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Monday, March 21, 2011

Classy Tendulkar shows Ponting how to walk

Runs aren’t the only criteria separating the two most prolific run-getters in international cricket history – Sachin Tendulkar, and Ricky Ponting.

Tendulkar’s a walker.

Last night at the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, Tendulkar stunned the chockers crowd by walking off the last ball of the opening over, for just two runs.

It must have been the faintest of touches, but Australian umpire Steve Davis didn’t get a chance to make a decision, Tendulkar was on his way.

The previous night Ponting “drove” a top edge into Pakistani keeper’s Kamran Akmal’s webbing of his right hand glove, and stayed put – South African umpire Marais Erasmus gave the Australian skipper not out.

It was such an obvious out, and the review sent Ponting packing.

Ponting was 19 at the time, and desperately in need of a big score, runs have been like hen’s teeth all summer. So he tested the umpiring waters, and lost.

But there was at lot more at stake for Tendulkar, seeking the unprecedented milestone of 100 international centuries – 51 Test tons, and 48 ODIs, to date – a binocular distance ahead of any other batsmen.

Tendulkar was greeted by a deafening crescendo of applause as he walked to the centre with Gautam Gambhir – the potential history-making scene was set.

But despite the enormity of the moment, Tendulkar walked – it says volumes for the integrity of the champion.

The crowd reaction was extraordinary – from a deafening crescendo to a deafening silence in the space of six deliveries – as though someone had turned off the audio.

Walking is a touchy subject, making walkers a rare breed in all forms of cricket. It’s a personal decision, there are no laws covering walking.

I’m definitely not taking the high ground here, far from it, every cricketer is entitled to his own decision-making.

But I vividly recall a conversation very early in my Mosman first grade career in 1960 with my captain Ian Craig, who I greatly respected, and still the youngest Australian skipper at 21, and the youngest Australian Test cricketer, at 17.

“You walked, David?”.

“Yes, I did skipper – always do, always will”.

“Have you ever considered the umpires are there to do that job, and over a long period you take the good decisions, with the bad?”.

“No, I haven’t – I have to look myself in the mirror when I shave the next morning, knowing I have a clear conscience, so I walk”.

“Fair enough, just thought I’d mention it”.

I appreciated Ian’s advice, that made a lot of sense. But I reckon, to this day, I received many close umpiring decisions in my favour over 17 years, as an acknowledged walker.

A few years later, after a game against St George, I was having a chat with Brian Booth – Test batsman, a gentleman, and a gentle man, a lay preacher, and a walker.

“Brian, what would you do if Australia needed two runs with nine down to win the Ashes at Lords, and you feather touched a catch to the keeper – would you walk?”

“That’s a very tough question David, with so much at stake – I would ask God for guidance (long pause) – and then walk”.

Sachin Tendulkar’s cut of the same cloth.

By David Lord

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