Player penalties December 21, 2009

Instigators not punished enough - Anil Kumble

Cricinfo staff

Anil Kumble, the former India captain, has said the ICC's match referees don't seem to punish the instigators of on-field spats severely enough. He feels that too often the provocateurs escape with a light censure while players who react strongly are penalised severely.

Kumble expressed his views in his syndicated column after the completion of the Perth Test, during which three Australian players were fined while West Indian spinner Sulieman Benn was banned for two one-day internationals by match referee Chris Broad. Benn, Mitchell Johnson and Brad Haddin were involved in an ugly incident on the second day of the Test, which led to Benn's ban and Haddin and Johnson being fined 25% and 10% of their respective match fees.

The clash began with a run-in between the bowler Benn, who was moving across to field a drive, and the non-striker Johnson, who was taking off for a single. The contact seemed incidental, with neither man at fault, but Haddin appeared to inflame the situation after completing the run, when he pointed his bat at Benn.

The pair exchanged words and the sparks flew again two balls later, when Haddin drove the final ball of the over back to Benn, who shaped to throw at the striker's end even though Haddin was not taking off for a run. Haddin and Johnson had a mid-pitch meeting at the end of the over and Benn continued his remonstration, moving close to the batsmen and pointing at Haddin across the shoulder of Johnson.

There appeared to be some incidental contact between Johnson and Benn when Johnson moved to position himself between his partner and the bowler. Things became even uglier when Johnson pushed Benn away, following the initial contact. After stumps the West Indies captain Chris Gayle said he felt Benn had not initiated the physical clash.

"There doesn't seem to be any punishment forthcoming for someone who provokes and that to me is against the principles of natural justice," Kumble wrote. "The Australians always seem to get away. Whatever their transgressions on the field, invariably it is their opponents who end up paying a price. Somehow or the other, teams playing against the Aussies seem to invite the match referee's wrath."

Kumble cited the example of the Delhi Test in 2008, during which Gautam Gambhir was banned for a Test by match referee Broad because he elbowed Shane Watson, with whom he had verbal altercations before the incident. Gambhir also argued with Simon Katich in the same innings.

"In the Delhi Test against us, my last, the one that earned Gautam Gambhir a ban for having a go at Watson, the same umpire and the match referee were officiating," Kumble wrote. "At that time, the umpire Billy Bowden didn't see it fit to report Simon Katich who had later obstructed Gautam and the match referee Chris Broad too didn't bother to act on his own or follow it up with the on-field umpires even though it was very much evident on TV. And as on that occasion, the provocateurs got away in Perth too, with Haddin and Johnson receiving minor reprimands."