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Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sachin walks, Ponting are you watching?

A day after Australian captain Ricky Ponting refused to walk after being caught behind, waiting instead for the third umpire to decide his fate, Sachin Tendulkar showed just why the gentelemen's game is still alive and kicking as he walked back to the pavilion after edging a Ravi Rampaul delivery in the game against the West Indies at Chennai on Sunday.

The crowd at the stadium and the television spectators who were hoping to see his hundredth international hundred arrive on the colourful festival of Holi were surely disappointed, but the respect for the man touched a new high as he set yet another example of graceful conduct for the nth time.

The decision was all the more impressive because Tendulkar was playing in his 450th one-day game, extending his ODI appearance record to six more than Sri Lanka's Sanath Jayasuriya, who is second on the list of most capped players - the only other man to have played more than 400 ODIs.

Tendulkar's sporting decision to walk off despite the fact that umpire Steve Davis had not given him out was in direct contrast to Ponting standing his ground despite getting an edge to the Pakistani wicketkeeper in Colombo on Saturday.

What was even more brazen was his post-match admission that he knew he was out but always waited for the umpire's decision.

"There were no doubts about the nick. I knew I hit but as always, I wait the umpire to give me out. That's the way I've always played the game," he said.

Asked by pundits shocked at Ponting's admission that he openly breached one of the game's unwritten rules, Ponting replied: "That's right, the umpire gave me not out."

But Tendulkar's walk isn't the only gentelemanly gesture that has been seen in the World Cup. And there are at least two moments that come to the mind where the unwritten rules of the game were upheld in a display of the highest spirit of the game.

In 1987, Pakistan took on West Indies in a must-win match as Courtney Walsh was bowling the last over. With one ball left, the tension was at fever pitch and non-striker Saleem Jaffar backed up too far. Walsh, who could have run him out and won the game for his team, warned the batsman instead and walked back to his mark to bowl again. West Indies lost the game but Walsh won over many fans for this gesture.

Then in 2003 came Adam Gilchrist's walk of fame. In the 2003 semi-final against Sri Lanka, Gilchrist decided to walk even though the umpire had ruled him not out. A decision that stunned many not only increased respect for the player but restored faith that even an Aussie could uphold the unwritten rules of the game.

Ponting's refusal to walk on Saturday yet again showed how gamesmanship has taken the backseat to competitiveness. It was imperative that chivarly and integrity in the game be restored. Thank God, God took it upon himself to set the record straight!

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