The Ashes: On the question of Broad and walking

Just a short post today: I am astonished by the vitriol that is coming out of so called cricket fans today surrounding the failure of Stuart Broad to walk at Trent Bridge yesterday. Let’s be honest: it was the wrong call by the umpire but does that make is Broad’s fault?

The fact of the matter is that when we, as young men and women, are taught to play the game of cricket we are taught to respect the umpire’s decision as a default. Has anyone stopped to think about whether or not we are taught to walk if the umpire is wrong?

Why is it that when players get to the top of the game the rules seem to change? I played cricket from the age of 6 through to the age of 19 constantly at club, school and representative level and then made the odd comeback in the my twenties. Never once did any one of my coaches tell me that if the umpire made a mistake I had to walk. In fact I reckon some of my coaches would have been filthy if I had have walked.

I remember vividly one day playing at Ivor Marsden 3 field in Ipswich against Marburg Cricket Club. A left arm swing bowler induced me to edge behind and I was given not out. I did not walk and when I came off some 35 runs later my coach did not rip into me about not walking. He did not even ask me. It is apposite to note that the opposition that day did have a few words with me on the field that day and I gave a bit back and then after play we sat around having a chat and a drink. That is what cricket is about isn’t it? The umpire makes a call, there is a bit of banter and then we move on?

It is counter intuitive: at every level but for the top we are taught that the spirit of the game is to respect the umpires decision and yet we lambast players for not doing that very thing when they do not walk.

Whether or not Stuart Broad is a walker is NOT the point. Going all the way back to W G Grace some of our most lionised players were non-walkers and, frankly, nor should they be. Players must do nothing more than respect the umpires decision. If the umpire gets it wrong the focus must be on the umpire and on ways that mistakes can be minimised without moving away from the central canon that was drummed into us as kids: “the umpire is always right!”

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