India in England 2014 August 3, 2014

Over to the ICC

The implications of the Anderson-Jadeja verdict go beyond its narrow legal parameters; it's time the ICC stepped in and acted for the good of the game

Play 05:33
Giles: Completely unnecessary behaviour

On day three of the Southampton Test, India's debutant fast bowler Pankaj Singh came out to bat. After Pankaj had spent a couple of minutes out in the middle, a roll of tape was brought out and handed over to one of the on-field umpires, who proceeded to bend in front of the tall bowler and stick pieces of tape on errant manufacturers' labels on his pads. Had the umpire not helped Pankaj save himself from the heinous crime of ambush marketing in time, Pankaj would have lost part of his earnings from a match the 29-year-old had been dreaming of playing for most of his adult life.

Two Tests ago, two players got into an incident during which a lot of puerile personal abuse was thrown about and one player pushed another, either unprovoked or in self-defence depending on whose testimony you believe. Neither was so much as reprimanded. If the ICC is serious about its Code of Conduct and setting an example to the kids watching, Dave Richardson, its CEO, should appeal this verdict - only the game's governing body can appeal - and seek some sort of sanction to set an example. He shouldn't need the BCCI to try to convince him. For, right now, the verdict suggests that incessant mindless abuse is okay as long as it is not heard on the stump microphone.

The judicial commissioner in the case, who has been sound in deciding that the evidence on the table didn't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that James Anderson pushed Ravindra Jadeja unprovoked, has also noted in his verdict: "I am satisfied that personal contact did occur between Anderson and Jadeja but the extent and force of that contact is unknown, despite Jadeja's response in cross examination that the push was hard and caused him to break stride." The commissioner noted that the breaking-the-stride bit was an "embellishment" on Jadeja's earlier testimony, but he had no doubt that contact did take place.

If physical contact took place, clearly after built-up tension because of incessant abuse, it shouldn't matter whose fault it was. It doesn't matter if both the players are sanctioned, it doesn't matter if the sanctions are not of the same level as originally charged, what happened at Trent Bridge should not be less bothersome than a player spending two seconds at the wicket and pointing to his bat when he has been given out lbw off a thick inside edge.

"In my view what umpire [Bruce] Oxenford heard [mid-pitch] was much worse than the exchange ascribed to Anderson at the boundary line," says the verdict. "I can only assume that a much more robust approach is taken by umpires to swearing in the Test arena than I had previously imagined and the boundary exchange does not warrant disciplinary action if the earlier insult directed to Dhoni did not."

The verdict also talks about what was said mid-pitch. "Second, it is not in issue that earlier in the morning umpire Oxenford took the action he describes in para 6 of his statement, where he said, 'I heard Anderson use foul and abusive language to Dhoni. In particular I heard Anderson say, "You're a f***ing fat c**t" to Dhoni.' However, apart from ordering Anderson to say nothing further to the batsman (I assume of an abusive nature) umpire Oxenford did not deem that language sufficiently serious to lodge a report about the incident with the match referee, even though it seems to have been in breach of article 2.1.4 in that it was language that was obscene, offensive and insulting."

It is surprising, though, that the judge chose to not overrule Oxenford's leniency. This is like a court saying if the police didn't register a legitimate complaint, it won't take any action either.

Apart from that, the judgement makes a sound argument in deciding to not charge Anderson at all. Most provisions in the ICC sanctions involve match-fee fines and bans for a match or two. Playing matches is the only source of livelihood for most cricketers. The commissioner has reasoned that when it comes to matters of livelihood, the required standard of proof was provided. Livelihood comes from workplaces. People have responsibilities in workplaces. One of them is to not use foul and offensive language.

Cricket, though, is different from other workplaces. We often celebrate witty attempts at unsettling the opposition in cricket, and call it sledging. The ICC has had codes in place to cut out the inane abuse, while retaining the human element of psychology in the contest. It has always been of the view that the kids should see their role models as better people than those who resort to foul language when things are don't going their way. This verdict defeats the ICC.

By all accounts, this was not the strongest case either way. The incident took place in a narrow corridor that was not monitored. The witnesses were biased. At least one set of them lied. Only the sinister would think that either side planned the incident or the action in response to it relying on there being no evidence. It still jars that this whole business has not been criticised by the commissioner or the ICC.

Outside of the parties involved, strange triumphalism and schadenfreude has followed the verdict, especially considering that India emerged victorious in a similar he-said-she-said case in Sydney in 2007-08. Some have said India should man up, which is a poor understanding of manliness. One British broadsheet headlined the story as India's humiliation; it is actually cricket and the ICC that are being humiliated. This was the ICC's case all along. India just brought it to the ICC's notice. It is still the ICC's case. Your move, Dave Richardson.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 5, 2014, 19:11 GMT

    So now, we know that (1) Umpire Bruce Oxenford heard Anderson using unacceptable language on the field of play. (2) He chose not to report it. (3) The ICC Commissioner is aware of the offence. (4) Chose to take no action against it. This tolerance of confirmed usage of abusive language is not consistent with ICC match referee's behaviour at Sydney 2008, where the match referee had tried to use his authority to suspend Harbhajan Singh without evidence ! Over to you Mr. Dave Richardson, as the author says.

  • Who Cares About IPL on August 5, 2014, 8:31 GMT

    It is very unfortunate that cricket at Test level has become so personally competitive, but the questions should be directed at the Waugh era Australians - so successful but masters of unpleasantness on the field. Others were bound to emulate them in order to approach their degree of domination, especially since the umpires obviously did not feel it was as offensive as most of your correspondents (and I) do.

    Jimmy Anderson initially had a reputation for being a shy and modest individual - I suspect that he has merely adopted the Oz approach since it clearly proved very successful. Others, who felt he "got away" with his charge might reflect that the judgment did make clear that "the other side" exaggerated their case.

  • Benson on August 5, 2014, 7:33 GMT

    Raki99 you have all wrong... Both players should have been fined 100 percent of their match fees for bringing the game into disrepute. What we have seen s the difference of opinion between an ex cicketer and lawman.

  • Supratik on August 5, 2014, 1:43 GMT

    I think it's not practical to regulate on-field behaviours by off-field procedures like inquests, commissions and hearings. They take at least 1-2 weeks to conduct, require all sorts of lawyering and evidence-gathering and in the end if it's not a firm verdict (like this case), then all parties involved end up feeling their time is wasted. On field problems like sledging should be solved by on-field method. The most obvious method? GIVE THE UMPIRES MORE POWER & DISCRETION. And this should include the power to suspend players for personal abuse. If the umpires themselves are the judges and players know their behaviour is being watched closely, rest assured they will control their lips a bit more. In the short term, this shift may lead to some umpires misinterpreting the code of conduct rules (or interpreting them too strongly), but in the long term they should go a long way in controlling senseless behaviour.

  • Jake on August 4, 2014, 21:30 GMT

    Anderson couldn't be punished due to lack of reliable evidence but Dhoni and Fletcher have still done the game a service, intentionally or not, by exposing the level of abuse that now seem commonplace in the game. I'm honestly quite shocked by it. Maybe I'm naive. But this if this is now considered acceptable then I'll find another sport for my kids to play.

  • Rakesh on August 4, 2014, 19:39 GMT

    David Boon as become the laughing stock in this All ordeal.. He punished jadeja and now has to eat the humble pie..

  • Dummy4 on August 4, 2014, 19:05 GMT

    James Anderson got away scot free just because of some technical lacunae. This in nonsense. Aggressive my foot! We are not boxing or wrestling. There is a whole lot of difference between being aggressive and competitive. Be competitive not Aggressive. Shame on ICC for making the game so complicated. Why cant the abusive language be banned completely. If you abuse, treat like a noball, free hit. Or some punishment right there and then. This needs to change. I have two young daughters and watching a match where such words are used under the garb of aggressive play is unpalatable and tasteless. Appreciate the efforts of agencies like Cricinfo in bringing attention to such a serious issue for cricket lovers like us. Alok

  • Devang on August 4, 2014, 18:01 GMT

    Regardless of the verdict, can we not abide by certain rules that apply to Offices all around the world? I work in a mostly male dominated environment and yes, we do not have opposition but work with other teams and sometimes there are instances where someone gets upset to a point to show frustration. There are boundaries though and no one goes out cursing and if that happens, someone in authority steps in and takes appropriate action. Umpires are the authority and should use their power to ensure that the language is civilized for the most part and the tone of delivery does not deviate to far from the norms. Some might point out that Cricket is different and i agree on that point to a certain extent. There has to be amicable environment for competitive cricket and not some barbaric language. Show your frustrations but don't cross the line and if you do, there are consequences. Apparently the consequences are missing and that's why we have those incidents!

  • John on August 4, 2014, 17:10 GMT

    It appears the the responses shown in this column are anti sledging and any body who is pro sledging is being censored and not printed,therefore this is not an even handed debate about something that India perceives to be a problem that nobody else in the cricket family worries about.

  • Ravi on August 4, 2014, 16:08 GMT

    One question to Jimmy though. Would you be proud of using that language in your kids presence. I hope not. Garner, Marshall, Ambrose, Walsh, Kapil, Hadlee. They were all fast bowlers too and they did not swear. Maybe there was a stare off. They let the ball do the talking. Come on cricketers, You are all Pro's, Ground is your workplace and conduct yourself. You are role models to the upcoming generation.

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