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In an unexpected development, England paceman James Anderson has been accused by the Indian team manager of abusing and pushing Ravindra Jadeja. Arunabha Sengupta looks back at the on-field interactions between the two to find if there was any hint of personal differences.
The ICC Media release about James Anderson and his supposed altercation with Ravindra Jadeja carried with it more than a little bewilderment. Reportedly, the incident took place on the second day of the Test match on Thursday. The media, however, had little clue even a day after the end of the game on Sunday.
According to the statement issued by ICC, “England fast bowler James Anderson has been charged under Level 3 of the ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel by India team manager Sunil Dev following an alleged incident that took place on the second day of the first cricket Test at Trent Bridge.”
While the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has expressed shock that Anderson has been thus charged for what according to them is a ‘minor incident’, the allegations are serious. It involves abusing and pushing as they left the field for lunch and comes under Article 2.3.3 of the ICC Code of Conduct: “Where the facts of the alleged incident are not adequately or clearly covered by any of the above offences, conduct that either: (a) is contrary to the spirit of the game; or (b) brings the game into disrepute.”
The ECB has not elaborated on the incident apart from saying that Anderson has denied the charge. However, the pace bowler does stand the chance of a ban from a few international matches if the ICC appointed Judicial Commissioner does indeed find him guilty.
The incident has, as stated, come as a bolt from the blue. Anderson, who appeared in the press conference after the first day’s play, made a reappearance on Saturday, the fourth afternoon, in the company of Joe Root. It was apt that the two came in to face the media after the miraculous tenth wicket partnership amounting to 198 runs. None of the pressmen had any idea about the alleged face-off — not one of the questions even hinted at anything untoward between the teams.
However, if we look at the forensic footprints left by the action on the field, some circumstantial evidence can be detected from of the facts and figures.
Reconstructing the events
On the second afternoon, Anderson had bowled the last over before lunch.
In his previous over, Jadeja had clipped him off the pads for four. Off the first ball of the last over, Jadeja played and missed. The bowler and the keeper went up vociferously, and umpire Bruce Oxenford remained unfazed and unmoved. There was no hint of an edge on the replays making the resulting appeal look somewhat incongruous. Jadeja indeed may have been less than amused at the theatrics. He steered the next ball for a single and got off strike. Captain MS Dhoni took a single off the third ball, Jadeja another off the fourth, Dhoni again another off the fifth. Bowling on the most placid English wicket of recent times, Anderson could not have been too happy at the strike being rotated at will against his bowling. The final ball of the over was from round the wicket, angled in to the body and short, and decisively played to cover by the Indian left-hander.
It is of course a matter of conjecture, but retrofitting the events, one can perhaps imagine the two contestants walking off in a bubble of competitiveness. Jadeja had just struck Moeen Ali for two sixes, his adrenaline was perhaps surging around. Anderson could not have been too pleased with a morning session that had produced just one wicket. The appeal in the last over may have played its part, with Anderson feeling disgruntled at the negative decision and Jadeja not quite fascinated by the unnecessary histrionics.
The symptoms are more striking when one considers what followed after the ugly incident while the players walked in for the break. Anderson did not bowl to Jadeja again during the Indian innings. The action needs to be traced from the moment the England tailender came in to bat.
He had just arrived at the wicket, with England still trailing by a huge margin. Jadeja’s first ball to him jumped off the rough and beat everything on the way to go for two byes. And off the second, Anderson essayed a brutal reverse-sweep for four. The next time he faced Jadeja, he blocked a ball and reverse-swept again, sending the ball off past point for another boundary.
When Joe Root appeared in front of the press after the day’s play, yours truly asked him whether he had any inkling that Anderson would come out reverse sweeping everything in sight. Root had chuckled while answering that it showed how much the bowler worked on his batting and enjoyed it. Did it also show pent up anger against Jadeja? One wonders. Jimmy Anderson reverse sweeping is not a very common feature of cricket, and the man has been around for quite a while.
The following morning, Anderson faced Jadeja once again, and by that time he had already gone past his fifty. After two balls of inaction, what happened to the third? That’s right. Another reverse sweep, this time going for four in between Dhoni’s legs.
Three more balls from Jadeja passed by without much taking place before Anderson attempted the stroke again, this time being struck on the pads. The first ball of the next over was swept for four, this time in the conventional way and with considerable violence. Off the second, the reverse sweep was attempted again, resulting in a faint bottom edge. The remaining balls Anderson faced from Jadeja in the innings contained a fair percentage of slog sweeps and attempted reverse sweeps.
The reverse sweep may have been a tactic adopted by Anderson against left-arm spin. He did play one against Rangana Herath as Joe Root compiled his double hundred at Lord’s earlier this season. However, that had been the only such stroke of the innings. The purposefulness, frequency and violence of the strokes essayed in the innings against Jadeja may well hint at a personal confrontation between the two.
Let us move to the third showdown. Jadeja now faced Anderson on the fifth morning, India in more than a spot of bother, five wickets down, the lead hardly substantial, a fair chance of losing the Test. Anderson was bowling a probing line. And what did Jadeja do? After edging the first ball just short of slip, he stepped down the wicket off the second. It took his thigh pad on the way to the leg side and the umpire signalled dead ball. Two sane balls followed from Anderson to Jadeja and then out he jumped again, head in the air, the bat heaved in a hideous scythe-like arc, trying to hit over cover. Luckily he did not get a touch and Dhoni walked down the wicket to have a word with his all-rounder.
A period of lull followed. Dhoni was bowled by Liam Plunkett, and India slipped further from safety. With Stuart Binny joining him, Jadeja was on no score from 37 balls. And then he opened his account. How? With India precariously positioned at 185 for six, Jadeja jumped down the track and hoisted Anderson back over his head. The ball went for a boundary and the bowler clapped. The applause dripped with heavy sarcasm.
Anderson was taken off. When he resumed after lunch to Jadeja with the new ball, the first delivery was struck past point for four. And off the first ball of his next over he got his man, moving it away and inducing an edge.
Looking back, it may well be playing into the hands of confirmation bias – however, Anderson’s furious reverse sweeps and Jadeja charges down the wicket to the paceman in the midst of a tottering Indian innings do point towards a pitched battle within the bigger war.
The unfortunate incident could not have come at a worse time for the extreme fans of the game. With the football World Cup reaching its climax on the same day as the Nottingham Test winded up to its anti-climactic end, many had contrasted the sport of physical violence, kicking, shoving, head butting and even biting with the comparable antiseptic atmosphere of cricket. While weighing a contact sport against a non-contact sport does not make too much sense, the Jadeja-Anderson incident has probably done enough to silence this line of argument.
One wonders what lies in store for the Lancashire paceman who has just celebrated his first half century anywhere outside his backyard. Should he be pronounced guilty, his amazing 81 will forever remain mixed with murky memories.
(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry.He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)
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