The Ashes controversies have always added spice to the occasion. The most recent such controversy was seen in the second test at Lord’s when the crowd displayed a pathetically substandard behaviour. Even the behaviour and manners of the members of the MCC sitting in the long room or outside in their enclosure were much to be desired. The unthinkable behaviour of bad manners and rudeness was amply displayed which shamed the elite members of this prestigious club. The brilliant Australian batsman Usman Khwaja was not only heckled but was bodily pushed around in the member’s stand as the English defeat became imminent. It was a typical sad reaction of the English when things are not going their way. There are quite a few such incidents where the English did not uphold the traditions of cricket as a sport of the gentlemen by shunning the sportsman’s spirit. It’s not cricket, when in the face of defeat self-respect, dignity and the spirit of the game are overlooked. The recent incident happened when Bairstow was officially given out stumped by Carey off Green as he casually walked about outside the batting crease. He had missed the ball which had landed in the hands of the wicket keeper and the action was still not finished when Bairstow carelessly stepped outside the crease. An appeal was made and the Umpire took the right decision according to the rules to give him out. The decision completely baffled the batsman and the crowd including the MCC members booed to no end. Cummins, the Australian captain could have withdrawn the appeal but he did not. At the closing ceremony, former England captain, Mike Atherton asked Cummins that wasn’t it an unsportsmanlike action? To which Cummins replied that it was their right to appeal but it was up to the Umpire to take the decision. Guy Lavender, the chief executive of the MCC took immediate action against the unruly MCC members and suspended the membership of three members forthwith. He issued a letter to all the members of the MCC to appraise them not only of his action but also to warn members to refrain from bad manners.
A similar little spoken about incident happened in the second test of the 1928-29 Ashes series, when Don Bradman was dropped for Alan Kippax who was touted as the next Victor Trumper. Facing a ball from seamer George Geary, Kippax planted his left leg outside the leg stump to meet the ball with a swing but missed. The ball thudded into his pad, dribbled around his leg and knocked the bails off. Kippax stayed put as the England fielders appealed to the other Umpire who saw everything and told Kippax he had been bowled off the pads. Kippax assumed that Wicket Keeper George Duckworth might have tempted to dislodge a stump using his knee as Monty Noble in the press box ranted that the decision should have been taken by the bowler’s side Umpire. As Kippax stood put at his crease, Jack Hobbs, standing near the square leg Umpire said, “What are you doing, standing there when you’re out?” The only instance of a bad remark by Hobbs. Kippax walked off flushed red with indignation. As he walked passed Harold Larwood, he heard him mutter a sharp expletive. The All India Wicket Keeper Batsman Dilawar Hussain who appeared for India in 1936 was often suspected and accused of keeping small pebbles in his mouth to blow away the bails of the unsuspecting batsman. His pranks and wit always brought much laughter in the game.
On December 13, 1947, Vinoo Mankad touring Australia with India on its inaugural tour, ran out Bill Brown on the non-striker’s end in the Sydney test. Mankad had warned him twice earlier to remain in the crease but Mankad had to stump him in his delivery stride as Brown was yards outside the crease. It angered a lot of people and a new phrase ‘Mankading’ was coined in a derogatory way but Mankad had done no wrong and was only following the rules.
In 1956, the MCC ‘A’ team touring Pakistan landed in trouble when they manhandled Umpire Idris Beg during the fourth test at Peshawar for making some unfavourable decisions. The tour was almost cancelled due to the ugly incident. It was at the intervention of Lord Altham and the President of Pakistan Iskander Mirza, the tour was completed but it certainly left a bad taste. Roy Swetman, one of the main culprits in the incident, is now 86 but was the youngest team member then. There was some disillusionment when Sir Garfield Sobers, touring Pakistan with the West Indies team in 1959, was given out lbw a few times. In Dacca test when he was given out lbw to Pakistan captain Fazal Mahmood, he was yards outside the crease. As he was walking away, Wicket Keeper Imtiaz Ahmed and Ijaz Butt, both told the captain to call him back as he was not out but Fazal ignored their counsel.
In 1981, Srikanth of India, making his debut at Mumbai against England was out in a similar way when he casually walked out of the crease before the ball completed its action and was stumped. In 1989 Srikanth was called back by Pakistan captain Imran Khan after being given out lbw to Waqar Younis in the ODI at Lahore between India and Pakistan. Technically the captain had no authority to call him back after being given out, but Srikanth was out next ball caught behind off Waqar Younis. In the second ODI between India and South Africa of the World Cup 1992, Kapil Dev stumped Kirsten in his bowling stride who kept going yards outside the crease, after warning him a couple of times. The incident between England captain Mike Gatting and Umpire Shakoor Rana is yet another glaring example of gross misconduct on the part of the touring captain. Shakoor Rana acted perfectly within the rules of the game and took an upright stance. The behaviour of the English captain was clearly, ‘It’s not cricket’. Every team wants to win but they need to keep their adrenaline in check to follow the rules of the game and never forget cricket is a sport of gentlemen.