Over to the ICC
On day three of the Southampton Test, India's debutant fast bowler Pankaj Singh came out to bat. After Pankaj had spent a couple of minutes out in the middle, a roll of tape was brought out and handed over to one of the on-field umpires, who proceeded to bend in front of the tall bowler and stick pieces of tape on errant manufacturers' labels on his pads. Had the umpire not helped Pankaj save himself from the heinous crime of ambush marketing in time, Pankaj would have lost part of his earnings from a match the 29-year-old had been dreaming of playing for most of his adult life.
Two Tests ago, two players got into an incident during which a lot of puerile personal abuse was thrown about and one player pushed another, either unprovoked or in self-defence depending on whose testimony you believe. Neither was so much as reprimanded. If the ICC is serious about its Code of Conduct and setting an example to the kids watching, Dave Richardson, its CEO, should appeal this verdict - only the game's governing body can appeal - and seek some sort of sanction to set an example. He shouldn't need the BCCI to try to convince him. For, right now, the verdict suggests that incessant mindless abuse is okay as long as it is not heard on the stump microphone.
The judicial commissioner in the case, who has been sound in deciding that the evidence on the table didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that James Anderson pushed Ravindra Jadeja unprovoked, has also noted in his verdict: "I am satisfied that personal contact did occur between Anderson and Jadeja but the extent and force of that contact is unknown, despite Jadeja's response in cross examination that the push was hard and caused him to break stride." The commissioner noted that the breaking-the-stride bit was an "embellishment" on Jadeja's earlier testimony, but he had no doubt that contact did take place.
If physical contact took place, clearly after built-up tension because of incessant abuse, it shouldn't matter whose fault it was. It doesn't matter if both the players are sanctioned, it doesn't matter if the sanctions are not of the same level as originally charged, what happened at Trent Bridge should not be less bothersome than a player spending two seconds at the wicket and pointing to his bat when he has been given out lbw off a thick inside edge.
"In my view what umpire [Bruce] Oxenford heard [mid-pitch] was much worse than the exchange ascribed to Anderson at the boundary line," says the verdict. "I can only assume that a much more robust approach is taken by umpires to swearing in the Test arena than I had previously imagined and the boundary exchange does not warrant disciplinary action if the earlier insult directed to Dhoni did not."
The verdict also talks about what was said mid-pitch. "Second, it is not in issue that earlier in the morning umpire Oxenford took the action he describes in para 6 of his statement, where he said, 'I heard Anderson use foul and abusive language to Dhoni. In particular I heard Anderson say, "You're a f***ing fat c**t" to Dhoni.' However, apart from ordering Anderson to say nothing further to the batsman (I assume of an abusive nature) umpire Oxenford did not deem that language sufficiently serious to lodge a report about the incident with the match referee, even though it seems to have been in breach of article 2.1.4 in that it was language that was obscene, offensive and insulting."
It is surprising, though, that the judge chose to not overrule Oxenford's leniency. This is like a court saying if the police didn't register a legitimate complaint, it won't take any action either.
Apart from that, the judgement makes a sound argument in deciding to not charge Anderson at all. Most provisions in the ICC sanctions involve match-fee fines and bans for a match or two. Playing matches is the only source of livelihood for most cricketers. The commissioner has reasoned that when it comes to matters of livelihood, the required standard of proof was provided. Livelihood comes from workplaces. People have responsibilities in workplaces. One of them is to not use foul and offensive language.
Cricket, though, is different from other workplaces. We often celebrate witty attempts at unsettling the opposition in cricket, and call it sledging. The ICC has had codes in place to cut out the inane abuse, while retaining the human element of psychology in the contest. It has always been of the view that the kids should see their role models as better people than those who resort to foul language when things are don't going their way. This verdict defeats the ICC.
By all accounts, this was not the strongest case either way. The incident took place in a narrow corridor that was not monitored. The witnesses were biased. At least one set of them lied. Only the sinister would think that either side planned the incident or the action in response to it relying on there being no evidence. It still jars that this whole business has not been criticised by the commissioner or the ICC.
Outside of the parties involved, strange triumphalism and schadenfreude has followed the verdict, especially considering that India emerged victorious in a similar he-said-she-said case in Sydney in 2007-08. Some have said India should man up, which is a poor understanding of manliness. One British broadsheet headlined the story as India's humiliation; it is actually cricket and the ICC that are being humiliated. This was the ICC's case all along. India just brought it to the ICC's notice. It is still the ICC's case. Your move, Dave Richardson.
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo