IPL 2014 May 7, 2014

IPL sends a poor message

The actions of Kieron Pollard and Mitchell Starc warranted more than a mere fine

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'Pollard, Starc should have been banned'

The IPL has once again missed an opportunity to establish itself as an organisation that advocates transparency and accountability - for cricket that is, and not crass entertainment. On Tuesday night at the Wankhede Stadium, Kieron Pollard and Mitchell Starc taunted each other, mocked each other and threw balls and bats at each other, and carried on baiting each other through the game. Their confrontation in the 17th over of Mumbai Indians' innings was perhaps the ugliest on-field incident in the IPL since Harbhajan Singh slapped Sreesanth in 2008.

There is no point blaming one player - both Starc and Pollard were guilty. They had reacted emotionally and set a dreadful example. So why did the match referee Andy Pycroft punish them so leniently? Pollard got away with a fine of 75% of his match fee (an unknown amount because the salary Mumbai Indians pay him is not known) and Starc was asked to pay 50% of his. Both men dutifully accepted the sanctions for actions the IPL statement said were contrary to the spirit of the game

The IPL will now treat the matter as closed and the players involved will get on with their lives, leaving behind unanswered questions. On what basis did Pycroft decide that Starc and Pollard's behavior was not serious enough to warrant a one-match ban or heftier fines at the least? Both men could have caused injury to the other. That it did not happen should be a reason for relief, and not a reason to view their actions with leniency. Did Pycroft make his decisions independently?

According to the sections of the code of conduct they were charged under, Pollard and Starc could have been fined up to 100% of their match fee and/or banned for up to two matches. The actual punishments meted out will set a wrong precedent - the bar is set very high now - and will not act as a deterrent for disgraceful behaviour. Will the IPL continue to slap inconsequential monetary penalties on players who earn massive pay cheques?

There had been a similar incident between Melbourne Stars captain Shane Warne and Melbourne Renegades batsman Marlon Samuels in the 2012-13 Big Bash League. Warne relentlessly sledged Samuels - even tugged his shirt - and the flashpoint occurred when he flicked the ball at the batsman, hitting Samuels on the arm. Samuels responded by hurling his bat on the field, though not at Warne.

Warne was suspended for one match a while after the incident and fined AUD 4500 for breaching four clauses in the tournament's code of conduct. Samuels was found guilty of two breaches but was lying in hospital after being hit in the face by a Lasith Malinga bouncer.

The most telling remark after the Warne-Samuels incident was from Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland, who said the fierce rivalry between players was only good for the game. Administrators know such incidents fuel the spectator interest that drives up the commercial value of their tournaments. So we are left with these words, as far from the spirit of the game as one could imagine.

"Players are entertainers, they're putting on a show, but first and foremost they're also sportsmen who are competing for big prizes," Sutherland had said, "And I think whilst we can stand here and say we don't condone anything that happened last night, this sort of thing is probably something that only inspires a greater rivalry between the Renegades and the Stars and creates greater interest for the Big Bash League."

During the innings break of the game between Mumbai Indians and Royal Challengers Bangalore, Pycroft's former Zimbabwean team-mate Alistair Campbell, now an IPL commentator, asked Starc if it was good to be part of such "great theatre and healthy competition." Starc smiled, and he would have smiled again at having got off so easy.

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cam on May 9, 2014, 4:57 GMT

    The IPL is destroying cricket? Yes it is. This format isn't even cricket. Tiny boundaries where mis hits and edges fly for six? Time outs? Nobody watches it outside India, nobody cares. And even there the ratings are dropping every year. This was a non incident, it is not a gentleman's game it is a sport played by professionals.

  • Amir on May 8, 2014, 15:43 GMT

    I think there should be separate windows in a year for T20, ODIs and Tests. That way focus can be maintained on a specific format. Each format provides a separate type of entertainment for the fan base.

  • Android on May 8, 2014, 15:18 GMT

    Its pretty sad that people are saying that IPL is destroying cricket when it is also mentioned that a similar incident happened in BBL .Warne for however big a legend he has been has had poor behaviour off and on the field .It is not only IPL but this has happened in so many other forms of the game and so many tournaments in the recent past .Like WC semi final Afridi and Gambhir .What I would say is that it is not only IPL or T20 that has spoilt the game but its just the quality of the players that has gone down .The bowlers get tonked away when the conditions do not favour them ( no surprises as the advantage gap between batsnen and bowlers is very large ) and the batsmen bat like they have never held a bat in unfamiliar conditions .You can see so many of them being frustrated about this and throwing their bats abusing and resorting to such tactics .There are few quality players out there today

  • suresh kumar on May 8, 2014, 13:31 GMT

    there is nothing like spirit in modern day cricket. There is fierce competition only. I love ipl. Time for test cricket to go.

  • Jacob on May 8, 2014, 13:03 GMT

    @Narkovian Well said! Village cricket is the way to go!

    I am so waiting for you to regale me about THAT crisp cover drive in the 48th over and the awesomest inswinger in the 65th over in the match played by Trexshire and Stegosaurushire. And those 132,657 'well-lefts' - I am sure you can bring those nerve-wracking moments to life.....

    Now, if you will excuse me, I am getting ready for the next IPL match. But we should get together some time....

  • Richard on May 8, 2014, 11:26 GMT

    Yes @Ara247. IPL destroying the spirit of cricket. Well said. I will go further. It is in danger of destroying cricket itself. T20(and/or/IPL) is not cricket. It should be called something else entirely. How long before we all get bored with sixes flying into the stand.What thrills will we demand next, for instant gratification? In fact : further still, it is probably too late. Cricket where proper skills are on show, is already dying. With some exceptions thank goodness.... Back where it started in England, in clubs up and down the land real cricket is still played. I hope for a long time to come.

  • Nanda Kumar on May 8, 2014, 11:14 GMT

    While I agree with the notion of a ban for the overseas cricketers who are in this predominantly for the money the penalty of match fees is probably more. Let us say Pollard's fees is 1 million usd. ( cannot see him agreeing for anything less) . This translates to about 72000 USD per match and the fine is around 54000 USD. Which is a fair bit of money. A match ban would have meant chilling in the dug out without any great pain. Not sure the franchisees would have reduced the match fees due to the ban. Unfortunately the current penal action may actually hurt them more. Ideally fhey should have faced a 2 match ban and 100 % docking of match fees.

  • Mohammad on May 8, 2014, 11:01 GMT

    Had Pollard's bat hit Starc, the fine would have been much higher.

  • Kanishka on May 8, 2014, 9:42 GMT

    IPL is nothing more than entertainment and an opportunity for quick bucks for cricketers and is barely real cricket. I bet people enjoyed that incident more than the game itself. Hence talking about the spirit of cricket is in the IPL is redundant. I enjoyed the part about the match fees when no one knows how much each player is being payed for each game talking about a percentage fine is a joke. I wouldn't be surprised if the whole fining thing was just for show. Normally in international cricket this kind of behavior would almost certainly leads to a ban and I think even the players know this hence they probably show more restraint.

  • Dummy4 on May 8, 2014, 9:25 GMT

    What is it with Australians and West Indians at the moment? We have Warne/Samuels, then Starc/Pollard. Faulkner says the Aussies don't like the West Indians, and it seems to be true. Rally_Windies, don't remember Tony Gray getting a life ban (many players, including Croft and Stephenson did, mostly for 1983).

    This stuff needs sorting out, and quickly (this is supposed to be cricket, not WWE). The IPL "punishments" are just a flea bite, and not intended to stop the aggro. It will only stop when someone gets hurt, and that's not the right way.

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