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Notes by the Editor
Tendulkar (we’ll come to the other five) was caught up in the catch-all crime of bringing the game into disrepute, fined 75 per cent of his match fee and given a one-match suspended ban. Denness, watching on television, had caught him interfering with the ball “by himself and without the onfield umpire’s supervision under Law 42.3 (a)(ii) and Law 42.3 (b)”. The umpires appear not to have noticed anything untoward, and the condition of the ball had not changed sufficiently to attract their attention, or the statutory five-run penalty. In fact, Tendulkar was most likely cleaning the seam and guilty on a technicality at worst. By the time the headline writers had put their slant on it, the crime was ball-tampering and the incendiaries were burning effigies of Denness.
In another year, the matter might have ended with the unofficial Test. But Denness, as well as fining captain Sourav Ganguly, Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh, Deep Dasgupta and Shiv Sunder Das for other breaches of the Code of Conduct, also handed out a one-Test suspension to Sehwag, who had earlier hit a hundred on debut at Bloemfontein. In happier circumstances, that would have been the Centurion match. Now, however, India’s next Test, as far as the ICC were concerned, was against England at Mohali in December. India, who had not played Sehwag at Centurion, argued otherwise and a period of brinkmanship followed. The Indian selectors included Sehwag in their squad; the ICC’s new chief executive, Malcolm Speed, warned in no uncertain manner that the council would not give the Test official status if he played; the ECB said England would not take part in an unofficial match. For a day or two there was the threat of an international split. One deadline passed but eventually, perhaps inevitably, India accepted Speed’s offer to set up a “referees commission” to investigate whether Denness had acted in accordance with the Code of Conduct, the role of referees generally and whether players should have a right of appeal. Given that the ICC executive board had already agreed to strengthen the disciplinary power of referees from April 2002, the commission looked like being about as sabre-toothed as its name.
ICC call the shots A year or two earlier, the Indians would have headed off the ICC well before the impasse. What this eyeballing emphasised was the confidence with which the new administration had grasped authority, following universal acceptance of recommendations in the Condon Report on cricket corruption. Sir Paul (later Lord) Condon’s report was considered by many to be a damp squib. There were no disclosures; no sacrificial names from which to hang headlines. But it did challenge the ICC to put their house in order and, given the context of the report, the member countries had little option but to strengthen the executives’ role. For that alone, Condon has influenced the way cricket moves forward. But the stand-off also reminded the cricket world that India, through her cricket-crazy population and television’s immense marketing potential, has an economic clout no other country can match. Cricket’s old establishment may be undecided whether Dalmiya is a smoking gun or a loose cannon, but he epitomises the progressive, post-imperial, nuclear India.
All rights reserved. You may not copy, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise make available this content in any form or by any means. Notes by the Editor
He is both poker player and politician. At the eleventh hour, he knew he couldn’t trust his hand against Speed’s, but he knew he held the better cards when he wagered an extra India–England one-day international against this summer’s Oval Test. It may not have been a gentleman’s bet; the ECB had, after all, agreed terms with the pre-Dalmiya administration. But such is the precarious nature of their finances that they could not afford to lose the income the Oval Test would generate. They agreed to the extra one-day game in India (the Indians had initially wanted two), which ironically allowed England to draw the series 3–3.
It is as great an irony that Dalmiya’s business acumen, when ICC president, provided the council with the financial muscle to stand up to India. Through television rights to the World Cup and interim knockout tournaments, he showed how cricket could be enriched beyond previous imagination. He may not always have won friends, but he knew how to influence people. He knew, too, how to nurse a grudge, for he had been sorely hurt by the peremptory way the ICC had dropped their pilot once they were in secure waters. When the opportunity came to rock their boat, he was hardly likely to resist it. Dalmiya aside, old attitudes towards India will have to change.
Give them the gizmos It is so obvious that it bears repeating: umpires are only human and, being human, can always make mistakes. This is not to say that umpiring should be hit or miss; simply that, when they do err, umpires deserve better than histrionics from the players and opprobrium from the media. Similarly, the players deserve the best umpires. They have not always had them. Back in 1987, Wisden’s Notes advocated an independent panel of leading umpires, appointed by and responsible to the ICC, which in turn would have to show a more positive attitude in supporting them. Fifteen years later we are about to get it. In the interim, we have had that constant companion of cricket administration, compromise, along with the usual diet of fudge.
Having one ICC umpire in a Test match was a start, but it neither tackled the problem of erratic standards nor eradicated the cause of so much player dissent – the suspicion that, deep down, the home umpire was biased. Referees were a recognition of the problem without solving it. They focused on player behaviour in order to sustain the shibboleth that the umpire is always right. Television has thrown that into confusion, and an elite panel will not solve the problem unless cricketers – and this applies at every level – accept that the umpire is integral to the game, not as an authority figure but an arbiter.
So it was worrying when the chairman of the first-class umpires’ association, Allan Jones, complained that their representations to the ECB over increasing incidents of dissent were falling on deaf ears. New regulations were introduced last season to stop intimidatory appealing, but umpires feel these were toothless. When they reported players to the board, there was no indication what penalty, if any, had been imposed. “Youngsters see these things taking place on the field and, when nothing is done, they think it’s appropriate behaviour,” Jones said. It would help if the board dealt out the penalties, but they leave this to the county that employs the offender. It’s the procedure, apparently – and very convenient it is, too.
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