NEW DELHI: Cricket’s governing body was accused Thursday of allowing the series between India and Australia to descend into anarchy after Steve Smith and Virat Kohli escaped punishment over the arch-rivals’ latest bust-up.
Ex-players slammed the International Cricket Council for not issuing sanctions after Indian skipper Kohli accused his counterpart Smith of abusing the decision review system (DRS) during the second Test.
One Australian newspaper accused the ICC of being “gutless” in its efforts to quell what is the latest in a series of ugly spats between Test cricket’s top two sides and their captains.
The trigger for the latest row came on Tuesday, when Smith was seen looking to the Australian dressing-room while considering appealing against his dismissal for lbw as Australia were going down to a 75-run defeat.
The rules forbid players from consulting with anyone off the field about whether to seek a review from the umpires.
Smith admitted he had been at fault, but put it down to a one-off “brain-fade”. But an angry Kohli said it was far from an isolated incident, suggesting it had been happening for the entire Test.
That prompted a furious response from the Australian board, who said that any questioning of Smith’s integrity was “outrageous”.
India’s board asked the ICC to “take cognizance” of Smith’s admission but instead of punishing either captain, the organisation said it would bring them together for a clear-the-air meeting.
There was particular anger in the Indian camp that Kohli’s conduct had even been called into question, with several former players hinting at bias in the ranks of the ICC.
Former Indian wicketkeeper and ex-selector Saba Karim said the ICC’s statement was “bizarre”.
“Why would somebody from the ICC even talk about Virat Kohli?” Karim told AFP.
“He was not even involved in that incident. Virat Kohli only bought it to the notice of the umpires that this is not the first time it has happened.”
Former Indian opener Chetan Chauhan was similarly scathing.
“I am really surprised with the decision of the ICC and I am sure lot of people will be upset about it as Steve Smith’s gesture was absolutely clear,” Chauhan told AFP.
“There is no doubt that he was asking for help from the support staff in the dressing room, which is against the rules and against the spirit of the game laid down by the ICC, and action should have been taken.”
– ‘Favourable treatment’ –
Speaking on Indian television, former captain Sunil Gavaskar said that he “would love to see” India emulate Smith’s tactics after the series resumes in Ranchi on March 16 and then see how the ICC responds.
“If something similar is done by an Indian player, looking up to the dressing-room… he should not be pulled up at all,” Gavaskar told NDTV.
“It can’t be that some countries get favourable treatment and some countries do not get favourable treatment.”
While the board has been steadfast in its support of Smith, several former Australian players were critical of his conduct including ex-skippers Steve Waugh and Michael Clarke.
Former fast bowler Merv Hughes told an Australian radio station Thursday that there could be no doubt about Smith’s guilt.
“It’s not a twisting of the rules, it’s a breaking of the rules, there’s no doubt about that,” he told Adelaide’s Sportsday programme.
In an article headlined “Gutless ICC”, Australia’s Daily Telegraph said that the ICC had “waved the white flag and virtually allowed anarchy to potentially mar the rest of the series”.
The Sydney Morning Herald said relations between the two teams were now “at their lowest point since the ‘Monkeygate’ scandal” in 2008, when Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh was accused of calling Andrew Symonds a monkey.
Kohli himself was fined 50 percent of his match fee three years ago for bringing the game into disrepute after flashing the middle finger to the crowd in the Sydney Test.
Smith also raised the temperature ahead of the current series by telling his players to “go for it” when asked about his views on sledging.