'Walking' is a technical cricket term where the batsman gives himself 'out' when the umpire failed to hear the sound of 'leather feathering the bat' (if the ball is subsequently caught) and therefore didn't indicate that the batsman was 'out'. Nonetheless, if the batsman knows the truth in his heart, he can choose to 'walk'.
Adam Gilchrist gained significant international notoriety in the 2003 World Cup when he 'walked' in the semi-final, which initiated the 'great debate on walking' throughout the modern world of cricket.
Mark Tronson, cricket chaplain of 25 years and a Baptist minister, summarises the two sides of the argument as follows.
On the one hand, umpires can make mistakes at any time, sometimes giving 'out' unfairly and sometimes missing a true 'out'. On these grounds, the argument is made that it is all part of the flow of the game; some you win, some you lose, and it 'evens out at the end'.
On the other hand, the view that Adam Gilchrist has taken is that individual batsmen have to live with themselves and he, personally, needs to be upfront and honest regardless of the cost to himself or his team. In playing cricket, with this view, it is up to the individual to uphold the 'spirit of the game' played by 'gentlemen'.
An obvious issue arises where there is no longer a level playing field in terms of culture within different teams; for example if members of one team of cricketers 'never walk' whereas on the other team there are 'walkers'.
This affects a range of issues in a sport that has a history of 'gentlemanly conduct'. It infers that those cricketers who publicly say they would 'never walk' have an inference of not being 'gentlemen'. Moreover where huge amounts of money are at stake, it could place an unfair burden by those who are 'gentlemen walkers' onto their fellow team members.
International cricket has some unwritten commitments, one of which is where the captains before a match confer and agree on areas such as 'walking'. However, in recent years such 'gentlemanly' agreements have not been reached.
Adam Gilchrist spoke of an incident playing County Cricket in England when he was 17 years old. On one occasion he 'walked' and wrote to his parents that he knew he'd done the 'right thing' but was somehow 'disappointed'.
Then, playing for a New South Wales Second Eleven a few years later he chose 'not to walk' and went on to score a hundred runs. Although this was a phenomenal effort, he felt wretched inside and later apologised to the bowler. At that point, he determined never again to let himself down, and whatever the cost to himself or his team, he would chose to be a 'walker'.
To widen the subject, there are numerous 'unwritten gentlemanly obligations' in Australian society, which has been described as a 'consensual democracy'. This poses some difficulties for many who migrate to Australia.
"This same issue that confronts international cricket where captains cannot agree on these 'unwritten gentlemanly' obligations also confronts those immigrants who have not as yet grasped what issues make up the "underlying unwritten lore '' in interactions in the daily life of our society," M V Tronson mused.
As a practical example of the Australian attitudes that are developing, in 2006, New South Wales legislation was altered in relation to disputes by neighbours over matters involving the borders between properties, such as the perennial issue of where branches may hang over a fence. The essential ingredient of the legislation is for neighbours to take up the spirit of 'consensus' and work it out.
Only as a last resort, after every other avenue has been exhausted including formal mediation, is it allowed 'by the legislation' to get a case heard by the Land and Environment Court (in the case of trees).
"This spirit of 'consensual interpretation of an unwritten law' is very difficult to teach as it is ingrained within the culture of a particular society that one is immersed in from birth," Mark Tronson explained.
"The 'feeling' therefore comes from within, which not surprisingly has a strong parallel with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 v 44) , where Jesus said, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you ...
"This can be interpreted as developing a sense of consensus in living peaceably within the society for mutual benefit and good-will in which every one of us deals with day by day," M V Tronson explained.