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To walk or not in era of video technology is talk of fans

The contrasting recent actions of Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar, two of cricket's most prolific batsman, has opened a vociferous debate.

Sachin Tendulkar, the India batsman, was praised for walking back to the pavilion despite the umpire giving him 'not out'.
Sachin Tendulkar, the India batsman, was praised for walking back to the pavilion despite the umpire giving him 'not out'.

NEW DELHI // To walk or not to walk? The big question at the World Cup has been debated since the contrasting attitudes involving cricket's two most prolific batsmen emerged at the weekend.

There has been nothing pedestrian about the criticism of Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain who stood his ground until he was given out on a television umpire's review despite knowing he had got a thick edge to Kamran Akmal, the Pakistan wicketkeeper, in Colombo on Saturday.

Commentators and fans rushed to praise Sachin Tendulkar for deciding to walk in a caught-behind situation even when an umpire had ruled him not out six balls into his 450th limited-overs international. Headlines in Monday's Times of India newspaper read: "Sachin Tendulkar puts integrity above quest for 100th ton."

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The Deccan Herald described Tendulkar as a true gentleman and described his decision as "Walking tall on the cricketing pitch."

India ultimately won comfortably against the West Indies at Chennai. That set up a quarter-final between Tendulkar's India and Ponting's Australia, the three-time defending champions, sharpening the focus on the senior statesmen of each team.

Tendulkar is admired for his sublime skill and unwaveringly calm demeanour.

Ponting has earned grudging respect for a hard-nosed approach that has made him one of Australia's most successful players and captains.

Ponting has never been what is known in cricket parlance as a "walker". He believes that the lucky reprieves batsmen get when umpires err make up for the bad decisions they get at other times.

The problem is, the bad decisions are magnified these days with teams allowed to challenge calls and have them reviewed by a television umpire.

The purists uphold the values of a bygone era when players of the "gentlemen's game" adhered to unwritten rules of engagement and integrity. The hardened professionals in an increasingly cash-driven era point to the fact that not even the sport's most sacred underpinning - that the umpire's decision is final - carries weight any more.

After all, the umpire decision referral system in play at the World Cup, and in many international series these days, gives each team two chances per innings to question an umpire's call and send it for review by an official who has the benefit of video replay technology.

"It's nice to see people walking but that doesn't happen now I guess," Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach and ex-fast bowler, said at the weekend. "There is a system in place now so that you can't get away with it. I mean people still take chances and why not?"