Ravi Shastri, the former India allrounder and IPL governing council member, has warned that a repeat of altercations such as the one involving Kieron Pollard and Mitchell Starc could result in much stiffer penalties for the players, including "double" their match fee or even a ban.
"They should be given a fine and then a stern warning stating that (if) once more then it could be double the penalty and even a match ban," Shastri told ESPNcricinfo. When asked whether increasing monetary sanctions alone could prevent a breach of the IPL's rules, Shastri remained confident. "It could. It is in the hands of the match referee. But I would tell the player that next time if you even come close (to a breach) you will face serious consequences."
Shastri provided the example of the "stiff" $50,000 fine imposed on then Rajasthan Royals captain Shane Warne during the 2011 IPL for breaching the playing contract. Warne had allegedly verbally abused the then Rajasthan Cricket Association secretary Sanjay Dixit, and a disciplinary panel comprising former IPL chairman Chirayu Amin and Shastri imposed the penalty. "The penalties can be pretty stiff. We penalised Warne an amount which amounted to his match fee for a match. He was on a $700,000 contract with Rajasthan Royals. Tell me one player who has been fined $50,000 anywhere."
Shastri, who also sits on the IPL's code of behaviour committee and the technical committee, said that no advisory has been issued to match referees in light of the Pollard-Starc incident since the officials were aware of the rules. "That is the match referee's jurisdiction. Only after they take a decision do we have a right to comment."
The IPL's handling of the incident has once again reopened the debate about whether slow over-rates are more important to the league than bad behaviour and attract more fines because of the impact on TV programming. Shastri rubbished the notion and said that the IPL had set a better example than anybody else, including the ICC, when it came to penalising tardy over-rates. "Slow over-rates slow the pace of the game and captains are appropriately fined. No other cricket body in the world takes so strong (an action) as the IPL. Even the ICC can take a leaf out of the IPL."
Shastri had earlier expressed his annoyance at Pollard and Starc's behavior in his Times of India column. "This one went beyond bad behavior," Shastri wrote. "You can joust, tease, stare, have a spat, give a send-off and all that can still be tolerated, but you can't almost come to blows. It bordered on violence, luckily without anything untoward happening. Both aimed to hurt each other with bat and ball. The faults by both are many - disrespect to umpires, abuse of equipment, utter disregard for the name of their employers, contempt for sponsors and injuring the spirit of the game itself.
"Starc likes to provoke. We all watched him give a mouthful to Virender Sehwag after his short ball had rammed the opener on the helmet and gone to the fence. Even that is tolerable in small doses. Pollard was nothing if not physical. Both need to be spoken to with a stern warning and not just a fine."
The altercation began with an exchange of words after Starc bowled a bouncer to Pollard in the 17th over of Mumbai Indians' innings against Royal Challengers Bangalore. Pollard pulled away as Starc ran in for the next delivery, but the bowler continued and bowled the ball at Pollard's body. In response, Pollard threatened to throw his bat at Starc, but it fell close to the batsman. Andy Pycroft, the match referee, fined Pollard 75% and Starc 50% of their match fees.
The bad behaviour in the match, Shastri wrote, wasn't just confined to Pollard and Starc.
"In the same game, [Yuzvendra] Chahal was also involved in a pronounced send-off to the batsman he dismissed," Shastri wrote. "It was Chahal's good luck that Yuvraj Singh was at hand to humour the offended on-field umpires. Mostly it's the bowlers who are stepping out of line.
"All the stakeholders must clamp down on such behaviour. It doesn't improve you as a cricketer much less as a human being. It's been a splendid IPL so far and it deserves better from its performers."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo