Ashis Ray says Dhoni, BCCI to blame for goof-up on Anderson affair
Indian cricket captain Mahendra Dhoni’s obstinacy and ignorance about the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) processes have caused an unmitigated loss for Indian cricket on the James Anderson affair, where it could have been victory.
The latest and lasting slap was delivered Wednesday when the ICC, ignoring the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s request, refused to appeal an order by judicial commissioner Gordon Lewis which rejected the Indian touring party’s accusation against Anderson.
The Indian visitors now in England were offered mediation and a closure, which could have included an apology from Anderson. This would have been a win of sorts. But Dhoni dissuaded the Indian team manager Sunil Dev from engaging in talks with Paul Downton, managing director of cricket at the England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB).
Earlier, the ECB’s chairman Giles Clarke had approached ICC chairman N. Srinivasan, who has been sidelined by the Supreme Court as the president of the BCCI. The latter spoke to Dhoni but the Indian skipper was adamant about pursuing the Indian side’s charge against Anderson.
Anderson has a long history of directing foul language at batsmen in the middle. This is unacceptable; and can also, if reported by an umpire, be deemed to be a breach of ICC’s code of conduct. Whether he went to the extent of pushing Indian all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja inside the pavilion during the lunch break on the second day of the 1st Test at Trent Bridge, Nottingham was, of course, another matter.
Notably, the ECB never denied Anderson was involved in an incident. It, however, dismissed this by describing it as a “minor” matter. Minor or not, physical contact is tantamount to a “Level 3” offence under the ICC’s code of conduct.
The question was, though, did Dhoni, who insisted on standing up for his protégé Jadeja and accusing Anderson, have the evidence to establish his case to the satisfaction of a dispassionate and independent authority?
The Indians had the conventional route of complaining to the match referee David Boon open to them. This would have almost certainly resulted in rap on the knuckles for Anderson, perhaps even being found guilty of a “Level 2” offence.
The tourists spurned the option and instead raised the stakes by going over the referee’s head and directly approaching the ICC. In other words, they demanded that a judicial commissioner hear the matter.
Even after Srinivasan failed to persuade Dhoni to pull back, the ECB were open to a compromise. An apology by Anderson wasn’t ruled out. A six-point formula to amicably settle the matter was accepted by it as a basis for discussion. The Indian team’s manager, too, was agreeable to exploring this.
A meeting between Downton and Dev was arranged on the morning of the first day of the 2nd test at Lord’s. But Dhoni shot it down.
Once the door was shut in this manner, it boiled down to Dhoni proving his case in quasi-judicial circumstances, which is what a hearing presided by an outside judicial commissioner with a legal background under the ICC’s code of conduct procedures amounts to.
Common sense, logic and law as existing in England and India (which at least the BCCI, if not Dhoni, ought to have been cognizant of) suggested you look before you leap and you have incontrovertible independent proof to endorse your assertion.
It meant either you had a credible third party witness to corroborate that Anderson pushed Jadeja and consequently committed an offence or there was acceptable video evidence to put the issue beyond doubt. Dhoni had neither. Therefore, it was an open and shut case of “not guilty”.
Either the BCCI were unaware of the requirements or permitted themselves to be trampled by their captain. Off-the-field in an away situation the manager is supposed to have the last word. Dev, rather than conceding Dhoni’s demand should have kept his counsel, even if this meant overruling the skipper.
Dev was not the only one to unquestioningly accept Dhoni’s claim. It was brought to the notice of the present interim president of the BCCI Shivlal Yadav that there was a grave danger of India losing the case. This, too, fell on deaf ears. It reflected patent weakness on the part of officials who under the BCCI’s constitution represent higher authority as compared to the captain.
In contrast, the ECB, despite being ready to negotiate a settlement, had a sounder grasp of ICC rules and showed a preference for a proper path to voice their grievance. While the judicial commissioner also found Jadeja innocent of a “Level 2” offence, as alleged by the ECB, the latter actually succeeded in securing a verdict in their favour from the match referee, who found the Indian guilty of committing a “Level 1” offence.
It may be argued there should have been a closed circuit television (CCTV) recording of players’ goings and comings inside the pavilion at Trent Bridge. The fact is there wasn’t. To press a charge knowing such video did not exist was foolhardy.
Besides, signed statements by three eye witnesses – stewards – denied that Anderson had pushed Jadeja, thereby contradicting Dhoni.
It is time for the BCCI to rein in Dhoni. His opinion should not prevail where he is transparently in a hopeless corner and where support to him can only bring embarrassment to Indian cricket.