[I started typing this in the comments section of the thread on the Indian Victory at Mohali in response to a comment made by regular visitor, Sampath Kumar. When it grew too large, I thought I’d post it here as an blog post!]
In that comments thread, I said: “Have you not seen Merv Hughes or McDermott or Mike Whitney or Brad Williams give Indian players send offs? They haven’t been fined. The cliche often used by the Match Referee in those instances has been, ‘You don’t want to curb aggression in the game.’ One example is enough to prove this point, ‘McGrath-Sarawan’.”
My question then is this: “Why is it only necessary to curb Asian aggression?”
My conclusion is that Match Referees are not used to aggressive Asians in the past. This phenomenon, which found voice mainly through the likes of Arjuna Ranatunga and Sourav Ganguly, is now expressing itself routinely.
Which is probably why a journalist like Malcolm Conn rarely writes an article these days wherein he does not use the words “serial offender” or “provocative” or “aggressive” when referring to Harbhajan Singh, Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan or other new-age India players. Meanwhile, he does not deem Ricky Ponting, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, Matthew Hayden (he of “obnoxious weed” fame), et al, worthy of such lofty adjectives!
I personally do not see the antics of a Sourav Ganguly or Harbhajan Singh or a Zaheer Khan as anything different to the antics of Ricky Ponting or Matthew Hayden or Michael Clarke or any number of Australian cricketers.
In the comments section of the previous thread, I added, in reference to the Zaheer Khan fine, “Now the shoe is on the other foot. And everyone has woken up around the developed world!”
Yes. It is true that Team India, like India herself, has found a voice. Gone are the days of servility and Gandhian turn-the-other-cheek. The new India talks back, stares back and meets fire with fire. Suddenly, the sledging genie appears to be out of the bottle. India is aping the Australians and then some. Suddenly Malcolm Conn finds it revolting, unacceptable and uncomfortable.
Read this article by Malcolm Conn, our good friend from The Australian, for example. It makes no reference to the antics of Ricky Ponting nor does it paint Brad Haddin as the provoker in Bengaluru. One would think that the Indians are cheats and the Australians are good, honest, Christian saints with halos around their heads.
But that is the media. And irresponsible media persons, like our recent friends, will write anything to sell papers! Objectivity is not really the issue here.
And Malcolm Conn, like a few other Australian cricketers and journalists are rushing to claim the moral higher ground!
India’s gentle players are on their way out. Sourav Ganguly will soon considered “gentle” in comparison to the new-India that is coming through the ranks. Players like Uthappa and Sree Santh will take no prisoners! And they will be emboldened by the in-your-face approach of players like Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh! All of them want to win, and win well. They learned from the Australians and are repeating what they have been inflicted with in their formative years. Even M. S. Dhoni, one of the most decent cricketers I have seen for a long time, is being seen as a “cheat” by the Malcolm Conn’s of the world! And unless the ICC cleans up its act, I predict that there will be more Sydney-like trouble before things really settle down.
I have, for long claimed that the ICC has a major responsibility here; one that it is abusing; one that it is certainly abrogating.
Sunil Gavaskar claims that the ICC Match Referees are biased. In the comments section of the previous thread, I agreed with Gavaskar’s claims. In the same match we had Zaheer Khan and Ricky Ponting carrying on like pork chops. One was fined. The other wasn’t even mentioned in the Match Referees post-match missives! And I haven’t even mentioned the phrase “over rates” here! Why was that not even in consideration? I am not merely talking about over-rates in this match just concluded at Mohali. I am talking about Australian over-rates through the whole of last summer and these two recent matches.
You just cannot have a situation where Zaheer Khan is the only one that has his ears pinned!
In response to the comments that I made on the ICC Match Referees being biased, Sampath Kumar argued: “Finally, you have argued by comparing legal system in recent times — If an Aussie was not charged last time, then an Indian shouldn’t be charged as a balancing act. It is like saying: If my sister was raped by John, I should be allowed to rape John’s sister–no questions asked.”
Firstly, the above comment begs the question: What “legal system”?
The ICC seems to currently operate in a legal-free zone, in my view.
Try comparing the proper tribunal hearings — conducted by trained QC’s — that the AFL conducts to the manner in which the ICC operates its “picnic for the boys” routine.
Secondly, Sampath Kumar’s rape-analogy is too simplistic, apart from being a totally incorrect representation of my position.
While a sporting tribunal does not necessarily need to follow any specific legal formalities or processes, the ICC needs to get serious on this if it is to be taken seriously in the world.
Sports is competitive by nature and all sports people will look to get ahead! Some of them will adopt fair means and some will adopt other means outside the box of what is considered the “norm”. The “norm” is established by rules and regulations. The “norm” is also established by precedent! And here, therefore, precedent is important. You can’t have the carry ons of Brad Williams or Glen McGrath or Andre Nel, when taking a wicket being described as “good, strong, honest, aggressive cricket” and, simultaneously, describe Zaheer Khan’s carry ons as “unbecoming of the game”. The only difference is that one cricketer comes from a naturally aggressive cricket culture; the other comes from a hitherto non-aggressive culture! Precedent is important in any legal setting.
Moreover, it is the responsibility of the organisation to ensure that there is fairness, equity and natural justice in all of its dealings.
Organisations like the ICC, therefore, have a legal responsibility in relation to fair-play, reputable-play, anti-harassment, anti-discrimination, etc. The ICC also has moral obligations in relation to establishing (a) appropriate behaviour applicable across the board, (b) consistency in interpretation and application of the law and also (c) providing safe sporting environments.
An irrefutable necessary condition for any ICC Tribunal is that the very basic principles of natural justice must be followed to ensure that a totally fair and equitable process outcome is achieved, that is free of conflicts or bias (perceived or otherwise). The principles of natural justice include the following: (a) clear notification of the charge, (b) opportunity to respond, (c) perceived and actual unbiased decision making, that includes reliance on fact and the sourcing of irrefutable evidence when handing down decisions, (d) a clear, untainted and unquestioned opportunity to appeal a judgement that is handed down.
It is in the application of point (c), particularly, that I have most problems with the ICC. Even last year, we heard platitudes like “You don’t want to curb aggression in the game” or “It was all good humoured and good natured banter”, in cases involving Australian and English players. I refer to incidents like Mcgrath-Sarawan, or Ponting’s carry-ons after getting run out in 2005 by Gary Pratt, the substitute. I also point to the “jelly beans” episode in 2007.
I can go on and on. But incidents like these are sand-papered over with cliches and empty platitudes. This has to stop.
Perceived bias has to be eliminated. Otherwise, perceptions will become realities and who knows what will happen at that point in time.