Mike Denness, put up or shut up!
By Prem Panicker
Rediff On The Net
Tuesday, November 20, 2001
On Monday evening, shortly after the completion of the
fourth day's play in the second India-RSA Test at Port
Elizabeth, news broke that the Indian team, en masse, had
been hauled up by the match referee for various offences.
The instinctive reaction would be to accuse match referee
and former England captain Mike Denness of bias, or
worse. But it could be more instructive to examine the
incident in some detail -- with reference to the ICC code
that Mr Denness is there to enforce.
And before getting to the issues themselves, it is
perhaps pertinent to question the way in which this
action has been carried out.
On Sunday evening, word is leaked to certain sections of
the media that the South African television company
responsible for producing the images for live coverage
has handed over to Denness a video clip allegedly showing
Sachin Tendulkar tampering with the ball. The story is
accompanied by a comment that the match referee is
studying the incident.
On Monday, the match referee in the morning intimates to
the ESPN-Star network, which is responsible for the
commentary, that he sees no reason to believe that
Tendulkar is guilty of the offence. Later in the day, it
is indicated that the match referee has summoned
Tendulkar and several other Indians for another meeting.
Further, that he is in close consultation with the ICC.
And finally, late the same evening, the media is tipped
off that Denness is going to find Tendulkar guilty of
ball tampering, Sehwag guilty of excessive appealing, and
assorted other Indian players guilty of assorted other
acts of mayhem. We are told, further, that Denness
himself will issue a statement on Tuesday.
It begs the question -- why? If Tendulkar is guilty, why
did the match referee find it necessary to leak the news
of his thoughts, rather than come up with the official
statement immediately? If Sehwag is to be suspended for
excessive appealing, why did Denness need to inform the
media about it, prior to his official statement?
In political circles they call this a trial balloon -- a
favourite tactic of governments everywhere. When a
government is not sure about the fallout of some
contemplated act, you will find a story in the media that
runs "Sources close to the government indicated that
there is a possibility that such and such an act is
Then the reaction is assessed -- and if it is negative,
the government then comes up with an official statement
that goes something like this: "Nooooooooooo, who said we
were going to do any such thing? That is all a creation
of the media".
For those of us who have been in journalism for a while,
this particular tactic is old hat -- and easily
recognisable, even when translated into cricketing
Now examine the mechanics of the incident, firstly in
relation to ball tampering. And ask yourself a couple of
First, is it a fact that umpires are expected to examine
the ball at regular intervals to determine if it had been
Yes. As per the ICC's rulebook, Law 5 governing Test-
Playing Conditions reads, in relevant part, thus: "The
umpires shall retain possession of the match balls
throughout the duration of the match when play is not
actually taking place. During play umpires shall
periodically and irregularly inspect the condition of the
ball and shall retain possession of it at the fall of a
wicket, a drinks interval, at the end of every over, or
any other disruption in play." . . .
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