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England batter Jonny Bairstow walks back after an 'unfair dismissal' during the second innings on Sunday. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: Lord’s is the home of cricket, where the laws of the game is formulated. It is at the very same venue that the gentlemen’s game has faced a severe test to the spirit of the game.

The Jonny Bairstow dismissal in the second innings of the second Ashes Test against Australia has rekindled the topic of fairplay, an area the game’s governing body has been laying a lot of importance over the last few years. To the letter of the law, there’s no doubt that Bairstow was out after leaving his crease when the ball was still in play. Australian wicketkeeper Alex Carey was smart to use the infringement to tilt the balance in the World Test Champions’ favour at a crucial stage by effecting the ‘stumping’. The dismissal must taught a very harsh lesson for the England wicketkeeper due to his misjudgement, but it is also a harsh lesson for those who are associated with the game.

Playing the game hard

It is not the first time such incidents have taken place, but those that still stand out and are appreciated are those decisions made after looking at the larger picture of the sport, upholding the spirit. Australia at best could have withdrawn the appeal, but in a series like Ashes one cannot expect gifts and certainly not from Australia, who play the game hard.

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Australian players celebrate after dismissing Jonny Bairstow. Image Credit: Reuters

It is mandatory for the batters to inform the umpire before leaving his crease, but sometimes they do it based on trust. It is time to take a relook at such scenarios and view the playing conditions differently.

Grave mistake from Bairstow

In this case the batter just walked off assuming that the ball had landed safely in the hands of the wicketkeeper and being the last ball of the over, he just left the crease to talk to his captain Ben Stokes. A grave mistake. It is again the scourge of modern day batters, who don’t lay a lot of importance to finer details. What if the wicketkeeper had let the ball? Then a chance for taking a bye is missed, something one would never witness in the past.

The argument in Bairstow’s favour is that he wasn’t trying to steal a run, nor he was backing-up too far like a non-striker to gain undue advantage. It’s an error of judgement. Mahendra Singh Dhoni recalling Ian Bell could come close to this kind of freak dismissal.

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Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni recalled Ian Bell after a freak dismissal. Image Credit: Reuters

Moved on from acrimonious past

Cricket has moved on and come a long way from the acrimonious past, blurring the lines between the teams. The players are more relaxed and chat during the match and one of the reasons for the bonding is the numerous franchise leagues that the star players are involved, meaning they will be sharing the dressing room at some point of time at some place on the earth. May be it was the familiarity that allowed Bairstow to let his guard down

Stokes, on a couple of occasions during his stunning counter-attack in the second innings, picked the ball and handed it over to the Australians. Had Australia appealed, he could have been given out for handling the ball, strictly going by the law. Similar instances have happened in the past and hence to change the old habit, International Cricket Council has initiated the Spirit of Cricket Award. Winning is important, but how a team wins the contest matters the most. So it is time to have the Spirit of Cricket in letter than in spirit.