Tag Archives: ICC

ICCWT20C :: Groupings and Points

Time for a reminder on the ICC World T20 Championship Groups.

Defending champions India is in an easy group A along with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Having said that, let us not forget that Bangladesh beat West Indies and Zimbabwe beat Australia in the 2007 edition of the ICCT20C!

Anything is possible in this version of the game. The gap between the best and the rest is narrow and all it takes is a few mistakes for a team to be blown away. India will have to be on her toes.

The groupings do not really make sense to me, but given that they were developed nearly 2 years ago (thanks to an ECB request to boost ticket sales) and given that they were based on the results of ICCWT20C-2007, we have a crazy situation where Australia, Sri Lanka and West Indies are in the same group!

For what it is worth, the groups are:

Group A: India, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe Ireland
Group B: Pakistan, England, Netherlands
Group C: Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies
Group D: New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland

The preliminary league stage of the tournament will see each team play other teams in its Group. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the “Super Eights”.

Unless there is a miracle or bad-luck through rain-affected matches, I expect the Super Eight line-up to be:

India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, England, Australia, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, South Africa

Of course, having said that, anything can happen in Group-C the “Group of Death”

In the case of tied points, ranking within the Group will be determined by, in order, (a) the total number of wins, (b) net-run-rate, (c) higher number of wickets taken per balls bowled, (d) winner of the group match between the tied sides, or (e) lots.

Weather could play a crucial role in this particularly since, to the best of my knowledge, points from weather affected games cannot be carried into the Super Eight stage! If all 3 games of a Group are washed out, the original seeding will prevail. In other words, if all three Group C matches are rained out, Australia and Sri Lanka will advance to the Super Eights without any points being carried forward!

In the Super Eight stage, teams will be tagged as A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, D1, D2. These tags follow the teams’ seeding except if A3 knock out A1 or A2, in which case A3 takes on the tag of the team that it knocked out.

Super Eight Stage groups:
S8G1: A1, B2, C1 and D2
S8G2: A2, B1, C2 and D1

This will be followed by two semi-final games and a final.

The warm-up games have commenced. Bangladesh has played a few warm-ups against the likes of Netherlands (won), Scotland (won) and Australia (lost). West Indies beat Ireland. India started its campaign with a loss to New Zealand while South Africa beat Pakistan.

— Mohan Ire


ICC’s “Best Ever” batsmen and bowlers!

The ICC has released its “Best Ever” Batting and Bowling ratings.

Its best ever batsman is Don Bradman. No arguments from anyone on that one, I’d think! The ICC’s 3rd best ever bat is Ricky Ponting. Its 6th best ever bat is Kumar Sangakkara! And the ICC 10th best ever is the recently retired Matt Hayden.

Sunil Gavaskar sneaks in at an impressive 20th, just 8 places behind that huge pillar of consistency and fluency, Mohammed Yousuf (#12), and 3 places behind the stellar Mike Hussey. But lest Gavaskar drown in his own tears, he can at least take comfort from the fact that he is three places ahead of a 23rd-placed also-ran called Brian Lara! Meanwhile Sachin Tendulkar just makes it to the top-30. He is at #26, just ahead of a somewhat inconsequential Rahul Dravid (#30) and a somewhat lazy Steve Waugh (#28)!

Javed Miandad comes in at an honourable #34, but at least he is ahead of Greg Chappell (#35), Bill Lawry (#36) and Alan Border (#37). Meanwhile, Adam Gilchrist (#42), Graham Gooch (#44) and Gundappa Vishwanath (#45) would be immensely satisfied for a former England captain — for they are all behind Matthew Vaughan (#39) in the pecking order!

Shane Warne would be highly pleased to learn that he is the 15th best ever bowler on a list that has Sydney Barnes at #1 and George Lohmann at #2.

In case anyone is wondering, George Lohmann played a whopping 18 Test matches for England in which he took an impressive 112 wickets! Shane Warne toiled for 145 Tests and some 190 ODIs taking over 1000 wickets in both forms of the game! Clearly, he was not good enough to be even in the top-10 best ever ICC bowlers!

But Shane Warne should be happy that he is marginally ahead of D. Steyn (#22), who may have died of shock this morning when he reads that he has been rated much ahead of D. K. Lillie and Kapil Dev — #34 and #35 respectively! But at least Lillie and Dev are marginally ahead of Stuart Clark (#38)! Meanwhile, the marginally effective and highly inconsistent Wasim Akram brings up the rear at an extremely healthy placing of #59! Airbrushing is easy with something like Luminess Air.

What are these ICC guys smoking these days? Would be good to toke some of that stuff while on a holiday!

These ratings are called the “Reliance Mobile ICC Best-Ever Test Championship Rating”. If I were the CEO of ‘Reliance Mobile’, I’d use this early “April Fool Joke” from the ICC as a reason for providing a pink slip to my marketing manager who signed up the naming rights’ deal for this joke!

— Mohan

Gautam Gambhir: The ICC bungles yet again…

I do not know how they do it. But they do!

They did it in the Australia-India Sydney Test in 2008 when the ICC bungled once and then again and then some more! Mike Proctor is believed to have pleaded with the ICC to appoint someone more capable to hear the Harbhajan Singh “Monkeygate” case. The ICC insisted that they needed the issue dealt with speedily. Good motives. However, they forced Proctor, a man who was incompetent in matters legal, to handle a hot potato. However, instead of a potato the ICC handed the man a grenade. He promptly blew it up and with it, himself too!

The poor man was a sacrificial lamb. Another lamb in a string of broken bodies. He quietly joined the ranks of the dispensable, like Mike Denness, Darryl Hair, Steve Bucknor and many others before him!

And now, in a bid to rush through a decision process on Gautam Gambhir, the ICC may have created another lamb for their slaughter-queue!

Personally, I do feel that Gambhir was denied natural justice in his appeal.

Albie Sachs passed his judgement without once talking to Gambhir! Surely, this just cannot be right although Albie Sachs says in his ruling that a conversation would not have had any impact on his appeal decision given that there were no significant “important questions of fact are in dispute” and given the “desirability of speedy resolution”.

Question: Who desired a speedy resolution?

The appellant? The BCCI? Cricket Australia? The ICC? The Australian cricket players who wanted Gambhir rubbed out of the game?

My view is that “Natural Justice” affords only Gambhir the maximal right to a speedy (or otherwise) resolution. Every other stakeholder has, at best, a passing interest in the timeliness of the resolution.

What is important is that justice is seen to be served and not quite the time it takes for it to be served.

It would seem that, in his haste, Sachs has erred and with him, his masters at the ICC, who — it can be inferred — sought a speedy resolution.

I can imagine that the BCCI would be upset at this — they are — and would pick holes in the technicalities of the appeal ruling rather than the actual ruling itself!

The ruling itself was probably right! Who knows?

I am a firm believer in the “you do the crime, you serve the time” principle. In that sense, I do believe that Gambhir has to take his ‘penalty’ on the chin. However, a fair process would afford any person the right to Natural Justice. If I were Gambhir, I would be upset mainly because I would have cause to feel that Natural Justice was denied in the appeals process.

There are a few reasons for this and I explore these below.

The main body of the appeal was built around the “disproportionate nature of the penalty imposed”, particularly bearing in mind the provocation to which Gambhir had been subjected.

Although Albie Sachs did refer to the actual offence in terms that could be interpreted as grounds for leniency, Gambhir wasn’t allowed the opportunity of a full exploration of the issues around that finding of Sachs.

Let us examine what Sachs wrote. He says: “I am prepared to accept that he had been the victim of prolonged and persistent verbal abuse by members of the Australian team, culminating in a moment of anger that led to his unfortunate lapse. I would add in his favour that the manner in which Shane Watson had raised an arm as he ran past for the first run, could have been taken by him as a mocking gesture, and thereby could have served as the last provocative straw. Furthermore, I accept, as the umpires did, that the actual contact was not serious. “

Few issues stick out in these statements by Sachs:

  • Sachs calls the elbow an “unfortunate lapse” which could imply that, in his view, there was no pre-meditation — surely, there is immediately a case for leniency there!
  • Sachs concludes that, “Shane Watson had raised an arm as he ran past for the first run, could have been taken by him as a mocking”. Now that is Albie Sachs’ assumption or conclusion of Gambhir’s mental state and hence, Gambhir’s conclusions at that time! In other words, Sachs has concluded that Gambhir thought Watson was mocking him by raising his arm! How could Sachs be so sure? Did he ask Gambhir? Did Sachs seek to verify if indeed Gambhir saw that as “mocking”? No, he did not. Indeed, Gambhir could make a case that that he did not quite see the ‘Watson raised arm’ tactic as ‘mocking’ but rather an attempt by Watson to elbow Gambhir on his first run, which the batsman cleverly avoided. Gambhir could then have gone on to quite conceivably make a claim that on his way back for the second run, his own elbow-thrust-out action was indeed a ‘reflex’ (consistent with his “guilty as charged but not deliberate” plea) to ensure that he doesn’t get elbowed once again by Watson while on his second run! This is all conjecture. But heck! Sachs’s conclusion was also purely conjectural and was based on the realm of the hypothetical and second-guessing! All I am saying is that Sachs has rushed to a conclusion without providing Gambhir an opportunity to put forth his case in the appeal.

Sachs then goes on to say “The points he wishes to make have already been made, and for purposes of this appeal I fully accept their veracity.”

This is not quite true. It is, indeed, factually incorrect. The BCCI had made requests “for certain documents or recordings to be given.” These recordings are presumably voice recordings of the preceding play.

Sachs then enters territory that is most dangerous, in my view. He says, “In this context, further delay would leave him (and the selectors, and the public) in the unenviable position of not knowing where he stood in relation to the upcoming Test match, without any corresponding benefit as far as the appeal is concerned.”

Albie Sachs has left himself completely open to inspection, analysis, question and ridicule here.

It is better to delay justice but reach the right decision after considering the appeal in all its fullness than rush to a final judgement in a bid to second-guess the needs of Gambhir, the Indian selectors and the viewing public on the outcome of Gambhir’s appeal ruling.

Of all the statements in his ruling, I find this statement reproduced above to be the most ludicrous. Sachs cannot and should not wear the shoes of either the Indian team selectors or the viewing public.

He has.

Most importantly, however, unlike the hearing in the presence of Chris Broad, the ICC Appeals process does afford a player the natural right to legal representation. This right was denied by Albie Sachs, who, in a hurry to afford clarity to the Indian selectors and viewing public rushed through a somewhat botched process to arrive at a hasty judgement, in my view.

The judgement may be correct. However, with the process being ordinary at best and a mockery at worst, I feel that Albie Sachs and the ICC have left themselves wide open for a overturning of this ruling on grounds of “technical irregularities”.

As I said before, I do not have a problem with the outcome, but if I were Gambhir I would have every right — on several counts — to feel aggrieved that natural justice was thoroughly denied.

The BCCI has made a legitimate complaint to the ICC. The BCCI has said, in a letter to the ICC, “The order has been passed without affording the player an opportunity of personal hearing, legal representation and without acceding to his request for certain documents or recordings to be given to him and also denying him any extension of time.”

I am not sure what can and will happen from here on in. The ICC will not — and should not — allow a re-appeal. The process does not allow for that. It is likely that the ICC Executive Board will need to step in here and do something in a hurry.

All this convinces me, if I needed convincing in the first place, is that the ICC, as it stands, is incapable of running the game of cricket. From their handling of sensitive issues to the running of major events like the World Cup, the ICC has shown itself to be a somewhat incompetent organisation.

In my view, the ICC has botched one issue too many and it would seem to me that the time is appropriate to do something about it. That time is now.

— Mohan

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

Will the Match Referee step up to the plate please?

From where I am seeing things, Chris Broad, the Match Referee in the ongoing Test series between India and Australia, appears to be sitting on his hands on three issues in the Mohali Test match. He probably doesn’t realise that the only thing that he can guarantee by sitting on his fingers is the acquisition of ring marks on his backside!

Before getting to the specific issue, I must say that I was quite shocked to see Chris Broad openly criticise one of the playing officials when the match was still in progress! When commenting about the non-referral of the Sourav Ganguly stumping episode, Chris Broad commented to “The Australian” newspaper, “The policy is for umpires to make as many decisions out on the field as they possibly can. Of course, no one likes to see umpires being criticised, me of all people. Ideally, I would have liked for [Koertzen] to call for the third umpire. But he made his decision with what he saw, and you can’t argue about that. The only thing you can argue about is the fact that it was possibly wrong, in hindsight. But at the time, if you look where he was standing, and the camera from behind him, you would also think he didn’t lift his foot.”

Since when has a match referee started commenting on specific dismissals? Is it appropriate for a match referee to comment on specific dismissals while a Test match is in progress? I’d think not! In my view, this was somewhat inappropriate behaviour on the part of the Match Referee.

However, there are three things that Chris Broad ought to do right away, in my view.

1. Censure Ponting:

I think Chris Broad ought to censure Ricky Ponting for carrying on like a spoilt pork chop when Virender Sehwag was not given out, caught behind by Asad Rauf. I think a wrap on the knuckles and a severe warning will be in order here. As a Team India fan, I hope Chris Broad does not ban Ricky Ponting — although he does deserve one in my view — for, Pontings’ somewhat weird captaincy in this series appears to be benefiting India right at this moment!

On the 4th morning, Asad Rauf did not detect what was a loud nick off the blade of Virender Sehwag off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson. Bowler and ‘keeper Haddin could not believe their eyes, but got on with the job!

This is how Jon Pierik from The Herald Sun reported the events that unfolded:

Ponting’s animated on-field style has been a worry among Cricket Australia officials for some time.

While former skipper Mark Taylor was the master at making his point discreetly, whether to teammates or the umpires, Ponting’s emotions too often spill over.

That was evident in the incident with Lee, and earlier when a caught-behind appeal off Virender Sehwag was knocked back.

A disbelieving Ponting rushed in from mid-wicket with his hands waving about, when he could have just saddled up to umpire Asad Rauf quietly at the end of the over.

Rauf had made a blunder, but Ponting didn’t need to act in the manner he did.

Ponting is a passionate cricketer but, as captain, he must remain composed as often as possible, for that helps to spread calm among his team.

As Australia enters a daunting new era with several raw players, there’s bound to be more days like those experienced in Mohali.

Ponting needs to at least portray that all will be well.

If Ponting cast his mind back even for a second to Sydney this year and remembers a mate of his that went fishing recently, he would not have charged in the direction of Sehwag to converse with him.

2. Censure Matthew Hayden

I wonder why the Match Referee should not censure Matthew Hayden for remonstrating with Indian fielders as he was making his way to the pavilion, after getting out in the 2nd Innings at Mohali.

It is most likely that an Indian fielder enquired about Hayden’s health and said something like, “Enjoy your shower mate” or “Where are you off for dinner?” or something like that! That doesn’t call for an Oscar-award winning show with spread arms and feigned hurt! After all, Hayden’s been dishing it out for as long as one can remember! And, as Mark Nicholas would say, a person that is so used to making his own bed ought to learn how to sleep in it!

I do wish Chris Broad censures Matthew Hayden for the his unsportsmanlike behaviour on getting out. I am not saying that I like players saying sweet nothings to departing players. But I am saying that Matthew Hayden, as one who dishes it out regularly, ought to know how to accept it occasionally when it comes flying back at him! The Oscar-award winning performance was so totally unnecessary and, in my view, brought the game into disrepute.

As I write this, we have learned that Zaheer Khan has been charged! I guess this is to be expected after Matthew Hayden’s Oscar performance.

3. Report Rudi Koertzen

I think Chris Broad has to report Rudi Koertzen. The aging umpire has made one mistake too many in this Test series and, before long, we could have a Bucknor on our hands! I can point the mistakes out, but this has already been chronicled heavily in several blogs and articles. I still feel that Rudi Koertzen has a few years of umpiring in him. But instead of tainting him in public, like he has done this week, Chris Broad could report him to the ICC, ensure that he is looked after through remedial training, coaching and more.

With all of the above going on, I am not sure what the Match Referee is actually paid to do! Will he please step up to the plate and do something about this caper?

— Mohan

A few changes to playing rules

Earlier this year, David Morgan, President of the ICC, and others sought the removal of Sunil Gavaskar from the ICC Cricket Committee over his perceived conflict of interest (being a broadcaster and administrator) and his outspoken comments against Australian and English dinosaurs. Indeed, several reports, including this one by Christopher Martin-Jenkins, even said that Gavaskar had been sacked from his post! Peter Lalor weighed in to the argument too in this column on Fox Sports with a headline that reads “Sunil’s twin roles a ‘concern'”. Sunil? Duh?

Anyway, I digressed even before I began! Sunil Gavaskar chaired the ICC Cricket Committee which has come up with a list of innovations. Gavaskar’s committee — or should I follow the perfect journalistic example set by Peter Lalor and say Sunil’s committee, as though the object of discussion was my brother or my best friend? — included Mark Taylor (former Australia captain), Mickey Arthur (South Africa coach), Michael Holding (former West Indies fast bowler), Simon Taufel (ace Australian umpire), Steve Tikolo (Kenya captain) and Tim May (CEO of FICA, the players’ association).

Below are some of the major recommendations made by this committee to the ICC.

Decision Referral:

The major recommendation is that each team be allowed to refer a maximum of three decisions to the third umpire who could use technology such as Hawkeye to review the referred decision. Two things are not clear just as yet from the reports: (a) Is that three decisions each innings, each session, each day, each match? (b) If a team refers a decision and is successful in overturning the on-field umpires’ call, does that still count as a lost referral?

Although this experiment was reported to be unsuccessful when tried in English domestic one-day cricket last season, this referral system could prevent the sort of drama we saw in the Sydney Test (See this YouTube collection if you are an Indian fan and are in desperate need of a gut-wrench moment in your life!) between Australia and India early this year!

The referral experiment was said to be unsuccessful in the English domestic ODI season last year because it turns out that the 3rd umpires were largely loathe to turn on their on-field colleagues! Clearly, with some coaching, guidance, counseling and training, this issue could be overcome. The 3rd umpire has the benefit of technology as well as time and the on-field umpire should not see it as a blemish on his decision making prowess if a decision of his is turned down. Several other sports successfully manage a referral system that is aided by technology.

The ICC Cricket Committee recommended further that Hawkeye could be used only to determine the path of the ball up to the point that it struck the batsman. A wise decision in my view. The questions that could be addressed through this could be, for example, “Did it strike in line?” (for off stump LBWs), “Did the ball pitch outside leg?” (for leg stump LBWs), and “Was the impact too high on the pads?”, rather than, “Would the ball have gone on to hit the stumps?”

In another significant and good move, the committee has also recommended that the on-field umpire should eb allowed to consult the 3rd umpire on whether or not a catch was taken cleanly. That should put an end to the sort of stupid pact that Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting signed prior to the recently concluded Australia-India Test series — a pact that was torn up after the contentious Sydney Test!

Substitute Fielders:

Apart from this major recommendation which, in all likelihood will be accepted by the ICC, the Cricket Committee also ruled out “comfort breaks” that fielders use to reign in substitutes. The Cricket Committee has indicated that substitute fielders should only be permitted in cases of injury, illness or other wholly acceptable reasons. I am not clear what “wholly acceptable reasons” means in this context. However, if a player does require a genuine “comfort break” does this then mean that the fielding team will field only 10 players for the duration of this “comfort break”? This is not entirely clear from the report. This is, however, in my view, a good suggestion that needs to be adopted. This may also put an end to the sorts of incidents we saw in the 2005 Ashes series when Ricky Ponting and Duncan Fletcher had a war of words over Englands’ use of specialist fielders as substitutes.

PowerPlays in ODIs:

Another significant recommendation is that in ODIs the timing of one of the three Power Plays would be determined by the batting side! As a result of this recommendation, there is no “Second PowerPlay” anymore. In both the 2nd as well as the 3rd PowerPlay, the fielding team can employ 3 fielders outside the restriction circle.

Again, the devil is in the detail on this one. Who decides first whether a PowerPlay is on or not? The fielding captain? What if the fielding captain as well as the batsmen simultaneously decide that they want a PowerPlay to be employed? Is that designated as a batting PowerPlay or a fielding PowerPlay?

Bowl-outs in T20 games ditched:

Thankfully, the dreaded bowl-out that decided tied Twenty20 games up until now has been replaced by a one-over-per-team play-off! Sensible, in my view.

Test League:

The committee also recommended a Test League for the top two sides in the Test Championship. I think that this is a good idea. However, I’d like the Test League to be between the top three sides in the table. Thankfully, the Super Series idea — a dud in the first place — has been killed!

— Mohan

Is India really the crazed mad bully of World cricket?

It should have been a terrific four-match series between two sides that were going hammer-and-tongs at each other; two of the best sides in international cricket today. The two sides boasted some fine cricketers. It is conceivable that Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist, Brett Lee, Matthew Hayden, Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Sachin Tendulkar, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, V. V. S. Laxman, Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan and Virender Sehwag would walk into any cricket team in the world. These were fine cricketers playing a terrific game. They should have been engaged in a terrific contest. They should have left a wonderful memory of a hard-fought, yet, attractive series that lingers in the minds well after the actors have left the field.

Indeed, the four-match Test series gave a lot to savour. We saw some imaginative captaincy from the two captains. We saw Anil Kumble emerge as a statesman and an ambassador of his team. We saw Ricky Ponting captain his team brilliantly in snatching a tense victory in Sydney. We saw two stunning centuries and in excess of 400 runs from Sachin Tendulkar who was accorded a standing ovation everytime he walked on to bat! We saw some sustained spells of accurate, penetrative, and at times, sensational fast bowling from Brett Lee. We witnessed the kind of elegance from the blade of V. V. S. Laxman that makes people draw breath and exclaim “how did he do that?” in several of his digs. We some imposing batting from Matthew Hayden who dug deep to score centuries almost at will. We saw the old, and sometimes forgotten, warrior in the moder-day spin-trinity, Anil Kumble, reach his 600th wicket. We saw a Team India that was down 0-2 in the series that pulled off a sensational victory in Perth, the traditional strong-hold of the Australians. We saw a kid who was still in the wet-behind-his-ears stage of his international career, who was denied a wicket when a batsman was on not much, walk up to the same batsman an congratulate him when he left the field, having made 162! In the very next match, we saw that same kid bowling one of the best spells of fast bowling that I have seen in a long time to Ricky Ponting. Surely, on another day, this would have been the kind of story that sells romance novels the world over!

Instead, a day after the series, there was much posturing, much finger pointing, much debate, much acrimony. The word bully was used so often that real school-yard bullies would be within their rights to demand another term to elevate their status to a newer high!

The series had so much grit, fight, skill, romance, determination and class that it ought to be right up there as marquee series go. Instead it will be remembered as one that was dominated by recriminations, court-room-hearings, finger-pointing, derogatory remarks, cultural hatred, racial hatred and much more. We had lost perspective. It was, as Dileep Premachandran writes in The Guardian, a “tawdry affair”, in which “there were no winners”.

In the aftermath of the tour, Monkeygate, the Harbhajan Singh racism saga has dominated sport pages and blogs and radio talkback — not only in India and Australia but the rest of the cricketing world too! Much has been written and said.

In these pages that have been written and consumed, India, through the BCCI, has been labeled a crazed, mad, bully of world cricket. This may or may not be right. But then that is the perception the world over; one that needs to be critically — dispassionately too, perhaps — analysed and assessed. There are as many as five articles in todays’ The Age and The Australian that touch on this topic. There will be, no doubt, many others that ask the same question. It is a question that does need to be asked for the future stability of world cricket.

But, lest we forget, let us remind ourselves that this is not the first time world cricket has been “held to ransom”. In the modern era, one could argue that Packergate was the first time that the UN-style ICC was held by the proverbials. In more recent times, we have had several incidents that came close to splitting apart world-cricket. I list them here and, for the sake of completeness, provide the nations that were involved as well as a brief description of the episode.

In this list, I do not include one-off school-yard fights like Ponting’s robust and angry questioning of Englands’ specialist-fielder tactics in the Ashes 2005 series, Andre Nel and Sree Santh going hammer-and-tongs and each other, Gavaskar threatening to pull his team off the MCG, Jeyygate, etc. I am concentrating here on issues that threatened to blow world-cricket apart; storms in tea-cups are what the rest were!

  • The year 1998-99 saw Muthiah Muralitharan being no-balled in Australia by an Australian umpire, Darryl Hair. The saga threatened to split world cricket apart. As a continuing part of this saga, Sri Lankan captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, a man who had built a reputation of standing up to his opponents, refused to continue the tour and also threatened to pull his team from an Adelaide ODI when Australian umpire, Ross Emerson, called Muthiah Muralitharan again for an “illegal delivery”. The Sri Lankan players, who had copped the goings on in their tour thus far, felt, rightly or wrongly, victimised by the Australian umpires — for here was Muthiah Muralidharan bowling leg-breaks when he was called!
  • India was outraged when Mike Denness, the match referee, banned Virender Sehwag for excessive appealing in a Test match agaist South Africa in 2001. On instructions from Jagmohan Dalmiya, the then BCCI President — another man who, like Ranatunga, loved seeing eye-to-eye with his counterparts from Australia and England — India included Virender Sehwag in the next Test match! It was played as an unofficial Test match! Mike Denness was locked out of the Test match! In that match Mike Denness, the former England captain, sanctioned six Indian players, with Virender Sehwag receiving a one-match ban and Sachin Tendulkar receiving a one-match suspended sentence for ball tampering! This wasn’t the first time that an Indian had been sanctioned by a match referee. So why was there outrage and effigy-burning at Denness’s decision? What bought things to an ugly head was the seeming imbalance of Mike Deness’s decisions. In that same match, we had South African captain Shaun Pollock who had appealed even more vociferously, aggressivelyand continually for an lbw against V V S Laxman in India’s first innings! We saw, therefore, that the oft-repeated bias-argument which suggested the “R” word in the actions of match referees. The Indians felt, rightly or wrongly, victimised.
  • Enter Shoaib Akthar, the Pakistan speedster: He was banned for throwing by an ICC committee that was chaired by Bobby Simpson. Jagmohan Dalmiya, by then the President of the ICC, gave Akthar the equivalent of a presidential pardon and that allowed Pakistan to continue to field Akthar in its games! Once again, world cricket was threatened by brinkmanship. A crisis was averted.
  • A by-now familiar actor, Darryl Hair, re-enters the scene in the most recent saga that threatened to split world cricket: The ball-tampering fiasco which was fuelled by England’s suspicions resulted in Darryl Hair effectively labelling the Pakistan team as cheats. The resulting no-show by the Pakistanis, who had Bob Woolmer as coach then, resulted in the first forfeit in international cricket! Pakistan moved to have the umpire removed. He was not only removed, but was sacked from ever umpiring again!
  • And now, Monkeygate…

Malcolm Knox reviews some of these episodes in an article in The Age (Saturday 2 Feb 2008).

There is a pattern here. Sri Lanka have been involved in one spat. Pakistan has been involved in two spats. India has been involved in two spats. The people at the other end have been, in order listed above Australia (notionally), England (notionally), Australia (notionally), Australia (notionally) and Australia. At a surface-level, there is a pattern here; a pattern of both mistrust and abuse. There is also a pattern of incompetence on the part of the ICC. One needs to just scratch at the surface of all of these episodes to know that the ICC has a lot to answer for, although, as Malcolm Knox says, “The ICC might be a convenient punching bag” for everyone. It is, no doubt, a powerless and toothless organisation.

We have to accept that teams from the sub-continent have grievances (some legitimate and some not so legitimate) with the colonial manner in which the game has been organised and run in the past. There are racist undercurrents and there are undercurrents that the game was invented to serve the best interests of England and Australia and their friends.

But to call India a bully because of its current financial clout would be to ignore the foundations, the symptoms as well as the cause of much of these grievances. After all, Sri Lanka and Pakistan do not have financial clout. And yet, they brought the game to its knees not once, but three times in the recent past!

As Malcolm Knox says, Bodyline itself wasn’t about money!

And if it was only about money, world cricket had better be scared. Very scared! For the amount of money in Indian cricket is set to double — or even treble — over the next 10 years with the introduction of the Indian Premier League. Bollywood actors and cash-rich Indian business houses have splurged money on the eight IPL teams. Some of them have invested nearly $80m in their team franchise. They will spend much more than that on buying players! They will also expect their money to multiply to $800m over a 10-year period! So, if we think that the BCCI is flexing its muscles only because of the money it controls now, we should be prepared for it to flex its whole body in ten years’ time.

But to assign money as the root cause of much of this would be to, unfortunately, miss the point. The 1999 flexing of muscles by Sri Lanka is a case in point. There was, then, a perception of injustice. That perception persists. The ICC and the world game needs to fix that first.

No doubt India is cash-rich. Nike paid $43 million to kit the side for five years! No other team can match that in the world of sport! The Indian cricket team is cash rich and sponsors continue to queue up to be associated with the team. The BCCI knows it has this money too and often uses this often to get the ICC to act the way it wants it to.

Most Indians will be, as Dileep Premachandran says, uncomfortable with both the power as well as the BCCI’s excessive greed. India is not a country that has thrived on having power on the world stage in any sphere — leave alone cricket. Nor has it demonstrated a need to indulge in “naked displays of strength”.

However, across the sub-continent there is a new brigade that is bursting through. A new brigade that is more confident. A new brigade that is more brash. A new brigade that is not quite like the V. V. S. Laxman who will smile placidly when told that his mother is a so-and-so and still manage to flick the next ball gloriously for a four! A new brigade that wants to look its tormentor in the eye — not because the new-brigade is necessarily good, but just because they know they can! A new brigade that has, in Harsha Bhogle’s words, an abiding memory “of visiting journalists and cricketers coming to India and making fun of us. We were a country finding our feet, we were not confident; we seethed within but we accepted. The new generation in India is not as accepting — it is prouder, more confident, more successful. Those bottled up feelings are bubbling through.”

As Dileep Premachandran says in The Age, there is certainly “a new, prosperous brigade that takes perverse pride in sticking it to the old world.” A new brigade that can do what their parents wanted to, but could not!

The sub-continent has vivid memories of being dictated to by an imperial power; of being sneered at by visiting teams; of being continually mis-understood. The food wasn’t good enough. The organisation wasn’t good enough. The travel wasn’t good enough. The hotels weren’t good enough. The grounds and facilities weren’t good enough. The pitches weren’t good enough. The logistics wasn’t good enough. The umpiring wasn’t good enough. The crowds weren’t good enough. The accent wasn’t good enough. The mores weren’t good enough… The list is endless. And it is not merely about people lampooning the accent. It runs deeper than that.

India and Australia head the new order in the game. India has the money and an emerging talent. Australia is right at the peak of its prowess as a cricketing and sporting nation. And that prowess shows no sign of diminishing. The two nations, together, have a responsibility to the game — to grasp it out of the colonial shackles of mistrust and misunderstanding. A mistrust that inbreeds a desire for the sub-continentals to square the historically imbalanced ledger.

In this hour of need, Indian cricket and world cricket needs ethical and responsible leadership. But world cricket needs to cleanse itself of its deep-rooted mistrust and suspicion too. This mistrust and suspicion is symmetric. There are no one-way streets in this town! If these suspicions are not removed, we will have Bodyline, PackerGate, MuraliGate, DennesGate, ChuckerGate, TamperGate, MonkeyGate… over and over again, with the old-world on the one side and the sub-continent on the other.

I was heartened though, by a comment from Inderjit Singh Bhindra in todays’ Australian when he said, “If we are feeling bad about something we should not repeat the same thing. It’s no remedy for what has happened in the past to repeat the past. We have to learn from history. I have been a student of history and we don’t have to repeat the same mistakes.”

Inderjit Singh Bhindra, former BCCI President — and peace-maker in the Adelaide pit-stop of the Monkeygate train — is the man that most people tip as Malcolm Speed’s replacement when the Australian’s term, as Cheif Executive of the ICC, ends soon. This thought might send shivers down the spine of people who think that India has too much control of world cricket already! Especially if we pitch that alongside the known fact that Sharad Powar, the current BCCI President will, in 18 months’ time, be President of the ICC!

In particular, Australians may feel that Bhindra’s role in brokering a peace in Adelaide with Creagh O’Connor, the Chairman of Cricket Australia, undermined the whole judicial process. To say that would be to be in contempt of Justice Hansen’s court. However, it is quite likely that, in Bhindra, India does have a statesman and a leader that is able to bridge sub-continental emotions with old-world ways. Both need to be understood and it is likely that this moderate would be one that brokers a greater understanding and delivers stability.

In an interview to Mike Coward from The Australian today, I. S. Bhindra says “What we want is on the basis of every country being equal. We want equity, justice and fair play. We don’t want money to be the main factor propelling the game of cricket. Of course money is important, it is important everywhere. But it shouldn’t be important to the extent of dictating decision-making.”

We all await a better future for world cricket. The game deserves it. And the best place to start much of this repair would be at the ICC. If not, there will be many more engrossing series that will be forgotten — only controversies will remain in our collective minds.

— Mohan