The best sportsmanship moments
Okay, it was a week ago, but it has taken me a long time to get this written.
In the second Test between England and India, the following event occurred: Ian Bell hit what looked like a 4. He and Eoin Morgan ran three runs. Believing his shot had gone to the boundary, Ian Bell began walking down the pitch towards Morgan, ready to go in for tea. The ball, however, was not yet dead and Bell was run out. The umpires asked Indian captain Dhoni if he would like the appeal to stand. He said yes, and Bell was declared run out. After tea, the players returned, including Bell. Dhoni had decided to reverse his decision to uphold the appeal, all within ‘the spirit of the game’.
In no other sport is the ‘spirit of the game’ so important. So important, in fact, that sometimes it takes precedent over the rules.
In tennis, if a ball hits the net and goes over, the player may apologise, but it is still a point. In golf, if a player’s ball hits their opponent’s ball away from the hole, it is an unfortunate accident but the ball stays where it was. In cricket, however, in some circumstances, the ‘spirit of the game’ supersedes the rules. Bell was undeniably out, and yet, Dhoni allowed him to continue playing.
In cricket, the spirit of the game floats around like an invisible imp. It hangs over what appears an obvious decision and puts doubt into the minds of players and umpires. A batsman may be out under the rules of the game, but allowed to stay in because the spirit sometimes matters more.
This got me thinking more about the concept of ‘spirit of the game’ and the sportsman like conduct it implies, and decided to make a list of my five favourite sportsman moments. Naturally, these are not a definitive list. Let me know if you have any of your own favourites to add.
5. Andrew Flintoff comforts Brett Lee
This has been mentioned so many times, it’s practically a cliché, but no other gesture epitomised the spirit the 2005 Ashes series was played in more than the moment Flintoff said ‘well done’ to Brett Lee after England managed won the Edgbaston Test by a mere two runs. Lee was outstanding in batting so long, and Flintoff’s gesture recognised his efforts. It is a good job Lee didn’t take this gesture in the wrong spirit, as Michael Kasprowicz, the man down the other end, should never have been given out.
4. The Heptathletes
Very few people in the world truly know the tremendous effort it takes to compete in a decathlon or heptathlon, except the people that always compete. At the end of seven events, the women fly their country’s flags together, whatever the result, whoever the competitors, rather than competing their lap of honour individually.
3. Paolo Di Canio plays fair
Di Canio’s playing career was not without incident, but he set a great example in a game against Everton when the goalkeeper went down with an injury. With the game poised at 1-1 and play continuing, it would have been all too easy for Di Canio to score in the open goal. Instead, he picked up the ball to stop play and signalled for help for the injured Paul Gerrard.
2. A whole team stands aside
In a Carling Cup second round match, Notts Forest were one goal up against Leicester but at half time, Leicester defender Clive Clarke collapsed in the dressing room. Fearing for his safety, it was agreed that the game would be abandoned and replayed three weeks later. After kick-off in the rematch, the entire Leicester team stood to one side to allow the Nottingham keeper, Paul Smith, dribble the ball along the pitch to restore the lead Forest had in the previous game. Good karma must have been on Leicester’s side, as they went on to win the match.
1. Two greats share a title
In 1982, the National Hunt jockey title was heading towards a thrilling finale with John Francome and Peter Scudamore each within in an inch of winning the trophy. Scudamore was ahead with more winners when he suffered a serious fall and was ruled out for the remainder of the season. Francome was left clear to take the title, but when he reached Scudamore’s total of 120 winners, he retired for the rest of the season so that best men could share the title.