Friday, December 18, 2009

The goose and the gander

In his role as a Match Referee for the ICC, Chris Broad has been at the center of many a storm. Apart from (seemingly) being on a one-man crusade to wipe out chucking from the game, he surfaces from time to time to dole out punishments when the cricketers cross the "fine line" between banter and verbal abuse.

Yesterday Brad Haddin, Suleiman Benn, and Mitchell Johnson got into a two-step tango of sorts in the 3rd Test between Australia and West Indies. Here's what happened (note in particular the 2:40 mark for future reference):

(Note: Some language is definitely NSFW)

When it happened I thought to myself that Benn, Haddin, and Johnson would lose big chunks of money and miss a couple of ODI (always easier to dock those games than Test matches). Naturally, the broad sword of justice (pun intended) ruled on the argy-bargy this morning. Benn was handed two suspension points which effectively means he will miss two ODIs, while Haddin has been fined 25% of his match fee and Johnson 10%.

This is the part of that article that boggles the mind (emphasis mine).
Broad said: "It was an incident which could have been avoided. No one likes to see cricketers pointing bats at their opponents or pushing each other away. It is not the sort of example that players should be setting at any time, least of all in a series which is being played in a great spirit and being followed by millions around the world on television.

"The decision to find Benn guilty of a Level 2 offence is indicative of the fact that conduct contrary to the spirit of the game is completely unacceptable. I hope Mr Benn has learnt his lesson and will be careful in the future
What?!! Does Chris Broad even understand what he is saying here and how it contradicts the very punishment he meted out?

This is wrong on so many levels. I am not opposed to the fines or the bans. I am opposed to the differentiation in the types of justice being meted out. I'll let someone more articulate that I, Prem Panicker, explain exactly why I am so flabbergasted.
Absolutely unimpeachable statements, those. Especially the one about pointing bats not being the kind of behavior anyone wants to see on a cricket field. But, um, just who was batting at the time?

"The over began with a run-in between the bowler Benn, who was moving across to field a drive, and the non-striker Johnson, who was taking off for a single. The contact seemed incidental, with neither man at fault, but Haddin appeared to inflame the situation after completing the run, when he pointed his bat at Benn."

Uh oh. So at the end of an accidental contact between opposing players Brad Haddin — who was not the player who was pushed, even accidentally — made it his business to make a physically threatening gesture at his opponent. That is not, as Broad so vehemently says, the kind of behavior you want to see on a cricket field — so of course the law came down hard and heavy, with a 25 per cent of match fees fine.

Presumably, the law does not want to see on a cricket field a player standing still for bats to be pointed at him — which must be why Benn attracted the heavier punishment of a Test match ban. Again

"There appeared to be some incidental contact between Johnson and Benn when Johnson moved to position himself between his partner and the bowler. Things became even uglier when Johnson pushed Benn away, following the initial contact. After stumps the West Indies captain Chris Gayle said he felt Benn had not initiated the physical clash."

Again, Benn’s physical involvement is being described as ‘incidental’; Johnson’s response as deliberate, and deliberately physical. So naturally, Johnson gets docked 10 per cent of his match fees. It all makes perfect sense, no?


For instance, note that “inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between players during play” is deemed a Level 2 offence; note that there was nothing appropriate about Johnson pushing Benn; note that the prescribed fine is 50 per cent of the match fees and/or a ban for one Test or two ODIs. And finally, note that Johnson got away with a mere 10 per cent of his fees.

Had there been a review system for match officials, Broad would have been put out to pasture ages ago. There isn’t, so he isn’t
By the way, when he was a player, Broad was no spring flower and was known for his petulant nature and brushes with the "spirit of cricket". Here he is in Sydney, roughly 21 years ago, smashing the stumps after getting out:

He should be happy he played in an era when there were no Match Referees or maybe it would not have mattered. Someone as inept as himself may have been the Referee and would have "punished" him with a 10% match fee fine for that transgression while giving the off-stump a Test match ban for letting itself get uprooted.

His CricInfo profile says it all, really.

P.S. Even as I type this Shane Watson has gone and taunted Chris Gayle after dismissing him in the second innings. It will be interesting to see whether he gets a 10% fine or just a warning from Broad.

Update: As I suspected, Shane Watson got off with a lenient sentence - a 15% match fee fine.
Shane is a very energetic and enthusiastic bowler but on this occasion he has gone too far by running down the wicket screaming, thereby not showing due respect for the opponent," Broad said. "While handing down the punishment, I took into account that Shane admitted his mistake by pleading guilty."
Wow, Mr. Broad. Do you even realize how disgustingly warped your reasoning is? Shane Watson is a chocolate-boy who happens to have "gone too far" so naturally you pull a 15% fine out of the sky. On top of it, he pleaded guilty, so he gets a more lenient sentence? Too bad the West Indies Cricket Board does not have to guts to question the ICC about this. Tony Cozier is the lone dissenting voice I hear, but even he stops short of pulling his punches.

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