The debate as to whether the long-time gentlemen’s rules of cricket should be re-instituted in the hard-nosed, technology era has been re-ignited by the catching controversy involving England’s Eoin Morgan and Australia’s Dan Christian.
During England’s innings in the third Carlton Mid Series ODI match at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Christian claimed a diving return catch from Morgan barely above the ground and assured the Irish-born batsman it was a legitimate dismissal.
But as is his right, Morgan stood his ground and asked for a definitive ruling from the umpires, who referred the incident to the video referee, who confirmed it was a clear take and Morgan was sent on his way.
It was while that adjudication was taking place that Australia captain Michael Clarke became involved in an animated discussion with Morgan and his batting partner at the time, England wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.
The debate was fuelled by the fact Buttler had also claimed a disputed catch off David Warner during the first Carlton Mid Series match in Melbourne last Sunday, at which point Warner took the fielder’s word and headed from the field.
He was later recalled to continue his innings after the umpires took it upon themselves to confer with their video colleague and the agreement was turned on its head.
Despite the interference of technology on that occasion, Clarke believes the ‘honour system’ remains the best means of deciding such cases because players who claim catches that aren’t legitimate will be shamed by subsequent vision and their reputations duly sullied.
“I would like to see it get back to a bit of old-school cricket where you ask the fieldsman ‘did you catch it?’, and if he says ‘yes’ then you take his word,” Clarke said shortly after Australia’s seven-wicket win that sealed the five-match ODI series.
“I think we’ve got so much technology in the game these days that if you say 'yes' when you don’t catch it that’s your reputation.
“If you’re going to claim a catch when it’s bounced then you’re going to be crucified anyway. That’s the integrity of the game of cricket.
“There are some occasions when you’re unsure as a fielder, and that’s when you go to the umpires and say ‘I’m’ unsure’ and that’s when you use the technology.
“But on a lot of occasions as a fieldsman you know if you caught it and I would like to see it go back to backing the players’ judgement.”
Clarke cited last Sunday’s Warner case as an example of how the system should work, even though it would have cost his team a wicket at a crucial stage of a run chase that they eventually achieved.
And he added it was that precedent that led to the escalation in today’s on-field argument when Buttler told him there needed to be consistency, a point on which both Clarke and his opposition skipper Alastair Cook seemed in furious agreement.
"I said (to Buttler) I’m being extremely consistent – you told Warner you caught it and he walked off, it was the umpires that called him back,” Clarke said.
Cook admitted it was the lack of uniformity on whether umpires got involved or whether they were content to leave it in the hands of the players that was partly to blame for today’s altercation.
“I just get a little bit frustrated with the consistency of the whole thing,” Cook said in his post-match media conference
“When we asked the players with the Jos Buttler one, we’re quite happy and he walks off and then the umpires call him back.
“It’s all just a little bit confusing and that’s what frustrates me (and) I think the players are frustrated by it because of the inconsistency.
“I would love it to go back to the old days where the players say it’s out, you walk off and it’s fine.”
But he added the problem with that theory is that should a player quite genuinely believe he has completed a catch only to be shown in slow motion footage that it wasn’t the case, they would be targeted once the vision was replayed on the big screens and subsequently around the world.
“So I don’t know the answer to that.”