World Cup 2015 January 20, 2015

ICC plans World Cup clampdown

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ICC promises clean World Cup

Cricket authorities are actively debating whether it is time for more stringent rulings about on-field confrontations, amid concerns among some players that the current ICC system is providing scant deterrent to those who visibly "cross the line" in trying to press an advantage for their team.

Assurances from David Richardson, the ICC's chief executive, that umpires are being pressed to manage on-field behaviour more assertively are part of a wider debate about clamping down on flash points during the forthcoming World Cup.

ESPNcricinfo understands that players from more than one international team have been told in recent times by team leadership figures that "I don't care if someone gets fined" in their efforts to push opposition players out of their comfort zone, making a mockery of the usual punishment for abusive language and other offences.

There are worries that current interpretations of the ICC's code of conduct and penalties for repeat offences do not serve up sufficient penalties for anything but the very worst or most repeated of behaviours, and that "the line" of what is acceptable is often crossed because the financial sanction creates minimal pain for the transgressor - in contrast to the more severe cost of "minor" over rate offences.

If bans are sanctioned for over rate offences then it is begging the question why the ICC's code of conduct, as constituted, means that bans occur so rarely for other more serious misdemeanours.

This week's events in Australia have highlighted this inconsistency, as David Warner was docked 50% of his match fee - small change for one of Cricket Australia's highest-ranked contracted players - for his confrontation with Rohit Sharma, while the captain George Bailey was suspended from a match in Hobart for his team's tardy over rate.

The Australian coach Darren Lehmann has been publicly outspoken in his insistence that his men push things to the edge of what is acceptable, for it has become Australia's cricket custom.

After the Melbourne Test against India, in which the Australians had Virat Kohli offering them up a couple of chances following a hyper aggressive period on the field when Mitchell Johnson fired at the stumps and hit India's champion batsman in the back, Lehmann was asked if they would temper their approach to him. "Oh no, we haven't started yet," was his reply.

After Warner's penalty on Sunday, Lehmann said: "If the ICC decide it's not in the spirit of the game or we cross the line, they'll come down on us. We all know that. So we've got to make sure: we're always going to teeter pretty close to it, that's the way we play, but we've got to make sure we don't cross it. David's an aggressive character and we support that. It's just making sure he does the right things on the ground, and he knows that more than most. We'll work with him with that."

While no members of the team are believed to have a problem with Warner's barked request that Rohit "speak English" after the pair had exchanged words in the Australian batsman's native tongue at earlier times in that match and the Border-Gavaskar series, it is broadly agreed that he should not have broken stride to confront his Indian counterpart.

At worst, it is felt he would have been better off expressing his annoyance that Rohit had run after a return to Brad Haddin appeared to hit him with a few words delivered as he walked past. Players, umpires, coaches and administrators are all aware that, apart from extreme instances of vilification, occurrences of intimidatory body language and appearances of confrontation on matches broadcast worldwide are more significant transgressions than colourful language.

According to Cricket Australia, Warner will miss the Hobart ODI and stay in Sydney in order to rest hamstring soreness, but he is fortunate not to have been suspended. During the Adelaide Test in December, Warner, Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan were found guilty of conduct contrary to the spirit of the game following a series of confrontations when Australia batted.

The fracas with Rohit was addressed under the same charge, and as a second level one offence was bumped up to the equivalent of a level two. Luckily for Warner, the match referee Andy Pycroft judged the case leniently, handing Warner the minimum penalty applicable under the code.

It was within Pycroft's right to fine Warner more heavily or even suspend him for up to two ODI matches. As has been flagged ahead of next month's World Cup, there is now a growing mood towards interpreting the ICC code more severely, a decision that would leave the likes of Warner and others with far less room to cross the line of acceptability, and make it far less likely that teams will merely "cop the fine" for their sins and go on behaving in the same way.

The ICC's chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle will be reminding each side of their on-field responsibilities, and stressing the importance of improved player behaviour, to team leaders during the technical briefings that will take place in the week before the start of next month's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig