The incorrect Jonny Bairstow decision that India refused to retract in the 2012 Mumbai Test
Rassie van der Dussen’s controversial dismissal on day two of the second South Africa-India Test match drew instant comparisons to MS Dhoni withdrawing a run-out appeal against Ian Bell in 2012, a famous episode in Indian cricket history.
But there’s another, less well known moment that is more akin to the recent incident.
Van der Dussen was given out caught behind just before the lunch interval on the second day of the Wanderers Test, and while there was little debate about the decision from him at the time, replays subsequently sowed seeds of doubt. The catch was taken low to the ground by wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant, with many feeling that the ball had bounced before the catch was taken.
Upon seeing the moment again, the Proteas protested the wicket with the match officials, though according to reports, it is unclear exactly what the nature of their complaint was. Law 2.12, on any reversal of an umpiring decision states: “An umpire may alter any decision provided that such alteration is made promptly. This apart, an umpire’s decision, once made, is final.” Given the teams had left the field of play, it is therefore unlikely the umpires would have reversed the decision themselves even if they did conclude that van der Dussen had been given out in error, but had India chosen to withdraw their appeal, the South African could have been reprieved.
In 2011, Bell was famously called back after being run out on the stroke of an interval, erroneously believing the session to be over. However, India chose a different course of action in a slightly more recent incident, also in a Test against England, but this one in India in 2012.
The Test in question is a celebrated one. England came into the game 1-0 down, but centuries from Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook and 19 wickets shared between Monty Panesar and Graeme Swan gave the tourists a seismic win in Mumbai. Pietersen’s knock is rated as one of the greatest in Test history, with England going on to secure a rare series win in India.
Less well remembered is an incident involving Jonny Bairstow, who walked in to bat following the mammoth double-century stand between Cook and Pietersen. The Yorkshireman was unable to add significantly to England’s effort, making his way to nine before getting a leading edge to Gautam Gambhir at silly point.
Just as with van der Dussen, Bairstow’s dismissal brought about lunch. Just as with van der Dussen, there was no review of the dismissal at the time. And just as with van der Dussen, replays soon cast doubt on the validity of the decision.
On this occasion, the error was more clear cut. The ball had brushed Gambhir’s helmet before he was able to complete the catch, and while that would be no barrier to dismissal today, at the time that hitting a fielder’s helmet would be enough to rule out a catch.
The Law, 32.3 (e), at the time stated: “A fielder catches the ball after it has touched an umpire, another fielder or the other batsman. However, it is not a fair catch if the ball has previously touched a protective helmet worn by a fielder. The ball will then remain in play.”
Reports at the time stated that Andy Flower, England’s director of cricket, approached match referee Roshan Mahanama to ask that the decision be overturned. Mohanama informed Flower that the match officials were powerless to do so, but India had the option of withdrawing the appeal. However, unlike as in 2011, Dhoni declined to do so on this occasion, with the support of his coach Duncan Fletcher.
After play, Gambhir revealed that he knew the ball had hit his helmet, but claimed he was unaware of the law in question. “It happened in such a quick time, that by the time I realised it…” he said. “I personally felt when we went into lunch that once it hits your body and then the grille, that’s out. Just didn’t come straight off the grille. It just happened so quickly that later on I got to know. I haven’t had a word with MS that whether we wanted to call him back or not.”
While Bell’s reprieve averted a major controversy, with the crowd’s jeers turning to cheers upon realising he had been recalled, there was little uproar in 2012. Given England went on to secure victory, it might be assumed that the moment was of little consequence. However, it was a damaging moment for Bairstow. With Bell absent to attend the birth of his child, Bairstow had a chance to stake a claim for a starting spot. Instead, that was his only innings of the series.