Opinion: BCCI making wrong stand on sledging

Blog Opinion

Microphone stump volumes must be turned up. Umpires must be empowered to remove bowlers and batsmen from play. Otherwise, incidents similar to James Anderson versus Ravindra Jadeja will continue, says Peter Miller.

It rumbles on. An unseemly incident in a Nottingham corridor is still be talked about nearly four weeks after it took place.

There is no question that the incident took place. James Anderson has admitted to pushing Ravindra Jadeja, he has admitted to using abusive language towards the Indian players. The debate is about the root cause of this confrontation and why it was made into such a big issue by those involved.

Some have said that the reporting of Anderson was some sort of cynical plot by the Indians to remove England's attack leader from the series. This is all a bit "tin foil hat". While the BCCI are capable of nefarious behind the scenes goings-on, that is a step too far. They are not trying to get Anderson banned because they fear facing him.

The real reason appears to be that they are fed up with his boorish behaviour on the field. As has become clear as players have broken their cone of silence on the subject over the last six months, Anderson is an inveterate sledger.

By this we are not talking about him being a man of great wit, just that he is want to hurl abuse. He is happy to take it back too, but it has become a habit the man who is set to be England's most successful bowler of all time cannot shake.

It seems MS Dhoni wants to take a stand. He wants to use his position as the man in charge of the most powerful, if not the most successful, cricket team to say that this kind of thing isn't on. The problem with this stance is that Anderson is far from the only cricketer in the world who behaves in this way.

In fact, there are a few members of the Indian side that are just as capable of getting caught up in the emotion of international cricket. Just ask Virat Kohli.

Using an incident that happened behind closed doors and was a case of he said-she said was never going to get the Indians the result that they desired. The England players saw the incident one way, the Indians another.

While there is no doubt that Anderson was wrong to shove Jadeja, without an impartial witness to tell us exactly what happened it is impossible to know who is at fault.

If Anderson has got to the point where his behaviour is intolerable it should not be for the BCCI's management to address the issue, it is for the ICC. As the organisation becomes less and less relevant surely one area that it can do some good is the enforcing of its code of conduct. From the sketchy details that have emerged it was always a stretch to say that Anderson was guilty of a level three offence.

That is one of the most serious offences and involves racist abuse and assaulting an opponent. While a shove in the back is an assault in the loosest sense, if this happened on the street it would be hard to imagine it getting in front of a judge.

The issue is one of weak officiating. The umpires have abdicated responsibility for on field behaviour. They use the ridiculous 19th century notion that captains are in charge of their teams to allow almost anything but the most obvious of exchanges to pass without comment. When Michael Clarke told Anderson to "get ready for a broken f**king arm" it was the stump microphone that brought it to our attention, not the umpires.

As ever, the BCCI's response to an issue is an attempt to act unilaterally, and as a result even when they are justified in their ire they are criticised for it. Cricket, we are told, is a game that is played in the right "spirit".

The fact is that this has never really been true, and is certainly not the case at the highest level. Abuse is pretty standard, the only debate is at what point it has gone too far. Some would say swear words are okay, racial abuse is not. Some would say anything goes, it is only words. Others still would say it is okay if you are trying to be "witty". All of this couldn't be any more subjective.

In the greater scheme of things the words that professional cricketers say to each other are the least of the problems the game faces, but the moralising about it needs to stop. The Anderson incident was not "handbags".

It was an unedifying example of what has become the standard level of behaviour on the cricket field. Neither is it the worst thing that has ever happened. It is an explosion of pettifoggery that would never have got that far if there had been an intervention by match officials before this.

If the BCCI really care about this stuff refusing to let this one incident drop is just about the worst thing that they can do. It only leads to people believing that they are motivated by pettiness and spite. If they want to make a difference then give the power to the umpires and match officials to enforce the ICC code of conduct consistently, not just when it suits.

Turn the stump microphones up, give the umpires the power to send players from the field, actually do something to stop it happening in the first place. If you don't want to do any of those things then we need to accept that this kind of incident is to be expected.

<b>Peter Miller</b>

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