Wahab Riaz-Shane Watson sportsmanship mocks ICC fine; no action yet against Kamal Mustafa!

H Natarajan questions the fines slapped by the ICC on Wahab Riaz and Shane Watson and asks why the apex body has not taken penal action at its own president for publicly questioning the credibility of the umpires.

It was a spell from hell. Wahab Riaz fired a fusillade of guided missiles close to 150 kmph at the helmeted head of Shane Watson. It was war out there, and the Pakistani was lethal. It was scary. Riaz won the battle — well, almost; it was most definitely a moral win — but Pakistan lost the war. Riaz lacked the support of his army in the warzone.

The spell that Riaz bowled rekindled memories of the fearsome stuff bowled by Jeff Thomson and Dennis Lillee against England in 1974-75, the dreaded West Indies pace quartet under Clive Lloyd at their pomp and, more recently, Mitch Johnson in the Ashes. But those were in Test matches when bowlers of that pace could bowl with five slips and two gullies and a few more hovering around in close-in on the leg side. But I can’t recall a spell as lethal as Riaz’s in the 2015 World Cup quarter-finals in a One-Day International. It was great advertisement for a game that is so shamelessly designed to favour the batsmen. It was great theatre and the Adelaide Oval had transformed into a Roman coliseum.

It would have been truly commendable had the International Cricket Council (ICC) spoke about what a high-quality bowler can do to a batsman — a very seasoned one at that — if he had the skill. But even as the cricketing literati were extolling what was arguably the most gripping moment of the 2015 World Cup, the ICC threw a wet blanket by fining the two gladiators; Watson and Wahab were docked 15 and 50 per cent of their match fees respectively for their ‘unacceptable’ behaviour.

Any fast bowler would be pumped up under the circumstances. And Riaz was. He baited Watson to hook him. He even blew sarcastic kisses at the batsman. They even exchanged a few words; but it did not look nasty, at least on TV.

 

riaz
There was no apparent unacceptable and visible acrimony and, most importantly, at the end of it all Riaz went up and patted Watson. The world saw that. It was a powerful message of true sportsmanship.

watto and riaz
Apparently, match referee Ranjan Madugalle factored a moment in the 33rd over. A statement from the ICC said: “Watson ignored the umpires’ instructions and verbally engaged with Wahab. “(Wahab) followed through towards the batsman and used aggressive and abusive language.”

ICC went by the cold letters of the law book than the spirit of the contest. Whatever fleetingly unacceptable, it was not heard or seen by anybody other than close to the scene of action. The TV audience certainly did not see or hear anything. Most importantly, the match referee should have seen the reactions of the two protagonists once the game was done and dusted with.

Watson and Riaz did not stop there. In a rare act of public acceptance, Shane Watson tributed the Pakistan paceman on Twitter by saying that he was “lucky to have come unscathed”. This from a hardened pro — and an Aussie at that! And he completed his tweet with two hashtags: #Nohardfeelings #Respect

Riaz, on his part, responded to the tweet. “It was a good battle on the feild (sic). U played well” and wished him the very best for the semis against India.

 

The two tweets, retweeted and favourited by thousands of Twitteratis, made the ICC fine look even more amiss.

In conclusion, I would like to say that if the ICC indeed want to set things right, it should have started by looking inward. What kind of penal action has it taken on its own president [Mustafa Kamal] who publicly pointed fingers at the integrity of the umpires of the India-Bangladesh quarter-final? And this castigation against the very umpires his body has appointed. Kamal’s intemperate words were unprecedented, shocking and required a swift penal action from the ICC.

 

 

But there has been no so far, and probably there will be none. That is the kind of duplicity the world has seen from the apex body of cricket. Sad.
(H Natarajan is a journalistic schizophrenic who oscillates between two polar opposite forms of writing — analytical and insightful on the one hand, and rib-tickling humour on the other)