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Former Australia captain, now a cricket commentator and columnist

An accident waiting to happen

The BCCI should take tough disciplinary measures against Sreesanth to ensure his undoubted talent isn't wasted

Ian Chappell

October 14, 2007

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'Suspend Sreesanth for a meaningful period' © Getty Images
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Back when I was playing, whenever a fiery red sports car would go whizzing past our team's more sedate mode of transport, the former Australian wrist-spinner Johnny Martin would say, "There goes an accident waiting to happen". Currently Indian fast bowler Sreesanth appears to be driving a bright red V12 with mag wheels, twin carburettors and the latest E gearshift. He's already had a couple of minor scrapes but hasn't backed off the throttle, and if he continues down this bumpy road he's headed for a major catastrophe.

The BCCI should do him a favour and take away his keys; in other words, suspend him for a meaningful period. Then he'll have time to think about his erratic behaviour and will hopefully realise he's wasting his undoubted talent by expending energy on things that won't help his team win.

And if the BCCI does shift into disciplinary gear, they should also severely reprimand the person or persons who dreamed up the flawed tactic of India taking the Australians on at their own game. The first-class game in Australia is highly competitive and players regularly indulge in one-upmanship and the better ones thrive in this atmosphere. If the Australians wanted to do a Brer rabbit on India, they would have said: "Please don't intimidate us verbally."

If the BCCI needs any prompting on why they should discipline Sreesanth before he has a major crash, they only have to look at Pakistan's mishandling of Shoaib Ahktar in his early days. The PCB has finally done what it should have a long time ago: brought the malcontent into line with a suspension and serious fine. If this had happened when Shoaib's erratic behaviour first started to undermine the Pakistan side then he may well have become what he should have been - a match-winning fast bowler - instead of what he has been, a serious disruption to team harmony.

Firm disciplinary measures are not about curtailing character, they're applied to remind the more strong-willed players that they are part of a team and that the idea of the game is to win matches. Former great fast bowlers Fred Trueman of England and Dennis Lillee of Australia were both strong-willed players and great characters. However, their antics never harmed the team's goal of winning.

On the subject of Pakistan and discipline, Darrell Hair's court case against the ICC threw up an interesting sidelight. After Hair dropped the case, the PCB Chairman Nasim Ashraf said, "We do not believe that Hair should be umpiring on the Elite Panel." He made this statement even though both India and Sri Lanka took the more conciliatory line, saying they would abide by the ICC's decision once Hair completed his six-month rehabilitation period.

If the BCCI needs any prompting on why they should discipline Sreesanth before he has a major crash, they only have to look at Pakistan's mishandling of Shoaib Ahktar in his early days

So I wonder what approach the PCB will take concerning current Elite umpire Rudi Koertzen? Hair rather unwisely reported a phone conversation he had with Koertzen during the 2007 World Cup. When the South African umpire was told about Pakistan's early exit from the tournament he apparently responded, "That's great news, those cheats can now go home."

Now that the comment is in the public domain, it severely undermines Koertzen's most important credential - his impartiality. The PCB would have legitimate cause to ask the ICC not to appoint Koertzen for any Pakistan matches, or get them to at least force the South African to make a grovelling apology or deny he ever made the comment.

Taking the ICC to court was a fruitless exercise for Hair but he did succeed in severely embarrassing his employers on a number of occasions. From the president of the West Indies Board not realising umpire Billy Doctrove was from the Caribbean, to the ICC's appointment of an inappropriate three-man panel to look into Hair's future, the administrators' incompetence was laid bare for a worldwide audience.

Hair's choice of action at The Oval in August 2006 may have been questionable but it's hard to fault his appointment of QC Robert Griffiths to defend his honour. The wily Griffiths led the ICC board members into a street filled with potholes and they drove headlong into the trap.

Sreesanth may be travelling down a dangerous path but he's not the only member of the cricket fraternity speeding in a fiery red sports car.

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Ian Chappell Widely regarded as the best Australian captain of the last 50 years, Ian Chappell moulded a team in his image: tough, positive, and fearless. Even though Chappell sometimes risked defeat playing for a win, Australia did not lose a Test series under him between 1971 and 1975. He was an aggressive batsman himself, always ready to hook a bouncer and unafraid to use his feet against the spinners. In 1977 he played a lead role in the defection of a number of Australian players to Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, which did not endear him to the administrators, who he regarded with contempt in any case. After retirement, he made an easy switch to television, where he has come to be known as a trenchant and fiercely independent voice.
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