Dhoni implacable on Anderson
It is usually the other way around. MS Dhoni likes to keep his India team in a bubble, he does not acknowledge the grandness of things because he believes such an approach keeps them from performing at their best. WACA, Wankhede; Test, Twenty20 - they are all the same, or at least he tries to keep it that way until the games begin.
Yet in the middle of his press conference a day before the second Test of this series, Dhoni reminded the journalists: "Let's talk about Lord's. We all know the importance of Lord's." What irony.
This is, of course, Lord's. This is, of course, an important Test match, the second of a series that refused to take off in the first because of a drab pitch. But there was a reason Dhoni wanted to talk about Lord's.
This also involves two players who could be banned by the time the third Test starts. James Anderson could miss two to four, Ravindra Jadeja could miss one. They might not miss any. They might someday play for the same IPL team. They might even get into exhibition bouts once they are retired. One thing that will not emerge, however, is a boastful spat with two different versions such as in the altercation between Ian Chappell and Ian Botham.
The sketchiness of the legal language as the information emerges is quite laughable yet this is a serious matter that has potential of becoming messy. This is the first time an international player has been charged with a level 3 offence since 2007-08 when Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds collided. There is no video evidence here, which could make this one team's word against the other.
No one is talking facts right now, but what we know is this. On day two of the Trent Bridge Test, walking back for lunch, between the playing field and changing rooms, Anderson allegedly pushed Jadeja who had allegedly turned around suddenly in an aggressive manner. There had been continuous sledging in the last over before lunch when Jadeja survived an lbw shout. The ICC will now go through its process of appointing a commissioner to rule on the matter.
The players and BCCI and ICC are giving out precious little, but what ESPNcricinfo has been able to establish is this. Dhoni initiated the process the next day, which was Friday. There was pressure from both respective boards, now part of the exclusive clique of three that runs international cricket, to resolve the issue without an official complaint, but Dhoni put his foot down.
An ICC lawyer travelled to England on Friday, but could not broker peace, and on Tuesday this charge became official. On Wednesday England responded with a level 2 charge against Jadeja. With video evidence lacking, India's witnesses have been Gautam Gambhir and R Ashwin. Both the sides are claiming off the record to have at least one clinching neutral witness on their side.
Alastair Cook told BBC he will be surprised if Anderson is banned, an India squad member said off the record that Anderson toh ghus gaya. In essence: he is a goner.
What we are getting from the two teams is inferences. Cook is saying this is India's way of eliminating England's best bowler, also the Man of the Match at Trent Bridge. There might be merit to this, what with India being the most powerful board and with Duncan Fletcher, who does not mind a bit of gamesmanship, as their coach. After all, aren't they trying to get the ODI playing conditions changed just before the World Cup because the new ones are hampering their slower bowlers?
Then again Dhoni's India are not known to playing cricket in this confrontational manner. At Trent Bridge, three years ago, he called back Ian Bell, who was well and fairly run out. In an ODI in Brisbane in 2011-12, they retracted a mankading appeal against Lahiru Thirimanne, who continued to back up too far in the same match, and whose team-mates incidentally mankaded an England batsman earlier this English summer.
When Dhoni was told of this Cook allegation, it was the first time he became expressive in an otherwise cool and collected press conference. He suggested Jadeja was the victim here, not Anderson. He also spoke of how at times in the past his team-mates have been goaded into ill-advised actions by the opposition's sledging. India are indignant in an enough-is-enough way. Another member of their touring party said: "This is like being blamed for coming to police when your house has been burgled."
This is not as ugly as the last time a level 3 offence was registered - and that could be because nobody has seen this - but it has similarities. Back then Anil Kumble went to the Australian dressing room, but Ricky Ponting would not have any of it. It is England this time who are aggrieved that this has become a big official issue.
Just like the two protagonists of Sydney 2007-08, the two individuals involved here have somehow managed to rub opponents the wrong way, although this should in no way establish anyone's guilt or innocence.
Anderson is known to be a gentle person off the field, which comes across in his press conferences, but moody and confrontational on it. For some reason he ends up riling the opposition more than, say, Stuart Broad, who is far from mealy-mouthed on the field too. It was Anderson whose "f****** elbow" Michael Clarke wanted broken. Anderson has also bowled more Test overs - 996 - over the last two years than anyone in the world has; Broad is next with 826. He might have been near the edge.
Jadeja, he who turned around suddenly, is ironically not known for turning - he turns only the odd ball in a spell. He is ridiculed for having scored three first-class triple-centuries on flat pitches in India; he is not much of a batsman as we have seen. Yet India have insisted on him, and his bowling has shown merit enough to become a Test spinner.
He has a fat IPL contract with Dhoni's team, and is managed by Dhoni's best friend and manager. Cricket players are a small world, they notice these things, and they are not known for liking Jadeja much. If Anderson is the habitual sledger, among cricket circles Jadeja is that annoying successful and rich man who not many believe should be.
There is one dissimilarity from Sydney, though. No one is going to threaten to take his bat and ball and go home. These two are part of the Big Three. The cricketing world is not big enough to be able to have just one friend. This will end much more amicably.
The only positive to have come out of this is that two boards have left the cricketing issue to the cricketers, and have not pulled any punches. There have been some efforts to keep this down, but eventually the bosses have trusted the judgement of Dhoni and Cook in a cricketing matter that has the potential of souring their financial ties. One can always hope.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo