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Words like ‘f**k’ common on field says Matt Prior

According to Anderson’s version, it was Jadeja who was the aggressor and without provocation.

By: Express News Service | Southampton | Updated: August 4, 2014 1:06 pm
According to the verdict, the positioning of the players ensured that any words spoken by James Anderson from the left were directed at MS Dhoni in the middle and not at Ravindra Jadeja on the right. But that is not what the pacer had been charged with in the first place. Source: File Photo According to the verdict, the positioning of the players ensured that any words spoken by James Anderson from the left were directed at MS Dhoni in the middle and not at Ravindra Jadeja on the right. But that is not what the pacer had been charged with in the first place. Source: File Photo

Believes Matt Prior, who in his role as a witness in the Jadeja-Anderson hearing said so to judicial commissioner Gordon Lewis. That, and umpire Oxenford not finding MS Dhoni being called a ‘f**king fat c**t’ by Anderson serious enough to lodge a report, forced Lewis to conclude in his written verdict that ‘this exchange taken at its worst does not warrant any disciplinary action’. Excerpts from the verdict.

In the matter of a level 3 offence alleged by ICC to have been committed by Mr James Anderson on the 10th July, 2014. 

In the matter of an appeal by Mr Jadeja against a decision by the Match Referee dated 25th July, 2014.

Although these two disciplinary matters were heard together, that did not alter the fact that two separate charges against different players were before this disciplinary tribunal, involving offences alleged at two different levels and thus requiring the application of two different standards of proof.

The first in time involves a charge against Mr Anderson that he has committed a level 3 offence under the Code in that he has breached Article 2.3.3 in that he has been guilty of conduct that is either: (a) contrary to the spirit of the game, or (b) brings the game into disrepute.

The conduct complained of is verbally threatening Mr Jadeja at the end of the morning session Thursday 10 July 2014, while players were still on the field but leaving for lunch and/or by pushing Jadeja in the back while in the corridor to the changing rooms and/or by aggressively telling Jadeja to get back to his dressing room.

The totality of the level 3 charge against Anderson can be broken down into three specific happenings.

1. A verbal exchange at the boundary line between Anderson and Jadeja, with Mr. Dhoni present, on 10th July, 2014.

2. A physical incident in the corridor leading to the changing rooms in which Anderson is alleged to have pushed Jadeja in the back.

3. Anderson, using obscene language to tell Jadeja to go to his dressing room.

I will deal with these matters a seriatim. As with virtually everything else happening as the players left the field for lunch, there are conflicting versions of what happened. Jadeja made a statement and gave oral evidence that Anderson continued to abuse him after lunch break.

Although Jadeja says he can speak some English ,”but is by no means fluent”, apparently he could still understand Anderson when he said to him, “what the f**k are you smiling at. I will knock your f**king teeth out in the dressing room”.

This was apparently responded to by the Indian captain Dhoni, who told Anderson that if he came to the Indian dressing room he, (Dhoni) “would squeeze the juice out of him (Anderson)”. Unfortunately, although there is video of the three players close to the boundary of the ground, before entering the corridor leading to the dressing rooms, there is no audio to evidence this exchange. In his written statement, Anderson agreed that as he left the field for lunch, he Dhoni and Jadeja exchanged some words. He said there was nothing particularly heated as they left the ground and he also stopped close to the steps to clap Dhoni and Jadeja off the field.

In his oral evidence, Anderson said he really could not remember what was said in the conversation with Dhoni, but said it was not particularly heated. He added he very much doubted he would have said the words attributed to him and that he only remembered speaking to Dhoni in any event. Contrary to his reference to Jadeja in his written statement, he could not remember saying anything to Jadeja. Anderson pointed out that Jadeja was on the other side of Dhoni, who was nearest to him.

Without audio of the incident, I am not comfortably satisfied that the incident as described by Dhoni and Jadeja took place as they describe. Certainly because of the positioning of the players, it seems more likely that any words from Anderson were directed at Dhoni, which is not what he is charged with. However, even accepting the version of events given by Dhoni and Jadeja and noting Anderson’s rather vague denial, in my view this exchange taken at its worst, does not warrant any disciplinary action.

First, according to the witness Prior, the words ‘f**k’ and ‘f**king’ are common place on an international cricket field. Second, it is not in issue that earlier in the morning umpire Oxenford took the action he describes in his statement where he said, “I heard Anderson use foul and abusive language at Dhoni. In particular, I heard him say “you’re a f**king fat c**t to Dhoni”.

Umpire’s version

However, apart from ordering Anderson to say nothing further to the batsman (I assume of an abusive nature), Umpire Oxenford did not deem that language sufficiently serious to lodge a report about the incident with the match referee, even though it seems to have been in breach of article 2.1.4 in that it was language that was obscene, offensive and insulting.

In my view what umpire Oxenford heard was much worse than the exchange ascribed to Anderson at the boundary line. I can only assume that a much more robust approach is taken by umpires to swearing in the Test arena than I had previously imagined and the boundary exchange does not warrant disciplinary action if the earlier insult directed to Dhoni did not.

Essentially, the Indian position is that without provocation, Anderson pushed Jadeja in the back causing him to turn around. Jadeja said Anderson continued to abuse him in the corridor and had ultimately pushed him in the back and told him to “f**king go back to the dressing room”. Jadeja denies any aggression on his part and denies that he ever turned around or did anything that could be considered aggressive on his part. To the extent that any of the alleged conduct was viewed by other Indian players and team staff members, they support Jadeja’s evidence.

According to Anderson’s version, it was Jadeja who was the aggressor and without provocation.

In the corridor, as they approached the steps that led upstairs, Anderson said that Jadeja suddenly turned around and aggressively came towards him and “got right up in my face”. He said he instinctively put up his hands as Jadeja still had a cricket bat in his hand. He said that he put up his hands in a defensive manner because of the way in which Jadeja came at him. Anderson claims to have been completely taken aback by Jadeja’s “aggressive action”.

According to Anderson, Jadeja’s action in walking back to stop in front of him caused Jadeja to block Anderson’s way and the way of his team mates who were coming behind him. Anderson said he then used his right arm to push Jadeja’s shoulder to get him to turn around and go back towards the Indian dressing room. He agrees he said words along the lines, “f**k off and get in your dressing room”.

Importantly, Anderson denies pushing Jadeja in the back or in any way provoking him after entering the corridor.

Obviously one version of the facts must be untrue, but the existing CCTV image is unhelpful and the witnesses hopelessly biased in favour of one party or the other. The closest I heard to an unbiased account of events was the oral evidence of Senior Steward David

Doyle. It is uncontested that he was at the bottom of the stairs leading to the changing rooms.

He said in his written statement that as the batsmen were about to go up the stairs, “I saw Jadeja suddenly turn around and start to walk back towards the England players. I couldn’t see who exactly he was heading towards. As Jadeja was turning, Dhoni stopped him and turned him back and they both then proceeded up the stairs to the changing rooms.”

In his oral evidence by telephone, Mr Doyle said Jadeja “took one or two steps back towards the England players”. He also said that Dhoni stopped him and turned him back.

Conflicting versions

Thus I have been confronted by two vastly different versions of the one incident. In one version Anderson is the aggressor both physically and verbally. In the other, Anderson is responding to aggression by Jadeja and the physical contact that I find did occur, was caused by Jadeja, and Anderson’s direction to him to go to his dressing room, was a knee jerk reaction to an unexpected physical confrontation.

Ironically, the dilemma I was confronted with, was unconsciously solved for me by Mr Lewis Q.C. in his final submission. During that submission Mr Lewis posited his “two push theory” for which there was not an iota of evidence. And that submission I suspect came from Mr Lewis’ frustration in trying to make sense out of two totally conflicting versions of the evidence. It was an effort to find an explanation for the inexplicable, based on the conflicting evidence the tribunal had heard.

He was helpfully guessing at what might have happened and inadvertently inviting me to do the same. whatever a tribunal should or should not do, is to guess to achieve an outcome. In short I do not know on the evidence, and to the relevant standard of proof, what happened in the corridor leading to the stairway in those few seconds after the batsmen and fielding side came in for lunch. I cannot be comfortably satisfied as to the truth of either version of the evidence.

Accordingly, as I have already announced, the charges (in the alternative against Anderson) are dismissed and because I would be no more comfortably satisfied that the standard of proof had been met if I had downgraded them, I have chosen not to adopt that course.

Turning now to the proceeding laid by the ECB against Jadeja, in relation to which he has appealed, it is a level 2 charge based on a similar set of facts relied on in the Anderson case defence. Here the circumstances are confined to the corridor leading to the stairs to the players’ dressing rooms and the evidence advanced in support of the charge comes mainly from Anderson and a number of members of the England team.

I am satisfied that personal contact did occur between Anderson and Jadeja, but the extent and force of that contact is unknown, despite Jadeja’s response in cross examination, that the push was hard and caused him to break stride. That evidence seemed to me to be a recent embellishment, as Jadeja had not previously said this nor had any other witness. In short, I am not satisfied that the level 2 charge against Jadeja has been made out to a standard of proof with which I am comfortably satisfied and as I have previously announced, his appeal against the ruling of the Match Referee is upheld.

Finally, as a newly appointed Judicial Commissioner, I urge the ICC to conduct an immediate review of its Code of Conduct, as these proceedings have highlighted a number of inadequacies in the Code and situations with which it cannot easily cope. That concludes the reasons for my decisions.

(His Honour Gordon Lewis AM Judicial Commissioner 3rd August, 2014)

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