I wanted to avoid writing this. People have talked ad nauseam. TV anchors yelled questions at six different panelists, simultaneously, which included the eminent scout of Javelin throwers, Bishen Bedi, who narrated stories not relevant to the topic of conversation. Typical. Fans have vented on Twitter and Facebook. Some of them were gob smacked at the vanishing spirit of Cricket while others shrugged off – Happens all the time, dude. Batsmen don’t walk any more even if they know, as sure as the sun rising in the East, they have nicked one behind. Batsmen employ delaying tactics to avoid facing that extra over before stumps. Bowlers and fielders appeal even when they know they don’t have a case, to coax an error out of the umpire. Bowlers bowling wides to avoid the opposing batsmen hitting the winning runs. It’s all part of the game. So, when a bowler deliberately (seemingly anyway, at first look) overstepped by a generous foot to prevent a batsman from getting to his 100, it’s no big deal. Meh.
But the Sri Lankan Cricket Board didn’t think so. Earlier today, they handed down, at the end of their own internal investigation – this must be the quickest ever investigation in the history of internal investigations – a one-match ban to Suraj Randiv, and loss of match fees and loss of match fees to the apparent instigator Tillakaratne Dilshan, as well. You already know the circumstances surrounding the controversy, so I won’t rehash it.
At the end of the match, when Sehwag realized he didn’t actually get to his century, he in his unique way, brushed it off, saying that teams do these sort of things to prevent the batsman from getting to a personal landmark. By then he had not seen the replays and wasn’t really aware of the egregiousness of that no ball. A spinner who doesn’t really bowl no balls oversteps so much that his back foot is at the popping crease. So this was a premeditated effort to deny Sehwag his century. When asked later, Sehwag agreed that it looked very intentional and premeditated, and reportedly not as generous or forgiving as he was at the end of the match. (Would you be? I am not so sure.)
However, reports came out later that the bowler, Suraj Randiv, had apologized to Sehwag and even Sri Lankan Cricket did too. Sehwag accepted it and it was time for all of us to move on, with the knowledge that even Sri Lanka, two time recipient of the ICC Spirit of Cricket Team award (’07 and ’08), is not above cheap tricks. As Sambit Bal, The editor of Cricinfo put forth: “The bowler apologised, the batsman accepted; where do the rest of us come in?“
That’s when the Indian media machine stepped in. In the only way it knows to analyze (I am using the term analyze very loosely) any situation, it blew it out of proportion. Every damn network started piling on. They brought in people to transcribe the conversation picked up by stump microphone (as one anchor put it – real people who know real Sinhalese. Who said investigative journalism is dead?). They were positive it was Sangakkara who made Randiv do the dastardly act. The real people who know real Sinhalese told the anchor, “Sangakkara told the bowler not to give the batsman a run”. Of course. Which captain ever tells his bowler not to give away the winning run? Game, Set and Match. Some started comparing the situation to all the other times any Indian cricket player was ever wronged. Sydney 2008 was duly hashed and rehashed. The racist card couldn’t be played as those real Sri Lankans are of the same race as these real Indians. As much as I am not a fan of Sangakkara and his over appealing, sweet talking tactics, he was quickly sullied without proper proof. But after the SL Cricket Board’s punishments have come out, it has become clear that Dishan played the instigator and advised Randiv to bowl a monster no ball. The raving TV anchor is not going to apologize to Sangakkara but that is only to be expected. The story quickly moved on to demonising Dilshan.
I had a few conversations during the day on social networking sites and just good ol’ fashioned chats with some friends. The topic revolved around, not the usual “OMG, how could Randiv do that?” but more on the lines of, “Did SLC have to do this? Was the punishment too much?” [especially considering Mr. Broad Jr is getting away with only a portion of match fees docked for throwing a ball at a batsman and for general wussy-ness].
With just the video evidence, it is hard to prove that Randiv’s action was pre-meditated. People bowl big no balls and wides. Ask Steve Harmison. He has bowled a ball so wide, it bypassed the keeper, the pitch and went straight in to the hands of second slip. And so, yeah, it happens. I asked one of my friends from my undergraduate days – he is a trained umpire in the Asian Cricket Council – and he responded thus: “The umpire should have called the ball dead and cautioned the bowler for misconduct if to him it was delibrate, as he is empowered to under the “preamble” spirit of cricket points number 3 and 4. Clearly the offence”intention” to deny sehwag occured before the noball was bowled.” However, one cannot get inside the head of Randiv to know for sure, what he was thinking. The ICC couldn’t have interfered in this as technically, Randiv has not broken any of the game’s written laws.
I commend the fact that SLC Board decided to step in and nip the issue in the bud and do their own investigation, through which they have determined that Dilshan prodded Randiv to bowl the no ball. Good on them. In my opinion, Dilshan should at least have received the same punishment as Randiv, if not more. Dilshan is an experienced international player and should have known better than to resort to such idiocy. If he felt so compelled to deny Sehwag, he should have taken the ball and bowled that over instead of Randhiv.
But did SLC had to do this in the first place? No, of course not. There may be any number of reasons why they did it. It’s possible that the Board was ticked off with the team losing the 2009 Spirit of Cricket award to the Kiwis, or, may be they are just really good Buddhists, or they are dependent on BCCI for solvency and so wanted to avoid any drawn out, media driven controversy.
I wonder if SLC Board would have been this stringent and swift with “justice” if it weren’t Randhiv – a relative newcomer on the cricketing scene – but one of their main bowlers and the following match was a semi-final or a final. But that’s neither here nor there. So what have we learned from this?
The spirit of cricket is a big bogus thing. In the current days of big time commercialization of cricket, the old practices of what used to be a “gentleman’s game” is slowly but surely drifting out the window. Secondly, Indian media is a non-stop non-sense circus where street corner preachers are masquerading as TV anchors blowing every possible issue out of proportion and propagating the view that one of ours was wronged and so we will drag you through hell. Thirdly, SLC Board cares about its team’s “spirit of cricket” image for one reason or another and they decided to display it by over-penalizing a new comer.