“Are you a ‘walker’ or a ‘wait-and-see-er’?” The debate over whether batsmen should walk is still going strong – particularly in club cricket.
We’ve all been there: you know you’ve hit it, perhaps you even had a little glance back to check if your edge was taken by the keeper… to your dismay it was. Your shoulders slump a little. You know your afternoon is over, the best part of your weekend is done. Or is it? What if you stand there and wait for the umpire’s decision? Maybe he won’t give you. Maybe he didn’t notice. Maybe he’s your teammate, a 13-year-old on debut, who knows if he gives you out, he’ll be dropped for the rest of the season.
Walking. It’s one of the most contentious issues in club cricket. Everyone has an opinion on it and most are happy to castigate the opponent who has the audacity to stand their ground. But despite the moral high ground we claim while fielding, many of us are more than happy to don our best poker faces and act as if nothing’s happened when we happen to know we’ve hit one ourselves.
There are still those who will call time on their own innings without hesitation, regardless of the situation. Good on them, everyone has great respect for a ‘walker’ and perhaps they take solace in the warm ripple of applause and nod of appreciation they receive from their opponents as they leave the field of play. These moral-custodians can sleep easy, safe in the knowledge that they did the right thing and upheld the ‘Spirit of Cricket’.
Does that mean that everyone else has sleepless nights as they tussle with whether they got away with one or not? Absolutely not, for there are ways that cricketers countenance not walking. Perhaps they’ll argue that they were triggered last week and these things even themselves out. Or indeed that many laws actually say “if in the opinion of the umpire…”, meaning that there is no need to walk precisely because the umpire is there to make a decision. The “I wasn’t 100 per cent sure I hit the ball and not my pad” defence is fairly common, and then sometimes you find yourselves playing your rivals who everyone hates… what are you going to do then?
I think often the real reason club cricketers don’t walk is much more simple though. We all really like batting and we don’t want that experience to end. Our personal enjoyment on a Saturday afternoon is more important to us than the enjoyment of others (particularly the opposition) and it will be less enjoyable to walk off than it will be to carry on, regardless of the number of comments the opposition might give you.
So should club cricketers walk? Yes, probably, but is that realistic? The club cricketer’s one game of cricket a week probably shouldn’t matter so much as to forego sportsmanship. But it does matter that much. To us, at least. We spend all afternoon fighting with every sinew in our body to beat our opponents, to display that we are more skilful and more able. It makes sense that every now and then there will be that niggling temptation to remain despite knowing that we probably shouldn’t.
Advances in technology may one day ensure that ‘not walking’ becomes irrelevant. With Hawk-Eye announcing the development of an affordable edge-detection system for recreational cricket, the Saturday-league umpire may soon have the power of DRS at their fingertips. Until such a time that this technology is widely utilised though, we will continue to debate the rights and wrongs, the why’s and why-not’s, and the what-could-have-been’s.
Perhaps as a cricket community though, we can move the discussion forward, have it all out in the open and resolve some of the conflicts from the two sides. Maybe this is where we start the revolution towards a harmonious cricketing experience in which either everyone does walk or we agree that nobody has to. Ask your teammates on Saturday, we’re sure you’ll come to an agreement…
Where do you stand on the issue? Are you a ‘walker’ or a ‘wait-and-see-er’?