David Leggat: Just not cricket? Welcome to the modern age

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The only surprise about the kerfuffle in the wake of the bruising Ryan Sidebottom-Grant Elliott collision and subsequent shabby aftermath was that any eyebrows should have been raised at all.

The spirit of cricket departed the great game ages ago and in any case sharp practice in various forms has always been about.

In February 1952 at Eden Park, West Indian opener Allan Rae turned back on a quick single, slipped and was stranded. The ball was tossed back to New Zealand's legspinner Alec Moir standing over the stumps.

Instead of removing the bails, he turned and walked back to his mark. Some of his teammates took a dim view, especially as Rae proceeded to make 99, in sharing a 197-run first wicket stand.

Those invoking the spirit of Moir and others of similarly generous sporting disposition yesterday are out of touch. The game has moved on light years since those days when an amateur ethos was still in play.

Paul Collingwood's action in not reprieving Elliott was to be expected. And it cannot be written off as a spur-of-the-moment decision. He had close on two minutes to make a measured call in consultation with his senior colleagues. Had the positions been reversed, would Daniel Vettori have reached a different decision?

New Zealand would be wise to keep their own counsel on any issues of spirit. They have a few skeletons rattling about in the cupboard down the years.

Certainly Vettori's predecessor, Stephen Fleming, was no shrinking violet when it came to playing hardball. Like it or not, this is the age where you make use of any advantage you can crib.

Collingwood deserved marks for at least acknowledging he hadn't acted particularly well, which is easy to say after the event. Had he given Elliott a second innings, and New Zealand gone on to win more comfortably how would his actions have been viewed?

He'd certainly have collected a Fair Play award which is the British way in these matters, and received plenty of kudos. You suspect he would also have copped some heat from those who live by the creed that all is fair in love, war and cricket.

New Zealand surrendered some of the moral high ground with their football terrace behaviour from the balcony at the moment of triumph. It was unseemly, and refusing to shake English hands was churlish.

One perspective on this would be that this has been a tour in which not much has gone right for Vettori's men.

They've been beaten around, humiliated on occasions. They managed to level the ODI series at Bristol last weekend and now got a result which guarantees a drawn rubber, at worst, off the final ball by one wicket. It gets no tighter. Emotions were high, foolish things were said and done.

So how timely it is that the International Cricket Council are meeting in Dubai next week. Zimbabwe will be prominent on the agenda, but the time is ideal for someone to propose that the umpires have the final say on incidents such as Elliott vs Sidebottom.

In what other sport would an official offer a competitor the choice of action to take? It would be far simpler to leave the power with the umpires to call "dead ball" the moment there is contact between batsman and bowler or fieldsman.

A call of "Play it again, Ryan" from umpire Mark Benson at The Oval yesterday would have been quicker, easier and fairer. The players should play; the umpires officiate.

- NZ Herald

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