By T S Sudhir
This is one no-ball the batting side hated. Especially Virender Sehwag, who was on the threshold of century number 13 in one-day internationals. Sri Lankan spinner Suraj Randiv bowled a huge no-ball, apparently deliberately, to ensure Sehwag did not get to the three-figure mark.
The brouhaha over the deliberate ploy drowned the joy of India’s victory, particularly as it came after the Kiwi polish of the Indians by 201 runs a week ago.
To buttress the argument that it was indeed deliberate, it was pointed out that Randiv has never bowled a no-ball in a Test or ODI series this season. Those baying for Randiv’s scalp concluded he had crossed the laxman rekha while playing what is still referred to, in Victorian style, as the gentleman’s game. Am sure the likes of ball chewer Shahid Afridi, spitter Dale Steyn and slapgate Harbhajan Singh must be guffawing.
The Lankan media pointed to Tillekratne Dilshan, claiming that it was he who shouted in Sinhalese “oney nam, no-ball ekak danna puluwan”, which in English means “If you want, you can bowl a no-ball.”
Interestingly, Dilshan and Sehwag have spent six weeks together every year, last three years, as part of the `Delhi Daredevils’ dressing room. Clearly that bonding did not make Dilshan a Jai to Sehwag’s Viru and they never sung `yeh dosti hum nahi chodenge’ together.
The Sri Lankan board apologised and followed it with handing a one match ban to Randiv, besides forefeiting both his and Dilshan’s match fee. This after cricketers the world over slammed Randiv’s `negative’ tactics. ICC promised the `guilty’ will be punished.
I want to play devil’s advocate here. What was the law that Randiv has broken? Can’t a bowler bowl a no-ball when the batsman is on 99? Or when the team needs one run for victory? Or is a combination of factors that followers of the game have a problem with? Which means a bowler will not bowl a no-ball to a batsman on 99 when the team needs one run for victory.
In most matches, we have seen players brought in close to prevent a batsman from getting a century. That’s considered a legitimate cricketing tactic. If that was not the case, no batsman would have ever got out on 99. So why is Randiv’s attempt to deny Sehwag a century upsetting people so much?
The problem is here the bowler used a violation of the law to upset the prince of Najafgarh. He would have got similar flak if he had bowled a wide.
Former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin has suggested a change in the ICC rules because “the present rules are very difficult to understand”. For someone who was accused by his own Board of violating the most fundamental rule of the game and patriotism and subsequently banned for life, Azhar is most ill-suited to talk on the subject of errant cricketers. Randiv’s so-called `crime’ pales in compasion with what Azhar has been accused of.
Also in today’s world of fiercely competitive cricket, it is a bit juvenile to expect players to show charity. Imagine a situation where a batsman is on 96 and the team needs two runs for victory. Should the captain of the bowling side allow the batsman to hit a boundary so that he achieves a personal milestone? A batsman has to earn every run the hard way, just like a bowler has to earn every wicket.
The next time, Sehwag is in a similar position, he would be better advised to ask his partner to go slow so that he can reach his target. Targetting Randiv for bowling a no-ball isn’t quite cricket.