Fairness in sports

The 2019 edition of the ICC cricket world cup came to a spectacular showdown. I’m pretty sure the spectators who bought the ticket to watch the match live at Lord’s couldn’t ask for anything better than what they witnessed today. Check out the highlights below if you don’t believe me. It’s a compressed 8 minutes (vs close to 10 hours of actual play) of one of the finest sporting events you will ever see. Don’t take my word for it.

Cricket World Cup Final 2019: England vs New Zealand

New Zealand lost the world cup by a blooper. A deflection by the bat when the ball was still in play. I think that’s what lost them the world cup. And by all standards the Kiwis were much deserving than the English. But, of course, you opinion may vary. Suffice it to say that the best team won. The English gave it all and so did the Kiwis, I guess if there’s anything called the luck factor, it definitely was in play yesterday.

Given that Ben Stokes would be apologizing for the deflection all his life, it still won’t be enough to undo what was basically an error in judgement by the umpires. The main match was a tie. The superover was a tie too. Yet, England won on account of maximum boundaries scored throughout the match. I don’t think that’s a fair assessment to conclude a result of the biggest match of the tournament. Truth to be told, if it weren’t for the erroneous decision, New Zealand would’ve been the world champions!

Here’s what the ICC Laws of Cricket says about that infamous deflection off an overthrow:

19.8 Overthrow or wilful act of fielder

“If the boundary results from an overthrow or from the wilful act of a fielder, the runs scored shall be any runs for penalties awarded to either side and the allowance for the boundary and the runs completed by the batsmen, together with the run in progress if they had already crossed at the instant of the throw or act.”

Clear mistake: Former umpire Simon Taufel gives his verdict on overthrow controversy in World Cup final

Confusing? Here’s what a legendary umpire explains:

A review of the footage of the incident – which took place off the fourth ball of the last over – shows clearly that, at the moment the ball was released by the New Zealand fielder, Martin Guptill, Stokes and his partner, Adil Rashid, had not yet crossed for their second run.

(Simon) Taufel also said that Stokes and Rashid should have switched ends once the run was found to be incomplete – which meant Rashid would have played the fifth ball with three runs required to win. “They did not cross on their second run, at the instant of the throw. So given that scenario, five runs should have been the correct allocation of runs, and Ben Stokes should have been at the non-striker’s end for the next delivery.”

Umpires made ‘error of judgement’ with overthrows – Taufel

Got it? Great! Now, what’s done has been done. There won’t be any reversals to the decision that’s already been made. But the deeper question is was it fair to the losing side?

I guess not. But every sport is governed by the ethos of truth and fairplay and despite that errors, goof-ups, and even scandals happen. Is that the true reflection of the sport in question? Absolutely not, what it does reveal is the character and mettle of the athletes at play.

Kane Williamson, the captain of the losing side today, summed this argument the best, “the uncontrollables were hard to swallow.”

Everything’s fair in love, war and sports.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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