Posted: May 16, 2008 in Uncategorized
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Indian spin bowler, Harbijan Singh, was reported for racial abuse in the Second Test. He was suspended for either of two Test matches or four one-day internationals. On appeal, the charge was downgraded as the judge found insufficient evidence to support a Level Three charge as was originally laid.

The day after the appeal hearing, the judge claimed that if he had known that this was the fifth time that Singh had been reported, he would have imposed a much stiffer sentence.

This matter raises a matter of legal procedure. During a hearing, it is natural justice for the matter to be heard on its merits, and not tainted on the basis of prior events. However once a verdict guilty has been found, then it is only quite appropriate to consider past behaviour when deliberating on the penalty. The judge only found out afterwards that on a previous charge, Singh was fined 75% of his match fee and given a suspended sentence. Because this vital information was not provided to him, Singh gets away with a paltry fine of 50% of his match fee. Human error is the reason cited for the omission. Pathetic, simply pathetic.

How much longer is Harbijan Singh going to be allowed to continue to get away with such unacceptable behaviour? Opposing teams are complaining about him on a regular basis. At the club level, someone would have long ago taken the clown out behind the rooms and administered a much needed wake up call.

This is an individual who has even been known to be shouting at the batter in his native tongue while coming in to bowl! But nothing is ever done. A bowler is not allowed to so much as unbuttoned shirt sleeves as it may distract the batter from the ball being delivered from the bowler’s hand. Fielders are to be totally silent during the bowler’s approach in order not to disturb the batter’s concentration. But Singh is allowed to shout at the batter during his approach? The fact that this was not immediately jumped by the officials as it happened is a disgrace. If the striker can hear it loudly enough to bring it to the umpire’s attention, then there was absolutely no excuse for the umpires not stepping in immediately.

Five charges of misconduct in the modern game is to the best of my knowledge, a record. And yet it is the Australian team’s conduct and attitude that is being criticised by the media, the Prime Minister and certain respected but long-retired players. Am I the only one who can see something wrong here? The ICC has accepted blame for the failure to provide details of all four previous charges against

When is officialdom going to take real steps to curb this behaviour? Was Australia innocent in the past? Hardly. But who have been the aggressors? There can be little doubt that it was the behaviour of Singh and one or two of his team mates, particularly Sreesanth, that contributed so greatly to trouble between the teams on the last tour of the sub-continent. And Singh brings this with him on this tour once more. Sreesanth has publicly stated that he is not going to back down now that he has joined the Indian team for the upcoming one-day series.

Unfortunately officialdom at the highest levels of the game has a long history of simply ducking issues by taking the course of least resistance and bowing down to whoever is making the greatest amount of noise at the time.

Go back a few decades to when Ian Meckiff was hounded out of the game for having an illegal bowling action. And who was complaining? The visiting English team after Meckiff had caused quite a bit of havoc among their batters. Yet at the same time, England was fielding one Tony Locke – a left-arm spinner who threw pretty much every damn ball he ever bowled, and he was allowed to continue playing first class cricket into the 1970s. Meckiff’s real crime was that he had a double-jointed elbow which naturally bent and straightened during delivery. It was technically a throw, but not a deliberate cocking and releasing of the elbow a la Locke and others.

Come forward a few decades to the Muralitharan affair when his action first came under scrutiny. Firstly, I do not blame Darryl Hair for initially calling Murili – that action looks dubious to say the least at the first glance. There is a furphy going around the Murili was entirely exonerated under testing of his action. That is not quite accurate. Murili was found that he was able to bowl with his arm in a brace and still turn the ball including his big weapon, the doosera – the off-spinning equivalent of a leg spinner’s wrong ‘un. But, it was also found without question that without the brace, his elbow does hyper-extend. When that happens, especially with delivery of the doosera, his action can descend into illegality. I have no doubt in my mind that Murili does not intend this any more than Ian Meckiff could be considered deliberately having a double-jointed elbow. But Murili’s action was allowed to remain. Officialdom conveniently bowed to pressure and simply changed the rules.

Today, a bowler is allowed to bend the elbow provided it does not exceed fifteen degrees. What a cop-out. Change the rules and remove the problem in order to keep the Sri Lankan hierarchy happy – shoving a bit of grease on the squeakiest wheel. I notice that umpires have not been issued with the necessary equipment required to measure the degree of bend in each delivery. The situation is simply ludicrous, and was nothing more than officialdom ducking the real issue.

The situation with certain members of the current Indian cricket team is absolutely no different. Blatantly unacceptable behaviour is being allowed to continue with nothing more than a token slap on the wrist. Offenders such as Sreesanth do not appear to have even received that much.

Next we come to the actions of the Indian authorities. Their reaction to not liking the decision against Singh? Threaten to call off the entire tour. Those authorities need to bear much of the blame for things getting so out of control by not jumping on top of some of their players for their quite open abusing and taunting of opposition players, and not just the Australians. Instead, it is everyone else’s fault and we should all do what they want or they are going to take their ball and go home. What is this – international sport or the school ground sandbox?

Come the Fourth Test, one would have hoped that cooler heads had prevailed and all players cooled down. Mr Singh was noticeably on his best behaviour for the first couple of days. But things eventually began to get out of control once more. Umpire Billy Bowden turned down an appeal for a bat-pad. Watching it on the television, my immediate reaction was that the bat missed the ball by an appreciable amount. Video replay showed the bat missing by a country mile. Mr Singh was fairly quiet, but he was giving Bowden looks that should have killed. However some of his team mates remonstrated long and loudly. At the end of the over, one of the Indian players was right up in Bowden’s face, waving the finger and arguing in a most animated manner.

In the past, batters have been charged with misconduct for showing dissent about an umpire’s decision. It is possible to be charged with that for too animated a display whilst walking off. Such incidences pale into insignificance compared to the display by some of the Indian players on this occasion. Did officialdom act? No. However the actions of these individuals was captured for posterity on film, and viewed by who knows how many viewers in Australia and around the world. Yet once more, nothing is done.

Now before the bleeding hearts start screaming and accusing me of just being a racist, something that certain Indian persons have already seen fit to do merely because I am Australian, I wish to establish that I am nothing of the sort. One of my best friends is a Moslem from Iraq (although forced to leave her country of birth because she dared oppose and work against the Saddam regime), I was engaged to a Native American, and I have friends of all manner of colour and creed. I judge a person by their actions rather than their place of origin, religion or skin colour. As far as Indian cricket goes, I adored watching the great Bishin Bedi bowl; watching him tie batters up in knots helped influence me to take up bowling spin in later years myself. Sachin Tendulkar is one of the greatest batters I have ever seen and I love to watch him bat. I admire the heck out of Harbijan Singh for his bowling ability – watch how beautifully the ball comes out of his hand in what is often as close to a perfect release as you are going to get.

The overall summary and reality of this situation is that Singh received nothing more than a token slap on the wrist for yet another charge of misconduct; the Indian management attempted to hold the ACB and ICC to ransom over the affair by very loud threats to cancel the remainder of the tour; another Indian player has publicly announced that he is not going to back off his approach to the game, despite being condemned for his behaviour in the past; the ICC’s own procedures in supporting due process proved to be woefully inadequate; and Indian players were permitted to engage in open, hostile, animated and recorded displays of dissent towards an umpire, with nothing done about it.

Enough is e-bloody-nough. It is high time that some tough stances were taken. The trouble makers need to be brought into line EVERYWHERE in all cricketing nations. The challenge is with the ICC. Take action! Show some cojones for a bloody change!

Postscript – Singh was turfed out of the 2008 inaugral 20-20 international cricket competition in India, after he slapped one of his teamates in the face.

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