The ones who get away, and those who don't
I've seen several quotes in the Australian media about how the likes of Harbhajan, Ganguly, etc. have been so frequent visitors to the match referees' rooms, unlike Australian players, which proved that Australia plays the game 'hard and fair'. Sample this gem from Mark Waugh. Keep in mind that 'Junior' has said a few stupid
things in the recent past for us to not take his words completely at face value.
And in terms of sledging, certainly a couple of Australian players can take it over the top on some occasions - but overall, they aren't too bad when you look at the fines and penalties for each country.
The statement indicates to me that Australia's cricketers, despite going over the top on some occasions, don't get pulled up by ICC match referees. How about using some data to strengthen the hypothesis? I documented all the various rulings by ICC match referees listed in the 'ICC Code of Conduct hearings and their outcomes'
section of the ICC website from 1992 (when the code was introduced) to 2007. Some aspects of the analysis that need to be mentioned:
- Penalties imposed for logo violations were excluded.
- The outcome is purely based on the instances reported on the website. There would be several occasions where the match referee has dozed off. Such issues aren't captured in this analysis. For e.g., McGrath v Sarwan, over-rate issues, such as in the 2005 Ashes, on England's 2006 tour of India and the recently concluded India-Australia series (India was the only team to average 14 overs an hour in a single inning. Australia twice bowled less than 13 an hour. Across the tests, India averaged 13.4 overs an hour while Australia averaged 13.2 overs an hour).
- There's no categorization based on the size of the penalty (match fee percentage or number of games).
- Any instance of multiple penalties (match fee fine + game ban) is categorized in the higher penalty (game ban). Suspended sentences count as reprimands, unless there is a financial penalty, in which case it gets categorized as a match fee fine.
- I'm almost certain I've accounted for all the non-logo issue match referee decisions, but the accuracy of the data could be linked to the fact that this post is going up at around 2 am!
There have been a total of 291 hearings by match referees: 29 of those resulted in a ban (one or more internationals), 22 resulted in a not guilty verdict, 63 finished up with a reprimand (including instances where the penalty was a suspended sentence) and 177 ended with financial penalties imposed on the player/official.
2001 was the busiest year (35 players pulled up), with 2004 and 2005 seeing 33 players pulled up. 2002 seems to have been an abnormally quiet year (6 visits). Perhaps the players used up their quotas in 2001!
Inzamam leads the players list (12 times, with 3 bans). At #2 is another perennial favourite, Sourav Ganguly (10 times, with 4 bans). Since Inzamam is now retired
, Ganguly is very well placed to get to #1. Glenn McGrath, Graeme Smith and Shoaib Akhtar have 6 visits to their names. Special mentions for Sreesanth, who made his test debut in 2006 but notched up 3 visits to the ref in the span of 1.5 years and Graeme Smith, who debuted in 2002 and has already been hauled up 6 times, including 2 bans!
Pakistan leads with 56 visits to the ref's room, India is 2nd with 49, Australia is 3rd with 37, just ahead of South Africa's 36. I believe it is sufficient to consider the data in the context of these teams alone, primarily since the percentages could get skewed with teams who don't see the refs too often. Special mentions for West Indies and Sri Lanka who only got called to the refs' rooms 20 and 19 times. Over a data set of 15 years, that is a very good indicator that these two teams are fairly ... fair!
In terms of match referee verdicts where there was no penalty (financial or ban), Australia is a clear-cut winner. On nearly 30% of the occasions (29.7% - 11 out of 37), there was either a reprimand or a 'not guilty' verdict. The percentage of times Pakistan, South Africa and India were not penalized was fairly similar (25%, 22.2% and 26.5% respectively). Among those 4 teams, Australia's cricketers were banned the fewest times (5.4% - 2 out of 37, one of them being Darren Lehmann
) while Pakistan copped it hardest (23.2% - 13 out of 56). Interestingly enough, South Africa copped it worse (13.9% bans - 5 out of 36) than India (10.2% bans - 5 out of 49).
To me, this is an indication that Australia does get away with it more often than others. Plus, there're probably umpteen other instances where the match referee, umpires or the ICC didn't even get to laying down charges. I'm not saying that this isn't likely for other teams, but based on the number of times Australia have not been penalized that is the inference I draw.
Glenn McGrath was found guilty of spitting at an opponent in 1999, and paid up 30% of his match fee. On another occasion, Damien Fleming pushed a Sri Lankan batsman after dismissing him. He paid up 50%. Then there was Slater losing it against Dravid
despite the third umpire ruling not-out. In 2004, Langer was ruled not guilty despite dislodging a bail himself and then appealing for a hit-wicket in a match against Sri Lanka.
I believe it is high time the cricketing world called the bluff on Australia playing 'hard and fair' and hence not being taken to task by match referees. If India's financial clout has resulted in the board resorting to brinkmanship on a number of occasions, Australia's cricketing clout has potentially resulted in match referees looking the other way when Australia's players flout the rules, or letting them off with a 'Naughty boy. Don't do it again, ok?' warning.
Labels: australia, ban, icc, ind v aus 2008, india, match referee, over rates, pakistan, south africa, statistic