New Delhi:Champion teams get away with everything. Or is there more to it than just being a champion team?
Viv Richards, as a part of the almighty West Indies once, charged at an umpire and prolonged his appeal to such lengths that the umpire caved in, incorrectly giving the batsman out.
Sunil Gavaskar recently made a reference to his all-conquering Mumbai side in the Ranji Trophy. He said that umpires, more often than not, tend to rule in favour of the stronger side, and as captain of Mumbai, he would know that better than most.
During Monkeygate, West Indies batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul pointed out how he thought that Australia, in their reign as world champions, have benefited from poor umpiring than their opponents.
What about Brett Lee?
Given what has happened in the CB Series (and the Test series preceding it), one can't help but feel that umpiring and refereeing have been lop-sided.
Let's look at what transpired in the Sydney one-dayer on Sunday.
Brett Lee, having trapped Sachin Tendulkar in front, ran back to his mates while still facing the umpire. He wasn't appealing and had already started celebrating.
Now let's bring out the rulebook.
ICC's Code of Conduct, under Guidelines for Offences, says practice of celebrating a dismissal before the decision has been given may also constitute excessive appealing.
Lee's act could have drawn a fine. But didn't. Not even a reprimand.
And exhibit # 2...
Do not get this writer wrong.
He is not of the opinion that sportspersons should be fined just because they expressed emotion "unlawfully". The law is an ass. In cricket, even more so.
The point is, if Lee could get away with something like that then why fine Rohit Sharma when he expresses displeasure at being wrongly given out?
Why are there different laws for different teams?
Then, there's Andrew Symonds.
The ICC Code of Conduct describes a Level 1.4 offence as using language that is obscene, offensive or insulting and/or the making of an obscene gesture. This includes swearing and obscene gestures, which are not directed at another person such as swearing in frustration at one's own poor play or fortune.
Wasn't Symonds questioning Harbhajan Singh's sexual orientation in the Sydney Test? In any case, why was he taking out his frustration on Ishant Sharma after getting out?
Exhibit # 3, 4, 5, 6...
Coming to Ishant being fined in Sydney, video footage shows it was Symonds who initiated the exchange. Ishant retaliated, and was fined without fail under the only provision that made a punishment possible.
Here's the rule for a Level 1.5 offence: pointing or gesturing towards the pavilion in an aggressive manner by a bowler or other member of the fielding side upon the dismissal of a batsman.
So it is not OK for a batsman to be pointed back to the pavilion. But it is perfectly OK if the captain of the Australian team taunts an opposition batsman as he walks back to the pavilion.
Meanwhile, Symonds was not even summoned by the match referee for what could have been a Level 1.4 offence.
The Gayle incident
Then, there's Michael Clarke.
Those of you who can lip-read will know Clarke's exact words when he dubiously caught Sourav Ganguly in that Test. Did the match referee call him?
West Indies batsman Chris Gayle is known to be reserved and unassuming. But in the Champions Trophy in India, we saw another side of Gayle. This one sledged and stalked the opposition batsman -- guess who? -- Clarke.
Gayle was on to Clarke like a shadow, and sledged him no end till Clarke gave his wicket away. The match referee promptly fined Gayle, who responded to the fine in his newspaper column saying that the perpetrator of that exchange got away scot-free.
Clarke, and the rest of the Australian team were not even cautioned about their behaviour. And the Champions Trophy ended in disgrace, with the Australian captain himself pushing Sharad Pawar off the presentation ceremony stage.
Sitting at home, watching the game on TV, you and I may think we could do better than ICC's match referees and third umpires. When the law is an ass, we are entitled to feel that way.
Therefore, when these incidents appear loaded against one team while favouring another, it's easy to cry "racism". But are we justified in going there? Whatever the case may be, ICC's handling of situations such as these shows that the game's governing body hasn't done enough to shed its anti-Asian image.
If you need proof that the ICC has had problems with its Asian members, look no further than this quote by Malcolm Speed, the chief executive.
He said: "New Zealand are in the semi-final of the Champions Trophy with a population of four million. They don't have a lot of money, but they are consistent. India last won a [ICC] cricketing event in 1983."
Speed is also a lawyer, and he would measure his words more carefully than most. He took this pot shot at India during the Champions Trophy when the BCCI-ICC relations weren't exactly at their rosy best. His words were chosen carefully.
It's anybody's guess when we would stop seeing match-officiating as anti-Asian. But until that happens, we continue to let umpires insult our intelligence and match referees question our humanity.