Was Dhoni's recall of Ian Bell the right decision?

On the crucial third day of play in the second Test between India and England, Eoin Morgan hit a shot which looked like it had reached the fence, thanks to a comical attempt in the field by Praveen Kumar.

Updated: August 01, 2011 15:11 IST
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There's awe and there's shock.

The throw came back in and while the batsmen assumed it was a break for tea, the bails were knocked off and the Indian fielders went up in appeal as Ian Bell was outside the crease. The matter was referred to the third umpire and he declared Bell out as the umpires had not officially called for tea. (Also Read:Who said what?)

India skipper MS Dhoni then did what has the world talking. He withdrew the successful appeal against Ian Bell, who got to walk back after tea to play again. Bell at that time had made 137 runs. He finally scored 159. And at the end of the day, England were firmly in control of the Trent Bridge Test too. Having already won at Lord's last week. At stake - the number 1 position among Test playing sides. (Also Read: Dhoni and his team lauded at Trent Bridge)

What spirit, said an astonished world. Twitter is abuzz with messages lauding Dhoni's magnanimity. Though there is that dissenting note. From former West Indies pacer Michael Holding for one, who says, "According to me, Ian Bell was out and he should not have been allowed to resume his innings." (Also Read: Bell pretended to save his wicket: Vaughan)

"When a player decides upon himself that he's going to become the umpire, I think the spirit of the game is lost. Ian Bell decided that it was a boundary, no one was sure, the umpires would have surely referred it and he (Bell) took up the umpires' role," he added. (Forum: Does Dhoni’s decision to recall Ian Bell proves that India are not ruthless enough?)

Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly, however, said at the time the incident happened that Dhoni should immediately call back Bell. Sourav stood his ground saying Bell never looked like he was going for a run and that Abhinav Mukund's body language proves that he was only knocking off the bails because it was tea. Sourav's guess is that the 'seniors' in the team probably told Dhoni to change his decision. Well done Sourav for sticking your neck out right from the beginning.

Sunil Gavaskar has patted Dhoni on the back with, "I have to say that the spirit of the game is also important. I think there has been a lot of unnecessary animosity between players and teams which is unnecessary and anything that can be done to diffuse the tension, I'm all for it," said Gavaskar. But he pointedly added that, "It would have been fantastic for the game that after the appeal was withdrawn, Bell would have said 'Thank you very much but I was wrong and I will not resume the innings.' That would have been even better."

Australia's spin legend Shane Warne also lauded the decision. "I think the lucky thing is everyone had 20 minutes to work out what to do; what is the politically correct thing to do, what is the spirit of the game...If you look back now, the outcome was probably the right outcome," he tweeted.

Sir Ian Botham, England's best all-rounder of all times, appreciated the decision but he also made clear that he wouldn't have minded it if Dhoni had upheld the decision. "Ian Bell is a very lucky boy. Having been legitimately run out by the Indians with his mind on a huge round of applause and a cup of tea he had no right to expect to be batting after the break...I would have had no problem if he (Dhoni) had upheld it and sent a message about dopey cricket," he said.

Dhoni's gesture, in the middle of a series that has seen less than bonhomous relations between the two team and outside the ground between commentators and experts from the two countries, has found universal applause. Spectators, the English team as a man and even the International Cricket Council (ICC) had fullsome praise.

India's Sports Minister Ajay Maken in a statement late on Sunday said he was proud of Dhoni as well. "Spirit of the game is more important than the result. Win the hearts and you'll win the game too! India is proud of you!"

The ICC called the move a sign of maturity. "The decision by India captain M S Dhoni and his team -as well as the Team India coaching staff - to withdraw the appeal shows great maturity," said ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat. "To see players and officials uphold the Great Spirit of cricket, which has underpinned the game for more than a century, is very special."

It was believed that overturning the decision was a result of a discussion in the dressing room and it was confirmed by Indian batsman Rahul Dravid at a post-day press conference. "If the tables were turned, I don't think we would have felt nice about it. It was the first thing that was discussed.", said Dravid.

The man who got a life, Ian Bell said after the day's play, "I thought it was a boundary so I started walking off, but I admit my reaction was naive.I have learnt a lesson today. It was an honest mistake." He also admitted the fact that he was out according to the rules, "If you see the rule book then I was out. But in the spirit of the game the right decision was made by India".

Considering that Bell had already hurt India with 137 runs, insulted the bowlers with 22 forceful strikes to the fence and had kept the scorers busy for 178 deliveries threatening to take the match away from India, Dhoni's decision was indeed seen as keeping with the spirit of the game rather than losing focus in the quest for a win.


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