MS Dhoni isn’t a man given to displaying his emotions, on or off the cricket field. On the eve of the third England-India Test at Ageas Bowl in Southampton, however, he made an exception. The best way to describe his mood when he spoke of the fine handed down to Ravindra Jadeja – for the alleged altercation with James Anderson at Trent Bridge – would be controlled fury.
Players these days are generally advised not to comment on any International Cricket Council decision or other controversial subjects. But there was no holding back from Dhoni when he was asked his thoughts on Jadeja being fined 50% of his match fee after David Boon, the match referee, found him guilty of a Level 1 offence under the ICC’s Code of Conduct.
“To me, it’s a very hurtful decision,” he said on Saturday (July 26). “Frankly, I feel a lot of things were neglected in judging the case. 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 has 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 regained his balance. Then, he turned to see what was happening.
“On the basis of that, he is fined. We were told it was against the spirit of the game. But we can’t ignore whatever has happened. If somebody is saying something to you from behind, and you just turn and look, that’s not aggressive. The bat was under his armpit throughout, and right from the call for lunch till the time he entered the dressing room, not one word was spoken by him.
“I feel there were a lot of things that were neglected. It’s for you guys to decide based on whatever I’m saying – if I’ve not lied about the facts – if what Jadeja did was aggressive. I don’t think there was even a bit of aggression in that and that’s the reason I’m very hurt by the verdict given.”
Boon found Jadeja guilty of acting “contrary to the spirit of the game”, a Level 1 offence. The original charge England had levelled against him was Level 2. It alleged that he “turned suddenly and took steps towards Anderson in an aggressive and threatening manner”. Boon did not find enough evidence to support that claim.
The irony of Jadeja’s alleged offence being downgraded to Level 1 was not lost on Dhoni. No appeal is possible, unlike for a Level 2 verdict, though Dhoni did suggest that he had requested the BCCI to pursue the matter through legal channels.
“The allegation was for a Level 2 (offence) and Jadeja gets punished under Level 1,” pointed out Dhoni. “The beauty of Level 1 is you cannot appeal against it. But the BCCI and the legals are working things out. We are definitely not at all happy with the verdict. I have dictated what the facts were.”
He even resorted to sarcasm to make his point. “If we go into the lobby now and from behind, if I say ‘excuse me’, and you turn around, that can be an act of aggression from your side, especially if you have a camera or something else in your hand. Then I push you because I’m defending myself, and you turn around and face me square on, that’s an even worse act of aggression. We’ll have to see how it goes. But if I’m here to judge, I don’t think Jadeja did anything.”
Dhoni also indicated that the verdict would make it harder for him to stop his players retaliating in kind. “Tomorrow, if I ask one of my players to not say a word, and that we’ll report it to the match referee, he might be like: ‘whatever happens, we’ll get fined 50%. I’m better off abusing the guy. Whatever he has said, I’ll reciprocate in a similar manner because 50% of my match money is gone because of the other guy abusing me.’”
Southampton has only ever hosted one Test, a damp squib of an affair against Sri Lanka. The thermometer was pushing 30C on the eve of the game, and judging by Dhoni’s comments, there’s every indication that this could be a feisty, hot-tempered affair.