| Team India vice-captain Rahul Dravid at Sydney airport on Wednesday. (AP)
Calcutta: If it was a blade of grass in Port Elizabeth, a jelly bean caused that stink in Brisbane. On both occasions, the external elements encouraged an ‘offence’ amounting to changing the condition of the ball.
Yet, Mike Denness and Clive Lloyd — the respective Match Referees — acted differently on a breach of Law 42.3 which invites penalties listed under Level 2 offences in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) Code of Conduct.
While the former England captain triggered a controversy, nobody is questioning Lloyd’s action.
Denness, it may be recalled, gave no weightage to Sachin Tendulkar’s exemplary track record and handed out a one-Test suspended sentence besides docking 75 per cent of his match fee in Port Elizabeth.
That was 26 months ago.
On Tuesday, Lloyd took Rahul Dravid’s all-clean image into account and docked just 50 per cent of his match fee in Brisbane.
Lloyd, one understands, promptly accepted the Team India vice-captain’s explanation that (a) a partially eaten jelly bean accidentally came out with the saliva and got embedded in the ball; (b) it was removed when noticed during the act of polishing.
According to The Telegraph’s sources, the Match Referee did, however, make two points: That the incident “looked awful” on TV and, secondly, he would keep Dravid’s “disciplinary record” in mind while determining the penalty.
Lloyd kept his word. Of course, he could have ‘matched’ Denness or, worse, given the maximum punishment: Docking the full match fee and/or slapping a ban which would have kept Dravid out of two ODIs.
Apparently, the light penalty has brought no relief to the very pucca Dravid, who is absolutely “devastated.”
As a confidant put it: “Dravid is conscious about his image and is happy playing role model… Irrespective of what happened, the ICC’s records will show he got booked for ball-tampering… Accepting that isn’t going to be easy…”
The gentleman added: “In fact, the last thing Dravid needed was a black mark in the home stretch of what has been a great tour for him and India… He’s totally devastated.”
Predictably, Dravid declined to speak as the Code bars him from commenting on a ruling by any Match Referee.
Captain Sourav Ganguly, though, did defend his vice-captain. “Look, nothing was premeditated… It was an honest mistake and has been accepted as one… Nothing else should be read into the incident,” he insisted, when contacted at the team hotel (Rydges Jamison).
While one hopes Dravid quickly gets over this unfortunate booking, there’s a lesson for everybody: Even the most unlikeliest ‘candidate’ can make an “honest mistake.”