Cheteshwar Pujara carried forward his good form with the bat from the Test series Down Under in the Ranji Trophy semi-final against Karnataka. He struck 45 and 131 not out against Karnataka in the semis to power Saurashtra into the Ranji Trophy final. But his innings were not without controversy. He was twice reprieved in two innings by the on-field umpires.
Pujara had visibly nicked a delivery from R Vinay Kumar to the keeper in the first innings. The Karnataka players were in celebration mode after the dismissal, but the umpire ruled it a not out, while Cheteshwar Pujara also stood his ground. Vinay Kumar gestured at the umpire that he could go for a spectacle after failing to spot the edge.
In the second innings as well, Pujara got a reprieve when he survived another caught-behind appeal and the Karnataka players and fans were not amused. Karnataka players started sledging Pujara, while the fans started chanting ‘Cheater! Cheater!
Pujara went on to make a match-winning ton to secure Saurashtra’s passage into the final. But it was Pujara’s not walking that made the headlines.
So, should Cheteshwar Pujara have walked or not?
Yes, he did it right
Karnataka players and fans were peeved that a senior international batsman like Pujara chose to stay at the crease despite visibly nicking the ball behind to the keeper. Fans even went to the extent of calling him a ‘cheater’.
But what if Pujara had got a horrible decision, would the Karnataka team had called him back. Would Karnataka players had made the sporting decision to overturn the umpire’s howler and called Pujara back, considering the Indian No 3 is a match-winner and can turn the match around with his batting?
Should not the rule of sportsman’s spirit apply to both the on-field batsmen and the fielding team?
There have been extremely few and rare instances when a captain of a fielding team has called a batsman back? Would Karnataka have done it if Pujara was given out in error?
The answer is obvious, no. They would have said it’s was umpire decision and they will respect that. And so did Pujara, even if he was fully aware he nicked the ball behind.
Yes, he was wrong
Being a successful international cricketer, Pujara could have set an example for budding young cricketers to follow if he had chosen to walk.
He could have registered himself in the record books as one of the few gentlemen to have walked despite being given not out by the umpire. He could have been bracketed with greats such as Sachin Tendulkar, Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, among others.
But Pujara chose to stay at the crease, not once but twice. Pujara could have been given the benefit of doubt of not being aware he has nicked behind. But a batsman is himself the best judge of his dismissals. And Pujara cannot be forgiven for not being aware of his dismissal, twice.
So, was Cheteshwar Pujara right or wrong?
What Pujara did was nothing in contrary to the spirit of the game. He was fundamentally right in cricket books to stand his ground and leave the field only when the umpire declares him out. He has done no sin. Walking or not is the prejudice of every player. You can either follow the rules by the book and not walk or set an example of good sportsman’s spirit by choosing to walk. It’s upto each individual player.