Cricket: Mustafa Kamal it is time go and go you must NOW!

India and Bangladesh fought out the second quarter final of the Cricket World Cup on Thursday.  India won the game moderately easily after amassing 302 batting first, an innings anchored by a 137 run innings from Rohit Sharma.

Sharma’s innings had a tone of controversy about it: on 90 he hit a waist high full toss in the air that was caught.  However, the umpires decided, as the laws of cricket prescribe, that it was a no ball and Sharma was judged to be not out.

In a game where Bangladesh only scored 193 and, frankly, were outplayed in all aspects of the game that should have been the end of it.

It wasn’t though because Mustafa Kamal made these comments on Bangladesh TV:

“There was no quality in the umpiring. It looked like they took the field after it (the outcome) was pre-arranged,” he alleged.

“I cannot represent the Indian Cricket Council. If someone has imposed a result on us, in that case no one can accept it,” added Kamal

Who is Mr Kamal you ask? Well he is the President of the International Cricket Council.  That’s right: this is the man elected by the members of the ICC to lead the Council.  He just called the umpires in the second quarter final, Aleem Dar and Ian Gould (two of the best in the game), match fixers and cheats.

Yes, the CEO of the ICC, David Richardson, has come out in the strongest possible defence of the umpires and yes, Mr Kamal has stated that he was commenting as a fan of the game and not the president of the ICC.

However, frankly, the context of the comments means absolutely nothing! This is not some bloke in the pub or on social media blowing up about a bad umpiring decision.  This is the president of the governing body of the game of cricket internationally saying that the umpires are cheats.  That is just not acceptable no matter the excuse and no matter how much the CEO of the ICC bites back about those comments.

This is simple: Mustafa Kamal CAN NOT be the president of the ICC for another second.  Every second he remains the president of the ICC there is a question mark around the integrity of the umpires in question, the Indian team and, more broadly, the game.  He must go! If he does not do it of his own accord then the ICC should convene a meeting of its board immediately (not after the World Cup is over), via phone if necessary, and vote Mustafa Kamal out as president for bring the game into disrepute.

Mustafa Kamal: your comments are disgrace, against the Spirit of Cricket and defamatory.  Do the right thing and quit for the good of the game.

Cricket: Ajmal banned … but will it stick?

Saeed Ajmal, Pakistan’s spin wizard and the taker of over 400 combined international wickets since 2008, was banned from bowling in all forms of the game having been found to have an illegal bowling action.

For those who missed it the ICC has been quoted thusly:

“An independent analysis has found the bowling action of Pakistan’s offspinner Saeed Ajmal to be illegal and, as such, the player has been suspended from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect,” the ICC said. “The analysis revealed that all his deliveries exceeded the 15 degrees level of tolerance permitted under the regulations.”

The testing was undertaken at the National Cricket Centre in Brisbane by an ICC accredited panel of bio-mechanical experts.

Whilst there are conspiracy theories already abounding on social media about Ajmal’s tests and banning and there have just as many advocates for simply allowing Ajmal to keep bowling because he, and his ilk, are “good for the game” it is important to note that, as the laws of the game presently stand this is the only decision available to the ICC given the view that the bio-mechanical experts have taken.

The conspiracy theorists and Ajmal advocates clearly do not understand the law or the process.  That being the case it is worth setting same out as follows.

The Law

Law 24, Clause 3 of the Laws of Cricket defines a fair delivery with respect to the arm:

A ball is fairly delivered in respect of the arm if, once the bowler’s arm has reached the level of the shoulder in the delivery swing, the elbow joint is not straightened partially or completely from that point until the ball has left the hand. This definition shall not debar a bowler from flexing or rotating the wrist in the delivery swing.

Since 2003 this law has been interpreted as having a level of tolerance when it comes to straightening the elbow joint by no more than 15 degrees.  Put differently: a bowling action will be illegal if, in delivery, the elbow joint is straightened by more than 15 degrees.

The process from here

Effectively, Ajmal is now banned from bowling in all forms of cricket until he can prove that his bowling action, for all deliveries, is legal. Because this is Ajmal’s first suspension he can apply for reinstatement at any point in time.

Of course, there is an appeal process which can be summarised as follows:

  • The player can seek a hearing appealing the decision of the bio-mechanical experts.
  • The appeal is held in front of bowling review group selected by the ICC.
  • This group will review evidence and decide, by a simple majority vote, on the legality of the player’s action.
  • If the player is cleared the suspension will be lifted immediately.  If not the player can still apply for reinstatement assuming he can prove that he has corrected his action.

Will the ban stick?

It will be very interested to see if Ajmal’s ban is upheld when the inevitable appeal is made.  Ajmal has been quoted in the press as follows:

“My elbow is not usual so that’s why it seems that I bend it more than the normal 15 degrees allowed.”

This is an argument that has been in defence of other bowlers with questionable actions who have been allowed to continue to play the game and, indeed, set bowling records.

Ajmal is a one of the best bowlers in the game.  He is presently the number 1 bowler in the ICC ODI rankings.  His banning is massive news in the game.  That said: if his action is in breach of Law 24, Clause 3 then he, just like any other player must go through the process.

I, for one, hope the ICC resists the temptation to subvert their own process and, absent compelling evidence on appeal, set aside Ajmal’s ban on the grounds of his stature in the game.  I also hope that Ajmal takes remedial action and returns as bowler with a legal action because his bowling a delight to watch when he is in form.

This is certainly not the last we have heard of this story by a long chalk and the next machinations will fascinate.

Jadeja v Anderson: why making a complaint was the right thing to do!

I have read with much amusement the shenanigans going on between the England and India test match cricket teams in England this week.  For those how have missed it here is a summation of what has gone on:

  • James Anderson (England) and Ravindra Jadeja (India) were involved in a verbal altercation during the first test at Trent Bridge last week.
  • That altercation continued after the players adjourned from the field for a lunch break which lead to a physical altercation.
  • Said altercation was not witnessed by the umpires and no report was made to the match referee, David Boon, about it.
  • When the Indian team raised the matter with Boon he suggested the teams work it out amongst themselves.
  • India, not sated, complained to higher-ups within the ICC leading to Anderson being charged with a Level 3 breach of the ICC Code of Conduct.
  • England have made a complaint now against the Jadeja.

Much has been made in the competing press about the charges and whether India should have pushed the matter the way that they have.  The fact is that I think they were 100% right to make the complaint they did and here is why:

  • The issue of player behaviour on the field is one that has been festering for some time.  I have no cavil with sledging, as I have written about before, but increasingly, particularly in situations where one team is on top in a game, we are seeing overt discussions between opposing players that continue for more than just a ball but for overs on end and, indeed, whole days of play.  This is, at best, ugly, and, at worst, not in the spirit of the game.  The fact that another such incident spilled over the change rooms might be OK in country cricket but it can not be acceptable at the top level of the game.
  • The days of players “going around the back of the pavilion” to sort out a problem are long gone.  Anyone cogently suggesting that the players should have been left to their own devices to do that is not instep with current community values.
  • James Anderson is a serial offender when it comes to going to too far when it comes to sledging and on field aggression and, one suspects, the fact that he has not been brought into line played a part in his poor conduct on this occasion.  Let’s not forget that in all of the kerfuffle about Michael Clarke’s threat to “break Anderson’s arm” in the first test at the Gabba in 2013 it was Anderson who had threatened physical violence against George Bailey that lead to that confrontation.

There is a lot of anger and aggression, it would seem, between certain teams in international cricket at the moment.  It seems every game involving Australia, South Africa, England and India (or a combination of any of them) includes an unseemly incident or series of incidents between the teams.  The fact that one of those incidents has spilled over to an off the field incident necessarily requires a strong response and by complaining to the ICC, India should be applauded for the stand they are taking.

PostScript: It is not lost on me that India are often the most aggressive of teams in that list noted above and, indeed, it might be considered hypocritical for them to be such an active complainant here.  I concede that their conduct is not blameless but at some point someone has to take a stand and I am glad that someone had regardless of who it is or how hypocritical it might be.

Cricket: Some thoughts on match fixing and corruption

You couldn’t be a cricket fan and not either know about the recent revelations surrounding Lou Vincent’s evidence to the ICC nor have an opinion on it.

I have held fire on making a comment of any significance as I have been keen to see how things are played out in either the ICC disciplinary hearings or in the court hearings that may follow if criminal charges are laid.

That said, the more I think about it there are some issues that comment does not need to wait for those things to happen for them to made.

1. How is appropriate that Vincent’s evidence has been leaked?

Am I alone in being very bothered about the fact that Lou Vincent’s evidence has been papered all over newspapers and cricket news websites? I allude from what has been printed that Vincent has made admissions of bad conduct however he is also entitled to due process and to have details of his evidence plastered all over the cricket media before he has (or had) been charged and found guilty is reprehensible.  The ICC should be ashamed about this leak and about how this matter has been handled.

2. I know it is cheating but does cheating in games of no consequence matter?

I have scanned with interest the evidence given (allegedly) by Vincent.  It is striking that none of the allegations relating to fixing games include games on either the international stage or of a first class nature.  It is simple: the games in question are, frankly, insignificant in the realm of world cricket.  They are domestic T20 and other short form games.  This raises a question in my mind as to whether the level of culpability here is as great as if the games in question had have been a test match or an international match.  It is only my own view but I think it does.  Putting the question in the title a different way: is cheating in a match that does not matter really cheating?

3. It is obvious that this is the tip of the iceberg: what comes next might horrify … is the ICC up for it?

It sticks out like the proverbial that what has been stated in the press as being what Lou Vincent has admitted to is merely the tip of a very very large iceberg of corruption in cricket.  There is just too much money floating around the game, particularly in the subcontinent, for there not to me more going on is certainly my gut instinct.  I fear we are on the cusp of another “Cronje” incident and I wonder whether the ICC and its investigators are up to the challenge of investigating what is obviously a very sophisticated operation.  They have snared Lou Vincent here, it would seem, largely off his own admissions.  What would they be doing without said admissions?  I expect we would still not be talking about corruption in cricket because the ICC just don’t seem to have the skills to get an investigation over the line (don’t forget the last international fixing scandal was actually discovered by a British tabloid newspaper).  That needs to change and change quickly.

Corruption of any type is a scourge on society as is cheating.  I look forward to seeing what happens at the inevitable ICC disciplinary hearing / court hearings and hope that the ICC is lifting its game to find the next tranche of offenders because they are out there!

Australia in South Africa 2014: South Africa responds to David Warner and get it 100% right!

I wrote yesterday about David Warner’s comments alleging, effectively, that South Africa’s players had tampered with the ball during the Second Test match at St George’s (link available here: Australia in South Africa 2014: It is time to say it … “Please David, stop talking!” « Shumpty Speaks

Today the South African team manager, Mohammed Moosagee, replied as follows:

”David Warner’s remarks are disappointing and discouraging. It takes the gloss off a great Proteas team performance,’’ Moosagee told South African newspaper DFA.

“It smacks of sour grapes and it could just be a tactical plan to get us involved in matters that will distract our attention from this crucial Test in Cape Town.

“Hardly anyone takes anything David Warner says serious.’’

South Africa’s manager is absolutely spot on.  I repeat the sentiment of what I wrote yesterday: it is time for David Warner to remain moot on topics like this both for the betterment of his standing in the game and for Australian cricket in general.

I hope the ICC looks at the comments of Warner and takes the appropriate action.  It is the only way he will ever learn.

Cricket: Shillingford, Samuels and 15 degrees

The International Cricket Council has announced that West Indian off spinner Shane Shillingford has been suspended from bowling in international cricket as a result of failing a biomechanical test after a report made last month during a test match in Mumbai against India. The testing found that his standard and quicker deliveries both exhibited an elbow extension in his bowling action that exceeded the 15 degree level of tolerance allowed under the ICC regulations.

This is the second time Shillingford has been banned from bowling, having been reported and failed a biomechanical test in November 2010. He resumed bowling after remedial work in June 2011.

Marlon Samuels was reported at the same time as Shillingford and was found to have a suspect action when bowling his faster ball only and thus he is now restrained from bowling that faster ball in international cricket. He too has been banned from bowling before by the ICC having been reported in February 2008 and resumed bowling in September 2011.

There are two astonishing aspects to this case:

1. Shillingford has been allowed to play in the first two tests of the current West Indian series in New Zealand. He played a significant role in the first test match in reducing the New Zealanders to 4/79 chasing 112 to win. Whilst that match ended in a draw, what would have been the position now if he have managed to bowl the West Indies to victory? That victory would be tainted by the use of a bowler with a banned action and, arguably, if it had have happened, the New Zealanders would have every reason to feel very hardly done by. Surely this situation, being a player being allowed to play in test matches whilst under investigation, must be looked at. I am all for people being innocent until proven guilty but where a player has the ability to materially effect the course of a test match I am of the view that the player must be stood down pending the completion of the investigation rather than being allowed to blithely play on.

2. Samuels’ ban is only related to his faster ball and is only in international cricket. It was obvious to all who watched him in domestic T20 competition this year that his elbow was past the 15 degree limitation and yet neither the IPL or Big Bash League administrators did anything to stop him from bowler. It is seems incongruous to allow a bowler to keep bowling despite one of his two delivery types having been found in breach of the laws. The ICC needs to look closely at this result and the cricket community more broadly needs to look at the imposition of an ICC penalty applying across all domestic cricket as well.

I feel sorry for any player found to have fallen foul of the ICC’s regulations when it comes to the angle of their bowling arm because there are few more difficult stigma’s to shake in cricket than being called a chucker. Nonetheless, the fact that players under investigation and one found in breach continues to play despite that finding makes a mockery of the rules and the ICC’s enforcement of them.