Emmanuel Stewart was well within his rights to appeal for obstruction when Jiveshan Pillay handed the ball to him without his permission in Windies’ Under-19 World Cup game against South Africa in Tauranga on Wednesday (January 17).
After all, Rule 37.4 explicitly states that a batsman must have the fielder’s consent before touching the ball with his hands while it’s in play.
Stewart, the Windies captain, appealed and got the decision in his favour. And yet, instead of celebrating, he was left ruing his decision a while later.
“I appealed, not with the intention of going upstairs,” he explained after the game, which Windies lost by 76 runs. “There were a couple of other appeals on the field and the umpires heard it, so they decided to have a look at it. We had the choice to ask the question, which we did so. But he was given out within the laws of the game.
“But on reflection, I thought our appeal wasn’t really in the spirit of the game. Moving forward, if I’m in such a situation, I’d withdraw the decision to go upstairs.”
As wicketkeeper apart from being the captain, Stewart would have had a clear view that the ball was not going to hit the stumps after it rolled off Pillay’s inside edge. Yet, he went ahead with the appeal fully aware of the minute details in the rule book pertaining to the dismissal.
“I thought about it a bit later. In the middle of a game and a situation, you don’t have time to think about those things. I’m the captain, keeper. So I had other things to think about, so it wasn’t the main focus for me at that point in time.” – Emmanuel Stewart
Stewart explained that the appeal was made in the heat of the moment, and it went out of his hand once the umpires got involved.
Ahsan Raza and Langton Rusere, the on-field umpires, and Ranmore Martinesz, the third umpire, took more than four minutes to arrive at the decision. Through it all, they didn’t ask – and rightly so – if Stewart wanted to withdraw the appeal. The law, after all, was made black and white to eliminate such confusion and the umpires have no reason to create more once the appeal is made.
“No,” said Stewart when asked if the umpires had asked him to withdraw the appeal. “Only one question was asked (by the umpires): Did I ask him to throw the ball to me? I said I didn’t. I was aware of the rule.”
After the dust had settled, Stewart reflected on the incident, prompting a change of mind.
“I thought about it a bit later. In the middle of a game and a situation, you don’t have time to think about those things,” he said. “I’m the captain, keeper. So I had other things to think about, so it wasn’t the main focus for me at that point in time.
“There’s always pressure playing any tournament. Having said that, it’s cricket and this is what we’ve signed up for as players. We don’t want to question any of those stuff. We just take it as it is, move forward and play our best.”
“We made a mistake and we paid for it. That is a rule, but there is spirit of cricket. Some instances where a captain can step in and say, ‘well, I don’t think that’s a good call’. I think that was a great opportunity for their captain to just step in and say maybe that wasn’t right.” – Raynard van Tonder
Raynard van Tonder, Stewart’s South African counterpart, agreed it was the batsman’s mistake, but said Stewart missed a chance to uphold the spirit of the game.
“I think all of us are aware of the rule,” he said. “But the way we play back home and what we’re used to … like the ball wasn’t even going to hit the stumps. So just for a second he (Pillay) doesn’t think about it. What he’s used to back home, he just picked it up and gave it to the fielding team.
“As it happened, the team wasn’t really happy. But if you think about it, that is the rule. We made a mistake and we paid for it. That is a rule, but there is spirit of cricket. Some instances where a captain can step in and say, ‘well, I don’t think that’s a good call’. We’ve seen it before, and I think that was a great opportunity for their captain to just step in and say maybe that wasn’t right.”
Wandile Mekwatu, the South African wicketkeeper who starred with an unbeaten 99 as South Africa knocked Windies, the defending champions, out of the tournament with a 76-run win, referred to another instance in the game where he upheld the ‘unspoken code’ that is spirit of cricket.
“Today, when we were fielding, there was one catch that didn’t carry all the way to me,” he pointed out. “I could have easily said to the umpires – knowing fully that it hasn’t carried to me – to go upstairs and check. But I knew it didn’t carry. So in an instance like that to put your hand up and just say we’re doing the right thing because it’s fair play, that’s the way we should play the game.
“The spirit of cricket is a bit of an unspoken code. The laws are fixed and you can read them and you can see them. Spirit of cricket is just something that the guys know about, that’s how we play the game.”