To walk, or not to walk?


Holding was of the view that the batsmen should ALWAYS WALK, and he did. He also said he never appealed when he was bowling, unless he thought the batsman was out.

During the first Test between Pakistan and England, I tuned into an amazing conversation between Mike Atherton, David (Bumbles) Lloyd and Michael Holding. The subject was "Should a batsman walk when he feels he is out?" I couldn't believe it for I thought this old chestnut was long dead and buried.

`Bumbles' and `Mikie' were the main yappers with Atherton expressing the view that he believed the umpires should make the decisions as that was their job.

The subject of walking or not has been long debated, particularly in England. It should be said that walkers were more common in English county cricket than anywhere else. Not all English batsmen walked and almost none did it all the time, and herein lay the problem.

Not surprisingly, Michael Holding was of the view that the batsmen should always walk, and he did. When queried, he also said that he never appealed when he was bowling, unless he thought the batsman was out.

This is a wonderful attitude and it would be wonderful if every cricketer adopted it. Unfortunately, this has never been the case and probably never will, particularly in this highly paid era. I must admit that during the early 1960s, I fell for the concept of walking and faithfully removed myself from the crease whenever I got a fine edge to a fielder. At that time many county cricketers walked, and as I was na�ve, I got caught up in the charming manners and goodwill of walking.

I continued to walk at all levels for three years. By this time I had become aware that many of the so-called walkers were less than honest in their actions. Many were selective as to when they walked. A thick edge when they were fifty-plus was sure to see them off in a county match, but a fine edge in a Test innings in a tight situation, when they had scored only a few runs, saw them often stay put and not look at the umpire. The final straw came when one English batsman, who had a public image as a walker, didn't go when he was caught on several occasions and the controversy raged about these decisions. He unfortunately raised the controversy himself by not even looking at the umpire in a bid to get away with it. Somehow it appeared, particularly in the English press, that he was an innocent victim, not a villain.

Wally Grout, our wonderful wicketkeeper, after catching a batsman on one particular occasion had to draw his attention to the fact that the umpire's finger was up and that if he cared to turn around and look at the umpire, he could proceed to the pavilion. I was to learn later that this particular batsman was well known by his English and county team-mates for inconsistency in walking.

In an era where over-appealing by everyone on the field, in an attempt to influence the umpire's decision, has become an epidemic, it would be wonderful if each one followed what Michael Holding claimed — that he only appealed when he thought the batsman was out.

In my view, batsmen shouldn't walk. They should wait for the umpire's decision and leave with all the grace they can muster if they are given out, even when they think they aren't.

A couple of ICC matters have caught my attention and set me wondering and worrying about the consequences. I was in Europe recently holidaying, but like all addicts had to feed my habit, which meant I had to find an English newspaper to follow cricketing matters.

Whilst on the lovely Lake Garden in Italy, I almost spilt my red wine I was sipping as I saw a small story under the headline, "ICC set to allow trial for players' appeals", in an English newspaper.

The paragraph read: "International players are set to be allowed three appeals per innings against umpires' decisions at this year's Champions Trophy in India. The ICC gave a guarded endorsement at a meeting yesterday in Dubai."

I immediately rang my friend at the MCC in London, but he knew nothing about it. And when I returned a couple of weeks later to Australia, I had little luck when I tried to follow it up.

I have, of late, been mystified by some of the ICC's decisions. The one that comes quickest to my mind is its ruling to allow bowlers to bend their elbow up to 15 degrees before the delivery and then straighten it. That is exactly the throwing action of a baseball pitcher.

I still haven't been able to gather much information about the amazing trial mooted for players' appeals. But if it goes through, I would hope every umpire goes on strike for it would make his job almost impossible.

My second shock upon arrival from my holidays came when I saw a cutting that had been sent to me by an old mate. It was about the ICC looking into players' burnout due to the strenuous demands of the international programme. According to the story, the ICC move came after the Federation of International Cricketers Association chief executive Tim May warned that players might turn to performance-enhancing drugs to cope with the high volume of matches on the international calendar.

I hope Tim has done his homework on this and has proof that too much cricket is being played now. My record has shown that the bowlers of today, and that is what the over-working is all about, bowl far fewer balls per season in all cricket than those "so-called unfit cricketers of the past."