Jim Lyon - It’s sad we even have to talk ‘the walk’

Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.
Northamptonshire Telegraph's sports writers Jon Dunham, Jim Lyon and Alec Swann.

Sportsmanship, or the lack of it, is always a topical subject.

This week I had the pleasure of being at the Cricket Writers’ Club annual lunch.

Aside from the general bonhomie, it provides a chance for those who spend a large chunk of their summer, and indeed year, watching the game, to acknowledge those who spend a large chunk of their summer, and indeed year, playing the game.

The club is responsible for awarding, among others, the young player of the year award - with Ben Stokes the recipient this time - and their Championship player who was Wayne Madsen.

However, that was not the only prize picked up by the latter, who is Derbyshire’s captain and was this summer the leading runscorer in the LV= County Championship.

Madsen, a South African who has been plying his trade here long enough to now be eligible for England, was also presented with one of the Christopher Martin-Jenkins Spirit of Cricket Elite Awards.

His was for fair play.

For those that don’t know the story, during a game against Yorkshire, in which Derbyshire were on the receiving end of something of a hammering, Madsen feathered one off his glove and was caught by the keeper down the leg side.

A quarter-hearted appeal followed, the umpire thought it not out - but Madsen walked.

It was a genuine example of old-school gentlemanly behaviour that is sadly absent from so much of our sport these days.

Stuart Broad’s action to the contrary in the Ashes this summer brought him a great deal of stick - enormously hypocritically from the Australians - and raised the debate about whether one should walk or not.

In this age of TV replays you are unlikely to get away with it too often - depending on who is operating the DRS, of course - but Madsen’s was on an unheralded afternoon in the county game.

He was not out as far as everyone, apart from himself, was concerned.

There are those who point to the fact you are rarely called back after a bad decision so if you get one the other way, take it.

But that masks the issue to some extent.

No matter how ‘hard-nosed’ those cricketers believe themselves to be, they still expect the game to conform to some kind of code, despite the obvious masquerade that is.

Think someone getting a penalty despite diving and then being slagged off by Ashley Young.

I have always been a ‘walker’. Not so I can have a holier-than-thou attitude but because I believe that is the way the game should be played.

Others do not have to walk, but they should also not get upset if they then have their sportsmanship questioned.

In the case of Madsen, his explanation was he has always been told to behave properly and did what his conscience told him.

He did what he thought was right and honest.

In sport these days that, on so many levels, is a rare thing and deserves recognition - which, in itself, is also a sad, sad thing to have to say.