David Boon's verdict to slap a fine on Ravindra Jadeja, the Indian Board's move to challenge the decision and the ICC's move to stand by its match referee have a lot of similarities with the Mike Denness incident in Port Elizabeth in January 2001.
The Jadeja versus James Anderson row is hotting up the day after media reports on Sunday suggested that the Indian all-rounder had raised his bat to strike the England bowler. On Day 2 of the Trent Bridge Test at Nottingham on July 10, Jadeja and Anderson were involved in an altercation while returning for a break.
The altercation has dominated an otherwise well-contested series as India try to protect their 1-0 lead taken in the second Test at Lord's. The third of the five-Test series is underway at Southampton. But the Nottingham event has striking similarities with the controversial Port Elizabeth Test in 2001 when match referee Mike Denness pulled up the Indian team for a number of code of conduct violations.
Contrary to what Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni claimed during a press conference in Southampton on Saturday, reports have emerged that Jadeja had reacted violently, even raising his bat to strike Anderson. ICC Match referee David Boon has already fined Jadeja 50 per cent of his match fee.
According to a report in ESPNCricinfo, England witnesses Ben Stokes and Matt Prior suggested to Boon during a hearing that "Jadeja had turned threateningly towards Anderson, and the England fast bowler had acted in self defence." Dhoni said Jadeja was never aggressive and kept his bat tucked under his arm.
Stokes even claimed that Jadeja pushed Anderson first. With no video evidence available, the ICC judicial commissioner, Gordon Lewis, will have to rely solely on witnesses during the August 1 hearing on the Level 3 charge against Anderson. The pacer can be banned for up to four Tests if found guilty.
The Indian Board is already up in arms against the ICC. Dhoni echoed India's sentiments at a media briefing saying the ICC penalty was "hurtful." The ICC has asked the Indian and English camps to respect the decisions made by the match referee. Considering the fact that India and England have good terms at the ICC Board level, this entire episode comes as a surprise.
BCCI has in the past taken tough stands against ICC match referees. In January 2001, India even refused to play a Test match in South Africa protesting against ICC match referee Denness. The former England batsman had charged Sachin Tendulkar for ball-tampering and the Sourav Ganguly-led Indian team for over-appealing during the second Test at Port Elizabeth.
Even as ICC backed Denness, then BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya wanted him sacked. Denness was accused of racism but the ICC defended him. The third Test at Centurion was declared unofficial. Ganguly sat out and Rahul Dravid captain the team.
The Trent Bridge row has similar trends. Unlike the Denness episode where no South African player was at fault, Anderson seems to be the bigger offender in this altercation for apparently having triggered it. This time, however, BCCI seems to be more restrained. ICC, like it has traditionally been, is backing Boon's decision.
In a recent interview to NDTV, former Aussie Test captain Steve Waugh called this incident "trivial." Much like 2001, the whole affair is rather unnecessary and long-drawn. It surely is spoiling the fun of some quality Test cricket.
Good sense needs to prevail over the respective cricket Boards first. After all, India and England have taken leadership roles in redefining how international cricket will be governed in future. The longer the Jadeja-Anderson row drags, India, England and ICC will be seen in poor light.