What about cricket ethics?

2014-09-10 00:00

A couple of moments on the cricket field caused quite a stir amongst The Witness sports desk over the weekend. First, Titans captain Henry Davids purposefully dropped Sibs Makhanya in the final of the Global Softech Sixes on Friday to stop the retired Morné Van Wyk from reappearing as the game reached its climax. It was a decision that ultimately ensured a Titans victory, but what should we make of it from an ethical perspective? Then there was the final of the Triangular Series between the Proteas and Australia on Saturday. Faf Du Plessis looked set to become the first player ever to score four centuries in an ODI series, but a rampant AB De Villiers stole the show with a quick-fire 50 —

forcing Du Plessis to try one big shot too many in a failed bid to reach his ton. Should AB have done more to help Faf reach 100, or did he approach the game in the right way?

DAVID KNOWLES and LLOYD BURNARD had differing views.

DAVID KNOWLES:

Ethics on the field have been smashed over the boundary

THE DAVIDS DROPPED CATCH

Henry Davids looked like a naughty schoolboy and he knew it. There was nowhere for him to hide and as the television cameras zoomed in, all he could do was smile sheepishly and have the gall to suddenly blame nature — the sun was shining in his eyes.

It was a great “save” on his behalf but it was clear to see he had bent the rules and got away with it. The “drop” in question was during the final of the franchise global sixes bash at SuperSport Park last Friday.

The tournament may have been a farce but it was based on the Hong Kong sixes and there were rules to abide by.

One of the rules meant batsmen who scored 30 or more had to retire but could return to bat if his side had lost five wickets before the completion of five overs.

In the final, the Dolphins’ Morné van Wyk had belted his customary 30-plus runs and watched while his team’s efforts floundered. The last pair of Sibs Makhayna and Thandi Tshabalala were at the wicket.

Davids knew that Van Wyk could return to the fray and rather than take the juicy catch offered — it went straight to him at catchable height — the sun suddenly broke through the clouds and he lost the ball.

It was never an attempt at a catch. It was a blatant knock-down and flaunting of the rules. Davids, as an international player should respect the ethos and rules of the game.

It begs the question — was Hansie Cronje really that bad? After all, he too was just bucking the rules and trying to make things work out the best for him too.

THE DU PLESSIS CENTURY

Cricket is a game of records and statistics and Faf du Plessis was on the brink of claiming a record all on his own. He would have become the first batsman ever to score four hundreds in an ODI series.

But, at the other end, AB de Villiers decided to steal the show, which ruined Du Plessis’s place in cricket history, four runs being the difference.

In the final of the Tri- Series competition in Zimbabwe, Du Plessis was on track to achieve something out of the ordinary. He was on course to score four hundreds in five ODI innings. The weather, the target, overs in hand — it was all lining up for him.

Then his batting partner, school-mate and friend decided he needed to be noticed too. There were eight or more overs in hand, balls remaining clearly outweighed runs needed and it was a matter of standing to applaud Du Plessis when the moment arrived. It was well within his grasp, yet De Villiers decided to reach his 50 first, suddenly unleashing a series of powerful shots which cut the runs needed to single figures and Du Plessis on 92 not out.

Six runs were needed to win and it meant Du Plessis had to hit two fours to reach the Promised Land. He hit one but lofted a catch off the next attempt.

Cricket is a team game, but the situation never warranted such pressure that De Villiers had to cut loose and effectively ruin Du Plessis’s dream.

De Villiers will never be taken to task on his methods and thinking but surely he must have been aware of what was at stake and in the offering.

A wry smile from De Villiers as Du Plessis walked off gave the impression he didn’t mind what he had ruined but the disbelief on the faces in the Protea dressing room sent a message of “how could you” to their captain.

LLOYD BURNARD:

Ethics? Let’s focus more on rules

THE DAVIDS DROPPED CATCH

I am not a fan of the Sixes format to begin with — it makes T20 seem like the Ashes — but let’s accept the tournament was an adequate curtain raiser for the new domestic season.

There is no doubt that had Morné Van Wyk, who had been forced to retire after scoring 30 runs, been allowed to come in and continue his innings for the Dolphins in the latter stages they would likely have won the match and the tournament.

Titans captain Henry Davids made the decision to deliberately drop the ineffective Sibs Makhanya to keep Van Wyk padded up in the dressing room. There can surely be no issue with this decision. If anything, the issue further highlights the absurdity of Sixes as a cricket format.

Davids should not be crucified for what was merely an appreciation of the rules. What if either Makhanya or Thandi Tshabalala — the other tail ender — had decided to step on his stumps and give his wicket away? How would that be interpreted? It would also have reeked of unprofessionalism, but again that would have been a decision that benefited the team. Players should be allowed to do anything within the rules of the game to ensure his or her side victory. It only becomes contentious when a player breaks the rules and gets away with it. But in this case, no rules were broken so there can be no qualms. If anything, the rules themselves need to be questioned. Maybe retirements in Sixes should be done away with, or better yet, maybe Sixes should be done away with.

Deliberate dropped catches and batsmen kicking over their wickets is never what we want to see on a cricket field, but let’s not confuse cricket with what we saw in Pretoria last week.

THE DU PLESSIS CENTURY

Faf Du Plessis has been the talk of the town, and his performances in Zim were flawless. In the tournament final against Australia, he was denied a fourth series century by a destructive AB De Villiers knock.

To label AB as selfish in this instance is ridiculous. The second you start allocating runs to certain batsmen, cricket moves away from being a team game and focuses more on the individual. Yes, the Proteas were always in the driving seat and were never losing that match.

But did we really expect AB to nudge around a few singles and make sure that there were enough runs in the bank for Faf to cash in with a century?

In all sport, the opponent has to be respected, and the ultimate sign of respect to the Australians was to finish off the match as quickly as possible. Personal accolades can never be prioritised above team performance. Winning comes first, and individual achievements that accompany team success should be viewed as a bonus.

What was more concerning and far more disrespectful, for me anyway, was watching De Villiers give himself a bowl against the Zimbabweans in the final pool game of the tourna- ment. Again, the aim should be to win the match as soon as possible. AB said later he thought it was a good opportunity for him to show what he can offer with the ball. Thanks for showing us, AB, we really appreciate it. Now if you could never do that again, that would be great.

I doubt that Faf holds AB accountable for not reaching his 100 in the final, so why should we? What we should be talking about instead is the fact that the Proteas won a final in convincing fashion against our greatest cricketing rivals.

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