ICC Match Referee system needs a serious investigation…

[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.

— Mohan

6 responses to “ICC Match Referee system needs a serious investigation…

  1. AH! As long as Zaheer didn’t give that bloke a black eye it is all fine. The rest of pundits can take a hike. Aggression is good. Necessary. But mostly, Gandhi shunned violence as a method for protest. He never said that you can’t defend. Anyway, Ganguly, Zaheer, Sreesanth, Uthappa. All good. Harbhajan is a raving lunatic. Cheerio! 🙂

  2. Peter Della Penna

    I have not said there are rules for sledging, etc. The main difference between the direct instances that you have pointed out (Sehwag and Ponting, McGrath and Sarwan) and the one I made between Khan and Hayden is that the players are still at the crease and are free to defend themselves and respond as such. Shane Warne was a big sledger, but one of the only times he was fined for it, and rightfully so, was after he dismissed Daryl Cullinan in a match in 1994 and ran halfway down the pitch to yell “F*** Off!”

    You love to point out all the instances of Australians doing things and getting away with it, but you fail to point out even recent incidents as last year when Michael Clarke was correctly given not out to a bat pad appeal shortly before lunch on day 4 in Adelaide. Incensed, Dhoni and Dinesh Karthik started sledging him non-stop, forcing Clarke at least once to pull out during the bowler’s run up. Karthik then spit in the direction of Clarke as the players were leaving the field for lunch. While this was shocking, at least Clarke got to defend himself if he chose to. When a player is out, he can’t turn around and walk back towards the middle and pick a fight. The issue is not sledging or no sledging. The point I am making is that there is a big difference between a player that can defend himself while he is still at the crease and a player that is defenseless and has no choice but to keep walking off the field.

    The bias of this site is ridiculous. How can you bash Malcolm Conn, yet hold Sunil Gavaskar on a pedestal? Malcolm Conn is wrong for pointing out that Indians have been fined more than players from any other country, yet Gavaskar is right for saying match referees like Mike Proctor are racists for siding against Harbhajan?

  3. @ Peter Della Penna

    So you think it would be impossible for poor Hayden to “defend” himself (after all, it is a war out there, is it not?) the next time he came to the crease to bat? Or is the “war” over, won and lost the moment a batsman turns his back to begin that walk? Is it not possible for poor Hayden to pick up the cudgels in the 2nd Innings or the 1st innings of the next Test? Or would it be impossible for Hayden to “defend” himself when Zaheer Khan came out to bat?

    Or is Hayden’s head so full with such important priority stuff that he loses memory of the sledge the moment he reaches the pavilion. Which would then indicate that the sledge was either a minor one (and hence did not deserve an Oscar performance) or that it was irrelevant.

    This argument on sledging being somehow “ok” up until the batsman turns his backside to begin a slow walk is flimsy, at best!

    You got to remember that if you do not like the splash back from the open drain, don’t throw a stone in it! Moreover, if you throw a stone in an open drain, you cannot draft rules on how the splash back approaches you. You cop it… In other words, if you think you are crazy enough to give lip — and let’s accept it, Hayden has long since given up the right to a halo — then, be prepared to accept it. Don’t expect immunity!

    Question of relevance here: How many people sledge Tendulkar?

    I have seen the Adelaide tape several times. I have not seen Karthik spit in the direction of Clarke with a premeditated intention of spitting at him (like Merv Hughes did to Greatbach).

    Sunil Gavaskar has not been held on a pedestal on this site. If you are interested, I can point out several articles that have indulged in Gavaskar-bashing. But I am sure you are intelligent enough to do the searches yourself.

    However, on this issue, I do agree with Sunil Gavaskar. I am sure you will agree with me that that is not a criminal offence!

  4. Mohan,
    Hearty congratulations on attaining NIRVANA

    I kew that you will get there one day

    Welcome, co-brother

    You have found the TRUE meaning of LIFE in general and cricket in particular

    It is all due to P_E_R_C_E_P_T_I_O_N.

    It is all the fault of the P E R C E I V E R .

    Now, we AGREE that Procter is NOT a racist. Hair is not a bully. Bucknor doesn’t begrudge Indians. Hayden is not a cry baby, after all. Ponting is not a sook. M Clarke is not a cheat. Symonds is not the provocater.



    On your next trip to Mumbai, please take bottled water from Sampige tank or Ulsoor lake or Patterson Lake or even Koovum.

    There is something amiss in the water that some people in Mumbai drink–and bathe

    Mr T, Senior and his followers burnt houses in Matunga because a few Thambis listened to their THANTHAI and ANNA and burnt anything HINDIAN in Sowcarpet.

    Mr T, Junior doesn’t like Big B. Mrs B and King Khan making squillions while living in Mumbai. Not satisfied with that, he has now turned against construction workers from Bangla deshis and Biharis .

    Mr G–well –he hates all umpires and match referees from WHITE dominated cricket playing nations–and any umpire that is a little darker shade than the average Mumbaite.

  5. @Sampath Kumar

    I have no idea what you talked about in the second half of your post! But that is not necessarily a new thing! 🙂

    Please do not accuse me of having achieved nirvana! I am neither there nor am I interested in getting there! I am a humble human being and defer to wise old souls like you to reach that state! What’s more, you need it 🙂

    Proctor is not a racist. He was incompetent.

    I have never really cared much about Hair! Seen my photo lately? 🙂

    Bucknor has problems. How else can one explain his decisions?

    Hayden is a good actor!

    Ponting is not a sook. He is just going through a rough patch and can behave unpredictably when in that state. How else would you explain his reactions in the Ashes, 2005?

    Michael Clarke is not a cheat. However, he declared a batsman out, when he perhaps should not have.

    Whether Symonds was the provocator or not is irrelevant. What matters is that there was insufficient evidence to prove irrefutably that Harbhajan Singh was a culprit that deserved his head chopped off!

    Perception is only one of the issues that constitute the serving of natural justice. I am as interested in facts as I am about perceptions.

    Fact is that the Australians have sledged for ever in a day and got away with it. Are they clever sledgers? Certainly. Should they be punished equally for their misdemeanours? I believe so.

    Fact is that Australia bowled pathetic over rates in all games I have seen since November last year — and particularly at Mohali. Yet, Zaheer Khan was the only one penalised in the Mohali game.

    The more that facts get ignored the more perceptions (some valid and some illogical) gain currency.

    — Mohan

  6. Pingback: Strategies in Delhi for India and Australia « i3j3Cricket :: A blog for fans of Indian cricket…

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