A shot, a run, a hit and an out. It all came to nothing on the field but much off it, as India skipper MS Dhoni withdrew a successful appeal against Ian Bell a ball before tea on Day 3 of the second Test. The gesture was cheered by spectators and well appreciated even by the Indian Sports Minister Ajay Maken and the International Cricket Council (ICC).
The incident unfolded when Eoin Morgan hit a shot which looked like it had reached the fence, thanks to a comical attempt in the field by Praveen Kumar. The throw came back in and while it was assumed a break for tea, the bails were knocked off and the Indian fielders went up in appeal as 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.
The loud hooting from the spectators turned to applause when Bell came out after the break and it was revealed that Dhoni had decided to withdraw the appeal. The gesture was spoken highly by the television commentators and the crowd stood up to applaud both Bell and Dhoni.
"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.", said Bell after the day's play. 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 seen as keeping with the spirit of the game rather than losing focus in the quest for a win.
Bell also praised Dhoni for his sportsmanship, "I don't know what exactly we would have done had we been in Dhoni's position. But I assume we would have also played according to the spirit of the game."
While social networking sites were abuzz with most lauding Dhoni and his team's gesture, 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 too, joined in the chorus, calling the move as 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 about it.", said Rahul Dravid.
After weeks of intense competition which spilled over to beyond the cricket field and culminated in Television commentators and former players gunning in favour of the competing teams, Dhoni and his team's gesture will surely help the cause of the game and the true spirit in which it has always meant to be played in.