Category Archives: Match Referee

Sledging – bind or be blind?

The two greatest rationale and philosophy of our times, capitalism and democracy, are based on the idea that individuals, through their actions based on self-interest, will drive forces towards the most beneficial state for inviduals and/or society as a whole. In extending this thinking to the cricketing field and the current controversy over sledging, is it not best that the cricketers themselves decide what is acceptable and not acceptable to them, through their actions on the field, instead of expecting an external body such as ICC to define it for them? This thinking takes the exterme opposite view of what Harsha Bhogle tries to recommend in his article in The Times of India.

My sincere opinion is that cricketers should be allowed to use sledging, without any constraints, irrespective of how offensive it is. Most people take offense because they might feel ill-equipped in the approved forms of retaliation. In the newly recommended open environment, one can use whatever means one has, to retaliate. In a bizzare way, nothing will eventually be offensive to anyone, since its free for all. I look at it as a positive development in line with the ongoing changes that cricket has embraced in Twenty20, IPL and Technology.

Also, with every control that has been vested in the hands of the ICC, there have been perceptions of inconsistency and impotence felt by stakeholders of the game across the globe. In the interests of the game and a practical step forward, I feel its best that the players are let loose on each other in the center, so that the public is relieved of the after shocks. This brings to an abrupt end, months of debate and platitudes over whether someone or some society is racist or not, whether a certain person was as severely punished as another etc. I am positive that with each sledging act in the field, players will yell the choicest of abuses at each other without any interruptions from any players or officials, and when the energies are exhausted in that act, each will take their stance to bat or bowl or field the next ball and the game will move on.

– Bharath

Advertisements

In a perfect World!

In Mohan’s earlier post, ‘Deadlocked Australia v India (2007-2008): Where does it all go now?’ he mentioned that all parties in this drama need to take up the responsibility. While I totally agree, the one single event that has caused this affair to reach boiling point is obviously Mike Proctor’s mind boggling decision on Harbhanjan Singh. What was he thinking? Did he expect to be applauded for handling the situation in a fair and professional manner. What a joke.

The Indians felt that the Harbhajan incident was adding insult to injury and quite rightly so. There wouldn’t have been such a stand-off but for Proctor’s decision. For all we know, the Indians may have actually agreed to play the Perth test ‘under protest’ for allowing Steve Bucknor to officiate and carried on.

The law is simple, innocent until proven guilty. Here, there was no proof. Nothing heard on the microphone or camera, just one’s word against the other. Which begs the question What are the criteria for the ICC to choose match referees? What qualifications are required? Surely, they need not be trained lawyers but should at least know when a situation is out of their league and need to be referred to a bigger panel or commission. I honestly think the ICC should take up a big chunk of the blame for the following:

Allowing a 61 year old to stand up to one of the most demanding jobs in a cricket field –

In an ideal world a much younger and fitter umpire like a Simon Taufel or an Aleem Dar could have ensured that the Indians didn’t get a raw deal and hence no umpiring controversy would have marred this otherwise high quality Test.

Not adequately training match referees to handle sensitive cases –
Again, in a ideal world, Proctor would have had the training and perhaps more commonsense to say that he did not have enough evidence to make a decision, but the allegation was serious enough to be handled by a qualified professional panel.

But then in a ideal world (atleast for Indian fans), India would have won the Sydney Test after taking a first innings lead of 300 runs!

On that note, here is a well written article that appeared on The Hindu

Vish

Harbhajan retorts at ‘vulgar’ Australians

And now Harbhajan Singh, while commenting on his bat-pointing-antics after he got out stumped to Michael Clarke in the Kochi ODI, calls the Australian cricketers “vulgar”. In a telling comment on their game, he said, “They say they play the game in the right spirit, but they don’t in reality. There is nothing gentlemanly about the way they play.

This comment does not come as as surprise to me. It is something most cricket fans know. But I do believe the time has come for Cricket Australia to tear up that “Spirt of Cricket” document that all Australian team players signed up to. I sincerely believe that some words written in a portable loo on toilet paper would have more commitement to it from the players than that “Spirt of Cricket” eyewash!

Harbhajan Singh goes on to say: “I don’t have any problem with chitchat on the field, so long as it is about the game. But when it is very personal and vulgar, that is not on. They think you cannot fight back and they do not like it when you do.

And therein lies Andrew Symonds’ — and perhaps even the Australian teams’ — problem, in my view. Symonds and the Australian cricket team must think that an Australian passport and a baggy-green are the only two possessions that give anyone the automatic right of passage for chit-chat on the field.

In talking about the run-out incident Andrew Symonds, that veritable Zen Master of good behaviour pontificates sanctimoniously from a pedestal placed at 30,000 ft above sea-level, “I didn’t see the need for him to be at Brad [Haddin] like [Sreesanth] was. When I go to another sport I like to see confrontation, I’ll admit that, but you don’t want to see ugly confrontation and you don’t want to see confrontation that degrades your sport.

I saw that interaction and that was not in the least bit ugly as confrontations go. What Brad Hogg did to Gautam Gambhir off the very first over of the Indian innings was ugly — Symonds was at gully! What Matt Hayden said to Harbhajan Singh just a ball before the spinner got out was ugly. Symonds was at point. What Michael Clarke said by way of a send-off to Harbhajan Singh — any lip-reader on probation could make out what was said — was ugly. Symonds laughed and giggled like a 5-year-old who had heard his very first fart-joke!

In my view Symonds and Sreesanth should both check into the same shrink and get their heads cleared. They should take Matt Prior and Andre Nel with them — taking due care to book Matt Prior for an extended buy-one-stint-and-get-five-free-stints period of stay!

The Harbhajan Singh article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age goes on to say, in the words of the Indian spinner, “Ask any team. They will tell you that when [the Australians] get beaten, they react badly. In this game, you win some and you lose some, but regardless of the result, there is no excuse for their kind of behaviour.

Oh well. If the cricket-contest needed any more chillie and spice, it has just been delivered a generous dose of it.

Shaun Tait has also come out against Sreesanth, asking for some respect towards Andrew Symonds from the young Indian pacer! The usual customary, bland and meaningless threats were made about Sreesanth getting his skull cracked when he visits Australia in the summer! Tait said, “But I think he got a bit carried away with that wicket of Symonds. There’s got to be some respect there.

Hmmmm! Let’s see. Would the same sort of respect that Brad Williams showed to Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar do Tait? Or perhaps Tait prefers to go blind when the Aussies continue to carry-on in ugly way?

I just do not see the need for artificial “lines in the sand” and “respect”. Once you throw a stone in an open-drain and once you determine that that is kosher, for heavens’ sake acquire the maturity to accept the random splash back that comes with it. In other words, if you sledge be mature enough to accept crap in return!

Period.

— Mohan

India Vs Australia 2nd ODI, Kochi, Tuesday 2 October

This was a terrific win for Australia on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday — a national holiday in India. After the rained out 1st ODI, and after watching endless celebrations of India’s T20 win, this was a wonderful performance by the Aussies — make no mistake about that. Australia started badly but slowly constructed their innings and wrenched the match away from India. Along the way a few questions were asked of the India team.

The three key issues for me were; (a) lack of intensity, agility, direction and purpose shown by the Indian team in batting, fielding and bowling, (b) bowling in the middle overs where Yuvraj Singh bowled probably as well as the other two Indian spinners in the team, (c) inability of the Indians to make best use of the conditions — and indeed, in the words of Rameez Raja, Australia looked like they were the ‘home team’.

There were many things about the match to write about. I shall make my observations in no particular order:

The Mach Referee will have a busy day?

I don’t think so. Sreesanth ought to be fined, in my view, for appealing for a runout off a dead ball — a situation that was smartly diffused by M. S. Dhoni. It is likely that Sreesanth and Harbhajan may be fined for bad behaviour. However, If he fines Sreesanth for bad behaviour, he will need to fine Michael Clarke, Brad Hogg, Adam Gilchrist, Andrew Symonds and Mathew Hayden for bad behaviour too; something that Chris Broad hasn’t been too keen to do. So, I believe Broad may just collect his pay cheque and move on to the next destination!

Dhoni’s Captaincy

Dhoni’s captaincy was generally good. He was always trying something different. For example, in bringing back Pathan for 32nd over when things weren’t going well for India. He was always in control even when things weren’t really going India’s way. He didn’t appear unnecessarily flustered or charged. He is also a ‘keeper that does not believe in needless chirping behind the wickets. In a generation where almost every ‘keeper in world cricket — Matt Prior, Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, Kamran Akmal, Mark Boucher — keep up a continuous barrage of crap from behind the stumps, Dhoni sticks out like a sore thumb. And his stumping to get rid of Clarke off a legside wide was straight from the top-drawer.

Did Michael Clarke bring the game into disrepute?

Talking of that dismissal of Michael Clarke, I am stunned at the number of teams that are requesting replays these days! Michale Clarke was given out stumped by the leg-umpire Suresh Shastri. He walked away but then waited at the boundary rope — waiting for a decision-reversal! Clarke was asked to stay on inside the ground by his team mates! Shastri, under pressure, asked for a TV review after he had already given the batsman out! This isn’t a good trend. And by asking for a replay — either directly or implicitly — Is this a punishable offence? After all, if a fielder asks the umpire for a TV referral on a run out the fielder would be yanked in front of the match referee and fined. This was a clear breach/questioning of the umpires’ decision.

The Indian bowling

Irfan Pathan bowled brilliantly I thought. His ball to get Hayden out was a beauty. My view is that he is back to his best. The pace was there as well as the accuracy. More importantly, he was probably the best of the three pace bowlers on view in terms of adjusting his length and pace to the pitch.

There is, one senses, definitely a plan to use Yuvraj a bit in the middle and death-overs. Not a bad Jayasuriya-like ploy. Long overdue too.

But my main problem in the last two ODIs is around the selection of Ramesh Powar in the team. He is a good bowler, no doubt. But if he is chosen for bowling just 5-6 overs a game, we are better off with a bowling allrounder like Joginder Sharma or even S. Badrinath in my view. Why? Even Rohit Sharma will give us 4-5 overs of off-spin and you get a terrific batsman for free! In yesterdays’ match Ramesh Powar batted below Harbhajan Singh in the batting order! For two games running, Powar hasn’t completed his bowling complement of 10 overs. It may be that Ramesh Powar is a better bowler than Harbhajan Singh. But his captain doesn’t seem to think so — judging by the fact that Harbhajan Singh completed his complement of 10 overs in yesterdays’ game!

The other major question that wasn’t answered by the Indians was around the respective spinners of the two teams. While Harbhajan Singh and Ramesh Powar didn’t do too much with the ball, we saw Brad Hogg and Michael Clarke ask searching questions with their spin bowling. This doesn’t bode well for India in my view.

After the initial assistance that the conditions offered the seam bowlers, the bowlers ought to have realised the slowness of the pitch. Instead of slowing down the ball, the Indians banged it short or fired it in. The Australians, on the other hand used the pitch very well and bowlers like Stuart Clark and James Hopes did well to bowl cross seam and split-finger stuff. Hopes and Clark bowled straight and without offering any width. Very clever stuff. One would have thought that the India bowlers would have used the slow Indian pitch conditions better!

Sreesanth

In the midst of a rather ordinary spell in which he exchanged words with both Hayden as well as Symonds, Sreesanth had what could best be described as terrible and most unsporting runout appeal off a dead ball. Dhoni’s approach to diffuse the situation suggested his awareness, sensitivity, smart thinking and cool leadership skills — he immediately calmed things down.

Sreesanth should have a look at himself. Before the match he talked of getting a 5-fer on his home turf. He put pressure on himself. Now that’s fine if you can back it up with performances! The young lads’ aggression is not a problem. At least for me, that’s not a problem. We need more of his tribe in the team in my view! If Sreesanth can get under the skins of an opposition like Australia — and he has — and if he can continue to perform, then that would be fine!

That is, if ‘trash talk’ is indeed where he derives his energy from and if he is able to divorce his body-language aggression from his bowling aggression then that would be fine — although I do not personally like it. But the real job that Sreesanth has to do is to bowl well. And he is not… He is wayward and a bit lost for ideas on ‘what to do next’. Sreesanth needs to learn from Zaheer Khan who has a vast repertoire but appears acutely aware of what is expected of him! Indeed Sreesanth needs to support Zaheer Khan and not trot off on a tangent that he has marked out on his own. This was typified by what would have been the last ball of the match. After having bowled 5 excellent balls, he sprayed the last ball wide for 4 wides. He could do well to sharpen his focus on his game. His aggression would be ok, in my book, if and only if he has a sharpness of match-focus to go with it.

I don’t mind Sreesanth giving lip to the Aussies. If a two-bit goose like Brad Hogg can give lip to Gambhir, Dravid and Tendulkar almost from the moment the first ball was bowled, so can anyone in the Indian team really! But really, lip should be backed by performance…

The Batting

For Australia, Andrew Symonds batted very well, but the real champion in the batting — a somewhat underrated player in my view — was Brad Haddin. He played a sensational game to take the Aussies past the 300 mark. Although they were pegged back by the loss of two early wickets, Australia recovered really well to post a commanding and, as it turned out, a match-winning total.

When India batted, it seemed like the old ills were back. The players just didn’t seem keen to take the singles and rotate the strike. Sachin Tendulkar should have given much more of the strike to Robin Uthappa who was batting like a dream. Instead he tried to hit out like Uthappa was. Having said that, it took clever slower balls that induced false strokes from both Sachin Tendulkar as well as Yuvraj Singh. And both dismissals were brought about through excellent catches from Andrew Symonds and Matt Hayden respectively.

Way forward

This loss would have put a stop to the T20 celebrations and brought the team down with a thud. In that sense, it was a good thing for India provided lessons are learned. And to learn those lessons, the team only needs to look back to the events that happened 10 days back! Success in the T20 Championship came on the back of energetic fielding, electric running-between-wickets, sharp-and-focussed bowling, a never-say-die attitude, courageous batting and fear-free cricket. Unelss the team is able to rediscover those facets in their game — or acquire the personnel that will do it for them — this series is going to be a thrashing for the team.

— Mohan

Sreesanth fined…

Sreesanth was fined 25% of his match fee for excessive appealing in the T20 semi-final. And the entire Indian team has been fined for its slow over rate, having bolwed one over short of its quota in the allowed time in the same game. All players were docked 5% for this offence while M. S. Dhoni wore a 10% levy on his match fee.

The adjudicating referee was Chris Broad… Enuf said!

Sreesanth did carry on like a pork chop in that particular appeal. I will be the first to admit that. But I am sure the same referee may have said, “It is good to see young players showing such controlled aggression on the field. We do not want to deveop robots but players that play with passion”, or some such nonsensical and radom string of cliched platitudes if it had been a Brett Lee or a Shane Bond that had carried on in the same manner.

This is not persecution complex speak, although I am leaving myself open to such an interpretation/judgement. However, I have seen many a referee turn a blind eye to similar ‘shows of dissent’ providing the “passion-robot” argument as cover.

I was watching the game with a friend of mine and we debated Sreesanth’s aggression mid-way through the game.

As I have said before on several occasions on this blogsite, I am not a fan of sledging. I do not believe sledging should have a place in world cricket. However, it does exist and it is not a scourge that is going to go away. I am comfortable to accept that.

In this landscape, we talked about whether or not Sreesanth should “be changed”. I personally think not. For two reasons. I do not believe it should be either necessary, or indeed possible, to change a John McEnroe into a Bjorn Borg. Indeed, it would be wrong. Each player derived their energy from their manner and to straight-jacket one would be both wrong as well as harmful to the player. Sressanth is an atypical Indian bloke. He wears his heart on his sleeve and demonstrates his passions and emotions externally. That is where he derives his energy from. So, just as each of the fingers of our hands are different, we should try and tolerate this difference that exists. The South Africans do and this allows them to tolerate and accept Andre Nel and Jacques Kallis in the same team. The former would rather spend the rest of his life in a night club while the latter treats the cricket field as though it were a monastry! In my view, Indians should learn to tolerate and indeed celebrate this difference too even though it breaks the mould as well as the stereotype that “we” are used to. And of course, even that stereotype is changing. As India herself changes into a more progressive and world-aware nation that demands to be heard on the world-stage, her people are changing too. So cultural stereotypes will change — perhaps even in our own lifetime — and Sreesanth is perhaps the first of this new generation.

Of course, the player in question would look silly if he carried on like a pork chop without either the talent or the results that would be necessary and required to back it. Even though I personally do not like too much carry-on on the field — and that is my personal opinion on this matter — I am not suggesting that each player be delivered a straight-jacket along with his cap on debut. I would be happy to let each player be his own, but they would need to show results on the field for the team and they should not let the team down with their antics. And in my view, apart from that one afternoon of madness in England, Sreesanth is doing just that — he is delivering results for the team.

And so, in my view, rather than jump up and down and deliver a straight-jacket to Sreesanth because his antics clash with our own personal frames of reference (and I say this because a lot of ex-cricketers have tried to do just that) we should learn to tolerate this difference. Who knows? Over time we may even celebrate it!

— Mohan