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Lara plays spoilsport in Antigua
by Gulu Ezekiel
Jun 10, 2006
If you are an Indian Test cricketer or fan it would be hard not to feel a sense of outrage at the end of the first Test at St. John’s, Antigua.

It appears with the World Cup in the West Indies just eight months away and the home team in crisis, the ICC is unwilling to do anything to rock the boat.

The glory days of West Indies cricket are long gone and may never be regained. But the manner in which their captain and master batsman Brian Lara behaved on the fourth day of the match, it is time to stop shedding tears over the imminent death of the Calypso cricketers.

It is hard to decide whom to blame more, —third umpire Billy Doctrove for his shocking inability to rule MS Dhoni not out when he was not certain of the boundary catch, —the time-honoured benefit of the doubt going to the batsman; Lara for the shameful way he intimidated two young batsmen (Kaif the other) at the crease and the umpires too; the on-field umpires for allowing Lara to act petulantly and then not lodging a complaint with the Match Referee or the ICC who have been thoroughly exposed when it comes to selectively imposing fines and suspensions on players.

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayarwardene was fined for a trivial incident in the Trent Bridge Test and Virender Sehwag too was punished for not turning round and appealing to the umpire on the final day.

How then can one explain away Lara getting away with cricket’s equivalent of blue murder in snatching the ball away from umpire Rauf and acting like a bully on the field? To then turn things around in his post-match comments and allege the Indians were being unsporting and also rubbish the umpires is really rubbing salt in the wounds. Such actions and words surely deserve a ban of at least one Test match.

For Doctrove to plead “moral and technical” reasons in not giving a decision and for umpires Rauf and Taufel to claim there is no visual evidence to nail Lara— (millions watched his petulance live on TV) —is nothing short of dereliction of duty on their part.

And Match Referee Jeff Crowe should be promptly removed from the panel on the same grounds.

Ironically both the umpires in separate interviews to an Indian TV news channel condemned Lara’'s actions. So how come they did not press for punishment?

To hear Ian Bishop bleat on in defence of his former captain and fellow-Trinidadian only proves that former cricketers cannot take a detached view of such matters in the way a professional journalist is capable of. Most West Indian journalists on the other hand have been severely critical of their captain'’s transgressions.

Surprisingly, when Sehwag rushed to his teammates and did not turn to appeal for the wicket on the final day, —no doubt a mistake on his part, —commentator Dean Jones was quick to bring it to the Match Referee'’s notice on air.

Where was Jones'’ eagle eye then while Lara was carrying on like a spoilt brat? Was this once brave batsman scared of the public’s reaction if he attacked their demi-god?

Whatever one’s criticisms of the previous regime that ran Indian cricket, one thing is for certain--neither Sourav Ganguly nor Jagmohan Dalmiya would have allowed Lara to go scot-free. Rahul Dravid should realize that it does not pay to play the good guy in international sport.

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