taken back his appeal, an act which won him the ICC's Spirit of Cricket Award at the inaugural ICC Awards in London.
The incidents of Sunday are sure to make headlines in the coming days, throwing into light the murkiness around the rule for obstructing the field, and how the ICC has clearly not thought it through.