To walk or not to walk?

To walk or not to walk, one of cricket’s most enduring questions, was given a new spin here on Thursday when Adam Gilchrist gave himself out in Australia’s Triangular Series victory against Bangladesh.

The wicket-keeper surprised captain and non-striker Ricky Ponting when he exited after a ball from Tapash Baisya flew to Khaled Mahmud at first slip.

However, television replays confirmed the ball had hit a footmark and ballooned to Mahmud with Gilchrist’s bat hitting the pitch only.

Gilchrist had made a rapid 45 when he departed and, as Australia won this match with 11 balls to spare, after Michael Clarke (80 not out) and Andrew Symonds (42 not out) overhauled Bangladesh’s 250 for eight, there was no adverse effect on the world champions.

But Australia’s innings did stutter following the dynamic left-hander’s exit and the incident raised questions about what might happen if Gilchrist continued to walk, the practice where a batsman gives himself out if he knows he’s hit the ball, during the upcoming Ashes Tests.

Meanwhile a clearly surprised Ponting, whose side face England in Saturday’s series final at Lord’s, was still trying to make sense of his vice-captain’s actions after Australia’s six-wicket win.

“I was at the non striker’s end and I didn’t think he hit it either. I was actually going to yell out to him,” Ponting told reporters.

“I turned to the umpire straight away and looked at him and we both had strange looks on our faces but Adam thought he had hit it.

“He hit the ground behind where the ball pitched but said he felt something on the edge of his bat.

“He turned around and saw it balloon to first slip and put two and two together and thought that he was out caught at first slip so he trudged off.
The replays have shown he missed it by quite a distance.”

But Ponting insisted he had no qualms about Gilchrist’s conduct. “No, not if he thought he hit it.

“He has made it pretty clear throughout his career that if he thinks he has hit a ball he is going to walk and that is exactly what happened today.

“It was probably as much my fault as anyone’s. I saw him take a few steps off. I probably could have intervened but if I had done that, and it had showed he hit it, then who knows what would have happened.”

Ponting said he had talked to Gilchrist about the incident. “I spoke to him for 15 to 20 seconds. He was a bit bewildered when he saw the replay.”

Historically, walking has tended to be more of an English tradition than an Australian one, where the widely-held view has been that it is the umpire’s job to make a decision.

But leading English umpire David Shepherd, recently retired from Test cricket and set to quit the first-class game at the end of the season, countered by saying: “Any player who stands at the crease knowing he is out is in my book a cheat!”

Gilchrist famously walked during the 2003 World Cup semifinal against Sri Lanka, because he thought he’d edged an Aravinda de Silva delivery into wicket-keeper Kumar Sangakkara’s gloves.

Meanwhile Ponting insisted one area where he wanted his players to take personal responsibility was disputed catches.

“The reason for it is that I don’t want one of those close catches to go to the third umpire.

“We all know with the technology there is, when it is referred to the third umpire, they are given not out 99% of the time.

“Hopefully, I’ll be able to sit down with Michael Vaughan [England captain] and have a chat about that.” - Sapa-AFP

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