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A controversy that the game could have avoided
Krishnamachari Srikkanth - 26 November 2001

Mike Denness
© CricInfo
Mike Denness might not be present at Centurion, but his shadow looms large over the 'Test' being played between the Indian and South African sides. The ridiculous decisions taken by the 60-year-old England match referee has triggered a most unseemly and unnecessary controversy. Suddenly the famous catch-phrase - 'Nothing official about it' - which we have come to associate with a famous soft-drink, does not seem clever any more.

The first blunder that Denness made was penalising more than half the Indian team at Port Elizabeth. It was a step that lacked reason and fairness. How else can you explain Virender Sehwag, a greenhorn who was playing only his second Test, being slapped with an immediate ban for excessive appealing, while Shaun Pollock, the South African captain and a veteran of over 50 Tests, was allowed to go scot-free despite being guilty of similar behaviour?

Denness then precipitated a graver crisis by refusing to resign as match referee, even after the Indian and South African Boards insisted on his removal. The former England captain surely must have known that all it needed to ease the situation was a statement from him that he had willingly decided to step down as match referee to protect the larger interests of the game. But after being ham-handed, he decided to also become pig-headed.

Moving to the cricket, I was surprised to discover that Sehwag’s name was missing from the Indian eleven on match day. There was little reason to keep the young man on the sidelines after the International Cricket Council (ICC) had deemed the Test ‘unofficial’. I felt that it also defeated the purpose of calling into question the fairness and legality of Denness’ decisions.

The Indian batsmen, after being asked to bat, failed again. It was another bumbling act by our willow-wielders on a good pitch. The loose shots that Shiv Sunder Das, VVS Laxman and Sachin Tendulkar played meant that India again failed to post even a mildly challenging total. What befuddles me is the reason behind the Indian failures on even good batting pitches abroad. The pitches in this series, for instance, have been full of runs, but we have still seen the Indians surrender meekly on more occasions that one. The devil probably lies not in the pitches but in the minds of the batsmen. Also, a lack of healthy dedication and judicious shot-selection has meant that the team continues to suffer humiliating defeats abroad.

Deep Dasgupta
For once the lower order, though, put up a fight, and that was indeed pleasing to see. Particular mention must be made of Deep Dasgupta, who has been one of the finds of the tour (the other of course being Sehwag). The young wicket-keeper showed great temperament and application. It was good to see him adapt quickly to his new role as a lower middle-order batsman. His work behind the stumps is also improving, and my impression is that India at last has found a wicket- keeper/ batsman who can serve them well in the coming years. Dasgupta now needs to be groomed with care and treated with respect.

The fightback by Dasgupta and Anil Kumble notwithstanding, the failure of the top order has seen the South Africans race away to a more-than- healthy lead. With enough time remaining in the game, the home side look well on course to win the game and justify the 2-0 verdict that the ICC have already awarded in their favour.

© CricInfo

Other Articles by Krish Srikkanth



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