The verdict is out and there is no appeal against it. The Indians have brought disrepute to the game of gentlemen. Or so ICC match referee Mike Denness would have us believe.
Sachin Tendulkar has been found guilty of tampering with the ball and for bringing disrepute to the game, has been fined 75 per cent of his match fees. Tendulkar has also been given a one Test suspended sentence. Virendra Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Deep Dasgupta and Shiv Sundar Das have all been held guilty of attempting to influence the umpire's decision, and attempting to influence the umpire by charging towards him. All have been fined 75 per cent of their match fees, and have been given a suspended one Test ban, which can be enforced in case of any other violation till January 2002.
Sehwag has been penalised for a breach of conduct for similar offences, fined 75 per cent of his match fees, and suspended for one Test with immediate effect. Skipper Saurav Ganguly has been fined 75 per cent of his match fees for bringing the game into disrepute, and has been given a suspended ban of one Test plus a fine of 75 per cent of the match fees.
Denness, who was present at the official Press conference today, refused to either explain the decisions, or to answer any questions. Ravi Shastri said it best. 'If Denness won't answer questions, what is he doing here? We all know what he looks like.' It was also categorically stated that India cannot appeal the decision.
The Laws of Cricket code - Law 42, covering fair and unfair play are very clear:
(a) Any fielder may
- polish the ball provided that no artificial substance is used and that
such polishing wastes no time.
- remove mud from the ball under the supervision of the umpire (Pat
Symcox who was commentating at the time, felt that Tendulkar was merely
cleaning mud off the seam. But since he was not doing it under the
supervision of the umpire, he may have contravened this provision).
- dry a wet ball on a towel
(b) It is unfair for anyone to rub the ball on the ground for any reason, interfere with any of the seams or the surface of the ball, use any implement, or take any other action whatsoever which is likely to alter the condition of the ball, except as permitted in (a) above."
A reason to tamper with the ball is to enable one to generate prodiguous movement and swing.
Further, as per the ICC's rulebook, Law 5, governing Test-Playing Conditions reads, in relevant part, thus: 'The umpires shall retain possession of the match balls throughout the duration of the match when play is not actually taking place. During play umpires shall periodically and irregularly inspect the condition of the ball and shall retain possession of it at the fall of a wicket, a drinks interval, at the end of every over, or any other disruption in play.'
Neither of the umpires noticed any irregularity. And if at all the ball was tampered with, why did the umpires allow the Indian bowlers to continue to use it?
The so-called ball tampering incident was brought to Denness' notice by a TV producer of the local network while the rule book goes that only the following can report such matters to the referee:
- The umpires, including the third or any further umpire appointed for a
Test match or an ODI match.
- The team manager, either on his own behalf or on behalf of any of his
- The chief executive officer of the home board of a member country
participating in a Test match or ODI match
- The ICC chief executive
If Denness indeed goes by the rules, then it would be interesting to have his reaction to these points. Incidentally, Denness, who came to India as vice-captain to Tony Lewis in the 1974 series, did not like the country at all.
If the condemnation of Tendulkar -- a man who is eulogized world wide and has played international cricket for 12 years without a blemish -- is ridiculous, Sehwag's suspension for 'excessive appealing' defies logic. The Delhi lad appealed on what he thought to be a genuine catch off the boot of Shaun Pollock. Even TV commentators said it was a good appeal instantly and then said it was a good decision by umpire Russell Tiffin to rule the batsmen not out after slow motion replays of the incident were shown repeatedly.
It is the charge against captain Saurav Ganguly that really takes the cake. According to Denness, Ganguly could not control his team and in fact indulged in excessive appealing and was found guilty. In the cut throat world of competition where every inch is fought for, it is not unusual for passions running high on the cricket field as well. Appealing by players is instinctive and holding the skipper responsible is grossly unfair.
If excessive appealing is what Denness is seeking to curb then why did he not question the action of Pollock for literally demanding decisions in his favour through his sustained bellowing with arms raised towards the home umpire after rapping Shiv Sunder Das and V.V.S. Laxman on the pads?
The Proteas' list of deeds or rather misdeeds during the ongoing Test series does not end here. Sample the following:
- Nantie Hayward uses the 'F' word while bowling in the first Test at
- Jacques Kallis appeals 'excessively' after claiming a catch off a ball
had touched the turf in the first Test.
- Kallis bowls a grubber at first slip and then charges up to the batsman
shouts 'Let's see you hit that, you ********'
- Hayward, Pollock and Kallis heap abuses on Tendulkar and Sehwag when the
two were trying to pull their side out of the woods in the first Test.
- Makhaya Ntini spits in Ganguly's direction in the same match.
- Pollock swears at Laxman in the on-going Test.
It is high time the BCCI showed some spine. For far too long have the Indian cricket authorities lumped down harsh penalties handed out to some of its top players by ICC match referees without any protests.
The ICC officials continue to haul up Indian players for anything and everything while players from other countries, notably the white nations, get away with things which are deemed generally to be far more serious transgressions of Law 42 dealing with 'Fair and Unfair' play.
If the conduct of the South African players is not an eye-opener enough then the next incident that comes to the mind is West Indian Cammie Smith letting off Australian opener Michael Slater, during the Mumbai Test, for mouthing obscenities.
The same Cammie Smith gave Ganguly the rough end of the stick for a much less graver offence. The Indian skipper was forced to miss two ODIs in a subsequent series.
These mindless punishments are an insult to the Indian nation, which provides highest revenue to the ICC's coffers, the Indian public, the most passionate followers of the game and of course the cricketers, already under a lot of pressure because of their below-par performance.More stories on Indian cricket