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Big Bash League: The Alex Hales – Ricky Ponting debate on spirit of cricket 

The term ‘spirit of cricket’ has been thrown around quite casually over the years with teams and players often hiding under the term to stick up for themselves when others deviate from the actual law. Running batsmen out at the non-striker’s end before a ball has been bowled has often been the most acute case of ‘spirit of the game’ being breached.


But of late, fake fielding has made a dramatic entry, and in the Big Bash League, England batsman Alex Hales added a new twist when he tried a quirky move to gain advantage over the batsmen in the Elimination final between Hobart Hurricanes and Sydney Thunder that Hales’ team, the Thunder, went on to win by 57 runs.


Even when fielding limitations stipulate a certain number of fielders to remain inside the ring, we have seen fielders take position outside the ring and walk in along with the bowler’s run-up to just about sneak inside the circle. This is habitual for most cricketers and an accepted norm.


Hales, though, decided he would give himself a bit of advantage by walking backwards at the point of delivery. This would mean if the batsman does clear the circle by a marginal distance, Hales would still be in the fray to take an unexpected catch. 


However, what transpired was that the batsman couldn’t really find the meat of the bat and Hales outsmarted himself by moving backwards because the ball fell in front of him, at the position where he would have taken a simple catch had he remained stationary. 


Ricky Ponting on Channel Seven did not take kindly to Hales and condemned the Englishman for taking an unfair advantage, calling it “cheating” on Channel Seven.


“Take your position and then walk in with the bowler, you can’t go backwards,” said the former Test captain. 

“He was supposed to be one of four fielders inside the circle. He starts walking back outside the circle before the ball is being bowled.


That said, Hales was within the stipulated playing conditions for the BBL. Cricket Australia’s BBL playing conditions require fielders to be inside the circle atthe instant of delivery and Hales was inside at that point before walking back. 


Ponting, though, wasn’t too kind to that fact although he did accept it was within the laws.


“Anyone of us who have played the game, we know we’re not allowed to walk back in the field. It’s not against the rules but it’s against the spirit of the game,” he said.


Hales, well within his right, commented that he was only doing what slip fielders do these days – anticipate and move. Slip fielders move to the leg-side when batsmen get into position to sweep to see if they can nab a chance on the other side of the wicket-keeper. And Hales points out that his act was no different to that.


“I don’t think there is anything wrong with trying to anticipate and trying to get one step ahead of the batter,” said Hales.


“Once the ball is let go and you see the batsman swing, you can react in the field and come forward or back. I think it’s fine. It’s part-and-parcel of fielding, trying to anticipate. I don’t think it’s bad sportsmanship at all.”


Both players have reasonable arguments one might say. But wasn’t Hales within his rights to try and gain an advantage that certainly isn’t unfair per the playing stipulations? 


Rohit Sankar is a freelance cricket journalist stuck in a love-hate live-in relationship with the game. To rile him up, mention the 1999 World Cup semi-final. Rohit has been writing about cricket for well over 10 years now, and has written for a variety of news and sports outlets over this time. Partnership

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