Ravindra Jadeja has been cleared. So has James Anderson.
India will be furious.
On Friday, following a six-hour hearing in Southampton, judicial commissioner Gordon Lewis found both Anderson and Jadeja not guilty of breaching the ICC Code of Conduct for their involvement in the alleged altercation that took place during the first Test at Trent Bridge, according to ESPN Cricinfo.
Anderson, accused of abusing and pushing the Indian all-rounder, escaped his Level 3 charge, which could have seen him suspended for up to four Tests, while Jadeja successfully overturned the verdict reached last week by ICC match referee David Boon that saw him fined for a Level 1 breach.
The decision—one that initially comes across as an attempt at appeasement—seems unlikely to quell the controversy.
The issue here is not the seemingly tit-for-tat nature of the accusations, nor the cynical notion that India pursued it in an attempt to undermine the strength of the England team by pushing for Anderson's suspension.
Instead, the issue centres on the inconsistency of the ICC's rulings and the precedent that has been set by Friday's verdict.
Just a week ago, Jadeja was found guilty of a Level 1 breach of the ICC Code of Conduct.
In an ICC release, per ESPN Cricinfo, Boon—who presided over the hearing—explained his decision to downgrade the offence but admitted an altercation did indeed take place:
While I was in no doubt that confrontation did occur, and that such conduct was not in the spirit of the game and should not have taken place, I was not comfortably satisfied that this was a Level 2 offence. Therefore, in exercising my discretion under Article 7.6.5 of the Code and having heard all the evidence, I was comfortably satisfied that Mr Jadeja had committed a Level 1 offence under Article 2.1.8 of the Code.
A confrontation occurred. Confrontations, of course, are not individual pursuits.
Jadeja, facing the lesser charge, is found guilty. Logical extension would suggest Anderson, up against the heavier charge, is guilty to some extent of something.
Yet, as of Friday, apparently not.
In the aftermath of Jadeja's guilty verdict, India captain MS Dhoni, who is understood to have been the major driver of India's campaign, according to Sidharth Monga of ESPN Cricinfo, expressed his strong opposition to Boon's decision.
Per Cricket Country, Dhoni said:
If you see what exactly happened... the umpire called 'lunch', and we started walking. I don’t want to take any individual's name, but one used foul language against Jadeja. I had to step in the middle. By that time, we had reached the ropes, and I thought the thing was defused. Then, when we were going through the members' area, I was ahead of Jadeja, who was a couple of yards behind me. Again, something happened. Something was told to him and he turned across to the individual. After that, he was pushed and he barely gained his balance. Then, he turned to see what was happening. On the basis of that, he is fined... not one word was spoken by him [Jadeja].
Anderson is a man who walks on the tight rope frequently. Recognised as "a player now well known to all but the most casual follower of the game as one of the most ingrained sledgers around," per David Hopps of ESPN Cricinfo, the fast bowler's confrontational style appears to have worn thin on England's visitors.
"It does not take long to find an opponent, or a past opponent, who says there is nobody worse—even if they then admit it is a crowded field," Hopps added of the Englishman's verbal reputation.
This, therefore, had become a line-in-the-sand moment for India. Despite the neglect shown to the prevention of on-field tension and altercations by umpires and the ICC alike, it seems Dhoni's India is on a mission to alter what is deemed acceptable in the heat of competition.
Understanding that the BCCI's might has the power to orchestrate change, it seems the Indian camp are on a quest to tackle a type of behaviour for which a gradual, reluctant acceptance has grown.
Not just about a single shove, India appear to be on a crusade against sustained conduct that is perceived by the visitors as offensive.
Already in this saga, the Indian camp had viewed Jadeja's initial guilty verdict as an injustice. That Anderson has been cleared of more serious wrongdoing just seven days later can only intensify that view.
India will be irate.
Perhaps more concerning, however, is how Friday's verdict will shape Test cricket in the immediate future.
Suddenly, the game has a situation in which an acknowledged confrontation between two opponents exiting the field has been deemed acceptable.
By that precedent, where do future verdicts go in any subsequent altercations? How serious do the charges need to be before action is taken? If on-field sledging and verbal barbs can escalate to an alleged physical incident between players, how can issues of this nature be prevented if the causes continue to be neglected?
Certainly, Friday's decision may have been reached due to inconclusive evidence, evidence that the plaintiff—in this case, India—must provide.
But Boon and the ICC had already indicated that enough evidence had been put forward by England to see Jadeja fined last week, acknowledging that an altercation that "should not have taken place" actually did.
Seven days later, that appears to count for nothing, leaving India to fume again, setting a dangerous precedent for future incidents at the same time.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!