What the Spirit of Cricket is Not

by Devanshu Mehta

I’ve mentioned this a few times before, but I’m not a big fan of the slippery slope of the “spirit of the game”. If you want to play the game that way, by all means, be my guest. My problem is when we start expecting it.

I could write more, but Andy Bull and Greg Baum have done a better job.


It is permissible for a batsman to stand his ground if he knows he has touched the ball, but it is a sin for a fielder to claim a catch that has touched the ground. It is against the spirit to “dispute an umpire’s decision by word, action or gesture,” but the DRS now encourages players to do exactly that.

As the Guardian has proven, it is often easier to point out what the spirit of cricket is not than what it is.


If the spirit of cricket is so sacred, some asked, why did not the close England fieldsmen recall Harbhajan? The answer is that there is no absolute standard, merely a set of conventions. It is acceptable, for instance, for a batsman to stand his ground when he knows for a fact that he is out, but abhorrent for a fieldsmen to claim a catch about which he is unsure. And that’s before we get to Vaseline.

What I wrote after India lost the first Test:

In professional sport, there is only one measure of “better”– it’s not who got more points, or got more yards, or carried themselves with more dignity, or who was “winning” for the majority of the game. Ironically, being “a good sport” usually means you’re losing.

My call– play tough, play by the rules and always play to win.