How did Jason Roy escape?
While the Australians were well-behaved at the World Cup, the England opener Jason Roy should have faced sterner punishment than just a 30 per cent match-fee fine for his outburst at umpire
Brisbane: The World Cup was largely a festival of cricket, played cheerfully and without the needle and edge that has sullied the sport in recent times. For that, the ICC and the players themselves can take the credit. The events of Cape Town 2018 and the rancorous atmosphere that preceded those dark days have left us with a legacy that may now be worth something.
It is no coincidence that this new dawn has been led by an Australian team that simply had no choice but to conduct themselves well. Credit where credit's due — they zipped their lips, smiled when they would normally have snarled and focused on themselves rather than trying to verbally unsettle their opponent. By and large, it worked too. Sixteen months ago, in the wreckage that followed Sandpapergate, a World Cup semi-final would have seemed a pipedream. Just goes to show that when you let your cricket do the talking, cricket can still be a beautiful game.
That Virat Kohli did not score a century in the World Cup is astonishing. But he stamped his mark on the tournament when he changed the tenor of the mood against Steve Smith and David Warner, beseeching the crowd to show respect to the two disgraced Australians, trying to re-ignite their careers after a year's hiatus in the wilderness. It was always going to take someone of Kohli's stature to herald the start of a new dawn, an age of grace where bitterness and bile could be replaced by skill and guile with no discernible difference in intensity.
How long will it last? To a large degree that will depend on how consistent the ICC match referees are on keeping the peace. They will set the benchmark that the cricketers will hopefully aspire to. On that topic, Jason Roy must indeed be grateful that Ranjan Madugalle has an Orwellian view on suspensions — all animals are equal but some are more equal than others!
Act of charity
Roy escaped suspension in what can only be described as an act of charity. Had he been suspended, there would have been a-gnashing of teeth from the locals who were thrilled by his dismantling of the old enemy but the ICC have now made a rod for their backs if precedent is to be any guide for future sanctions.
It begs the question; what latitude does the match referee have in deciding whether punishments can be downgraded because of the occasion? Were all players aware that a different yardstick was to be used for a World Cup semi-final? If so, is that a matter of public knowledge? On the surface of it, based on precedent, a suspension would appear to be the only recourse available to Madugalle. How he can justify a 30% match fee penalty is mind-boggling. Are we now to understand that if you play a match-winning innings, get a bad decision and the next game is a Final, then the usual rules don't apply?
Consistent ruling required
Many will argue that it would indeed be a heartless soul who would have suspended Roy for the biggest game of his career thus far. True enough. But was everyone aware that for this particular game, the usual rules didn't apply? What if Roy had been given out for a low score before he had blasted Australia out of the tournament? Do we allow more latitude for dissent over a poor decision? If so, let's apply that rule for every bad decision then. And does an audible obscenity become any less offensive when it is World Cup semi-final? Were there fewer children watching this game than some meaningless triangular series in the Arabian desert night?
We've seen this happen before. MS Dhoni's antics in the IPL this year went unpunished. How to sanction a superstar? Who would dare put the bell on the cat? Surely not a lowly match referee who earns a fraction of the amount that the cricketers make and relies on the goodwill of the Boards and the influential powerbrokers (including cricketers) to ensure he remains on the ICC panel. We've seen this in tennis recently where spoilt brats, millionaires a few times over, try to humiliate and bully umpires who are meant to try and control them but are reminded that they are very low on the pecking order.
Fittingly, in the shadows of my precious MCC where the Spirit of Cricket was always drilled into us as club members, we can celebrate a World Cup that has been played with a joie de vivre that defines the great history of our beloved sport.
Michael Jeh is a Brisbane-based former first-class cricketer
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