| Brian Lara snatches the ball from umpire Asad Rauf during deliberations over Dhoni’s dismissal. (Reuters)
Calcutta, June 6: Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s controversial “dismissal” yesterday was as much a topic of discussion as his blistering knock of 69 that included six sixes at St John’s in the first India-West Indies Test.
After 15 minutes of high drama and utter confusion, the Indian wicketkeeper-batsman was officially given out only after returning to the dressing room. Never before had Test cricket witnessed such a bizarre incident.
Match Referee Jeff Crowe, in an effort to calm nerves, had a meeting with the umpires and captains after the day’s play.
The New Zealander later issued a statement saying “everyone went away feeling pleased”, which meant the matter was closed and would not be probed further.
It also was a reprieve for Brian Lara whose aggression could have landed him in trouble.
The spectacle unfolded in the 151st over, the final one of the innings. Having hit three straight sixes off left-arm spinner Dave Mohammed, Dhoni was “caught” at the midwicket fence by Darren Ganga. This set off a flurry of reactions.
Standing umpire Asad Rauf, unsure if Ganga had overstepped the boundary line, asked third umpire Billy Doctrove to make a call. But Doctrove was “stumped” to see that TV cameras showed the fielder catching the ball, but did not cover his legs.
He told Rauf and Simon Taufel that because of inconclusive replays, he was unable to make up his mind.
Apparently, a suggestion was made that the players (the fielder and the batsman) decide as to whether the catch was clean or not.
At this stage, Lara told Dhoni that Ganga had conveyed to him that he had not stepped on to the cardboard advertising covering the ropes, and hence, the catch was clean. The West Indies captain said he was taking full responsibility for his player.
“Brian Lara came to me and said he was taking charge of his players and whatever they say was going to be the truth and ‘I think you should walk off’,” Dhoni later said.
“I was walking off the field when I had eye contact with the umpires and decided to stay put.”
Lara showed his displeasure and snatched the ball from Rauf’s hands. The umpire was visibly unhappy with the West Indies captain’s reaction. It looked like the stage was set for the next ball.
Dhoni and Mohammed Kaif were engaged in a chat in the middle when the innings declaration came through. When the batsmen returned to the dressing room, Dhoni was declared out. It was not clear which umpire took the decision.
The Indian wicketkeeper said Ganga was unsure if he had taken the catch clean. “Darren (Ganga) wasn’t sure because it was on his back side. It’s pretty hard to understand if he has stepped on to the paper (cardboard) while taking a catch,” he said.
Dhoni was also involved in another controversial third umpire dismissal in his last Test ' versus England in Mumbai.
Match Referee Ranjan Madugalle had “disciplined” the hosts after the operator ruled Dhoni run out even before the TV umpire gave his verdict.