What were the umpires doing at Perth?
During the first over after lunch on day two of the Perth test
in the Frank Worrell Trophy featuring Australia v West Indies, Sulieman Benn, Brad Haddin and Mitchell Johnson got into a fracas. The sequence of events, which you can see in the video on YouTube
, was approximately this:
- Haddin plays a ball towards mid wicket and sees the possibility of a quick single
- Benn, bowling from around the wicket, runs across to his right to cut off the single
- Johnson put his head down and ran, reviving memories of Forrest Gump
- Benn tries to get to the ball, and ends up looking like he was dragging Johnson back with his hand
- When the ball is 'dead', Haddin points his bat at Benn possibly asking him to stop coming in the way
- Benn is now really mad and keeps chattering & abusing away
- Gayle is standing still, first listening to Haddin's point of view and then to Benn
- Umpire Billy Bowden then steps in and asks Gayle & Benn to get on with it
- Benn, still very angry, asks Haddin some questions, throwing in a couple of obscenities rhyming with 'chuck'
- Benn then bowls an absolute ripper of a delivery that Johnson has no clue about. The batsmen cross over for a bye
- Benn is still unhappy and chattering away. He even appears to ask Johnson something, while Johnson practices his straight drive at the non-striker's end
- Benn bowls to Haddin, who drives the ball straight back. Benn threatens to throw the ball back (unsure if he was threatening to hit Haddin or the stumps) and Haddin provides a view of his stumps, requesting him to take a shot
- That was the last ball of the over. Haddin walks down the pitch grinning and saying something to Benn
- Benn tries to point out something to Haddin with his hand and accidentally brushes against Johnson
- Johnson pushes Benn away
- Bowden finally realizes things could be going from bad to worse and steps in
Purely going by what was seen on TV, there were multiple people at fault here:
- Benn - He had no business tugging at Johnson's shirt and trying to drag him back
- Haddin - He had no business pointing his bat and interfering with something that Benn & Johnson should have (and could have) sorted out between themselves
- Johnson - He can't be blamed too much because it is unlikely he would have realized that Benn brushing him was accidental. But given the heated situation at that time, pushing Benn away was a bad choice
- Bowden & Gould - The umpires are the biggest culprits here. The moment it seemed like Benn & Haddin were in a war of words, they should have stepped in and called a halt to the verbal warfare. They didn't, couldn't, or chose not to. Then, when Johnson pushed Benn away, Bowden was almost apologetically pleading with the players to move on. All this while, Gould, the square-leg umpire, was conspicuously absent, probably day-dreaming about the sumptuous lunch he had just finished
A couple of aspects of today's incident are interesting, and give me a huge sense of deja vu
Symonds v/s Harbhajan
at Sydney in early 2008: Harbhajan patted Lee on the back and Symonds, standing quite far away from the scene of action, stepped in quite unwarrantedly to save his mate's arse from Harbhajan.
Today, Benn ran into Johnson and Haddin batted on Johnson's behalf.
A couple of years ago, during the 2nd final
of the triangular ODI series in Australia, Michael Clarke, the bowler, nearly pulled down Sachin Tendulkar's pants
in order to prevent Tendulkar, at the non-striker's end, from taking a single.
There was no sign of any apology from Clarke, because he was only doing it hoping that Tendulkar's greatness would have 'rubbed off' on him. Tendulkar also seems to have rather enjoyed the fondling. Gautam Gambhir, who played the shot, did nothing. Of course, it is quite likely that this unwarranted & deliberate physical contact, and the absence of any action around it, 'inspired' him to try a similar stunt a year later
Today, Haddin couldn't keep quiet, and had to intervene. An issue that could have been sorted out in a few seconds dragged on and on. It's quite likely that there will be follow-ups over the next 3 days of the test.
Benn has now been charged with a Level 2 offence
while Haddin & Johnson have been charged with Level 1 offences under the ICC's code of conduct for players
Clause 2.2.4 refers to "Inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between Players in the course of play during an International Match".
If Benn's physical contact (the act of tugging at Johnson, for I am unaware of any other deliberate/inappropriate physical contact) was wrong, Johnson is also guilty of pushing Benn away.
Haddin would be guilty under 2.1.4 (Using language or a gesture that is obscene, offensive or insulting) or 2.1.8 (conduct that is contrary to the spirit of the game or brings the game into disrepute). I don't think he should be charged with a Level 2 offence because he only brandished his bat (admittedly, that did sort of make the whole incident a lot worse than it could have been) and almost definitely needled Benn.
Am I surprised that Haddin & Johnson are likely to get away with a lesser charge laid against them? Of course, not! We know by now
who gets away with it
Benn should actually feel proud that the Australians seem to be targetting him now. That usually happens to combustible folks who're doing well against the Aussies.
On a related note, Malcolm Conn's ghost-writer has once again forgotten
to use the magic phrase "India have been the worst-behaved team in cricket over the last decade" in his latest piece
Labels: australia, ban, benn, frank worrell trophy, haddin, icc, johnson, match referee, perth, spirit of cricket, umpires, west indies