Cricket: Captains at loggerheads over alleged abuse

MS Dhoni accuses Jimmy Anderson of physical attack but England counterpart Alastair Cook dismisses it as tactic to get fast bowler banned. Photo / AP
MS Dhoni accuses Jimmy Anderson of physical attack but England counterpart Alastair Cook dismisses it as tactic to get fast bowler banned. Photo / AP

The prospect of blood being spilled in the Long Room at Lord's was difficult to dispel today. With the second test between England and India starting at the ground tonight, relations between the teams have reached a dangerously low ebb.

Jimmy Anderson, the England fast bowler, faces being banned for up to four tests if he is found guilty of having pushed and abused the India spinner Ravindra Jadeja during the first Test at Trent Bridge last week.

But it was patently clear today that the captains, England's Alastair Cook and India's MS Dhoni, take very different views of what occurred, with Dhoni suggesting the confrontation turned physical.

"It's not something we have done, you know, let's realise the facts," Dhoni said. "In a press conference you can ask me tough questions, I have the right to answer them or not to answer them. But in no way can I go and touch you or can you come and touch me. You can put it in whatever way possible, but there are certain things that need to be followed and should be followed."

Cook, however, took a different view of events and backed Anderson to the hilt, emphasising that all the players were rallying round him.

He said he would astonished if a ban resulted from any hearing and indicated that India were motivated by a desire to ensure Anderson played no further part in the series. "I think so," he said. "I think that's pretty much where it's come from. To be honest with you, in my opinion, it's a big mountain out of a molehill. There you go, I've got a line for you. You can use that and we can hopefully talk about something else."

England seem still to be genuinely nonplussed by the reporting of Anderson under Level 3 of the ICC's code of conduct which has entailed the appointment of a judicial commissioner. A preliminary hearing will probably be held next Tuesday and the process should move quickly after that. If Anderson is found guilty he could miss between one and four Tests, starting with the match at Southampton, the third in the Investec Series.

England formally responded to India's accusation today - they felt they had little option - by bringing charges against Jadeja for his part in the incident after the players went in for lunch on the second day of the Test. It is alleged by England that after the players went into the pavilion Jadeja "turned suddenly and took steps towards Anderson in an aggressive and threatening manner".

Jadeja is charged under Level 2 of the code - England levelled the charge against him only to be seen to support Anderson, who they judge to be guilty of nothing. Jadeja can be dealt with by the match referee with a maximum of a one-match ban. But England tried desperately to broker a peace deal before it reached this stage. India were determined to pursue their grievance.

Despite the assurances of the captains, the fear is that this Test will be blighted by acrimony - both sides appear to actively dislike each other. Cook said he intended to ensure that relations were not soured further. "I'm going to sound a little bit like Arsène Wenger," he said. "I genuinely didn't see the incident. MS and I have that responsibility as captains of the sides to make sure we control our players, and do not let that happen. We have a responsibility to people watching the game, responsibility under the ICC rules. I think it will make it good viewing."

Dhoni was in no doubt that India consider Anderson's behaviour beyond the pale and with the case pending he was reluctant to go further into detail about what he knew, but he also tried to be emollient. "What I would definitely like to do is make sure the remainder of the matches are played in the right spirit," he said. "At the same time it shouldn't be very docile, we want the players to be aggressive, we want them to say a few things, but it's very important not to flow with it and cross the boundaries."

It might already have gone too far for that.

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