@Ben_Wisden 5 minute read
The ongoing England-India Test series has been an ill-tempered one, and as he often is, James Anderson has been at the heart of it.
The most significant flashpoint came in the second Test, when Jasprit Bumrah bowled a 10-ball over to Anderson, filled with short balls and oversteps, striking the No.11 multiple times. The pair exchanged words after leaving the pitch, with Anderson later saying that he “felt he wasn’t trying to get me out”. When Bumrah came out to bat in the second innings, the tailender took full toll of a similar short-pitched attack, playing a match-winning innings. KL Rahul summed up India’s mentality at the post-match presentation: “If you come after one of our guys, all 11 are going to come back at you”.
There were eerie similarities to an incident in 2014. Then, just like now, India had overturned an English advantage to win a Test at Lord’s with a sparky lower-order batting effort motivated by bad blood between the sides, with Ravindra Jadeja in the Bumrah role and Anderson in the, er, Anderson role. But, as with many sequels, the original was fierier, angrier and more serious, with the Englishman coming close to copping a ban that could have ruled him out for the whole series, and both boards getting involved in a brouhaha that spilled out from the dressing rooms and into the courtroom.
Unlike in 2021, this was a spat that began in the first Test of the series before spilling into the second. While the on-field action at Trent Bridge was dull, a bore draw on a flat pitch mostly remembered for Anderson scoring 81 and Alastair Cook taking his only Test wicket, off-field – and, vitally, off-screen – there was drama. Just before lunch on day two, Jadeja survived a caught-behind appeal off Anderson, with the pair exchanging words as they walked off. Then, after leaving the field, something happened, in a narrow corridor leading to the two dressing rooms, though exactly what remains unclear to this day.
Two days after the Test concluded, India team manager Sunil Dev lodged a complaint, with Anderson charged with a Level 3 offence for allegedly “abusing and pushing” Jadeja, in danger of a ban between two and four Tests long if found guilty.
“Mahi [Dhoni] and everyone complained that he [Anderson] physically touched him [Jadeja] and pushed him. It was all over the dressing room,” Dev told ESPNcricinfo. “It is serious matter only because you can’t push anybody. So I put in a complaint with the match referee.”
In a release, the ECB termed it a “minor incident”, but subsequently brought a Level 2 charge against Jadeja for his involvement. Mediation between the BCCI and ECB failed. The captains offered their takes, with Cook terming it a “mountain out of a molehill” and wondering if it was a “tactic” by India to rule Anderson out of the series. MS Dhoni, meanwhile, initially attempted to avoid answering questions, citing legal requirements, before praising Jadeja’s restraint in not retaliating.
“It was good on Jadeja’s part to not really do something,” he said. “It could have gone a bit far, but I felt he addressed this in the most appropriate manner.”
Between the complaints being lodged and the hearings taking place, there was the small matter of a Lord’s Test match. Jadeja, under pressure for his place from R Ashwin coming into the game, hit 68 to take India from effectively 211-7 in the third innings to a lead of over 300, swashbuckling in trademark fashion. India went on to win by 95 runs, with Ishant Sharma claiming 7-74 in the chase. It was a mere prelude to the controversy that was still heating up.
With the Test done and the hearings set to begin, there was discontent behind closed doors from the BCCI that crucial CCTV footage had not been made available. They felt it would show Anderson initiating physical contact with Jadeja, but a Notts CCC spokesperson confirmed that it had not been active at the time of the incident. In the end, the cases revolved around witness accounts from both sides.
Jadeja’s hearing, for a less serious charge, came first, and while the Level 2 charge was not upheld, match referee David Boon fined him 50 percent of his match fee for “conduct contrary to the spirit of the game”. India were incensed, with Dhoni speaking impassionedly to the press.
“To me, it is a very hurtful decision,” he said. “A lot of things were neglected in judging the case. If you see, what exactly happened, the umpires called for lunch and we started walking. I don’t want to take any other individual’s name. We started walking, and the other individual started using foul language against Jadeja. I had to step in the middle. And by the time we reached the ropes I thought the thing has diffused.
“By the time we were going through the members’ area I was ahead of Jadeja. Jadeja was a couple of yards behind me. Again something happened. Something was told to him. And he just turned across to the individual, and after that he was pushed. And he barely gained his balance, and he turned to see as to what is happening. And on the basis of that he is fined.
“It was said that it was against the spirit of the game, and everything. What we have to see is, we can’t ignore what has happened. If someone is saying something to you from behind and you just turn and you look, that is not aggressive. Especially the fact that the bat was under his armpit throughout – right from lunch till he entered the dressing room. Not one word was spoken by him.
“So a lot of things were neglected. It’s for you guys to decide the things I am saying and if I have not lied. When it comes to factual matter, Jadeja – whatever he did – was not aggressive. I don’t think there was even a little bit of aggression in that, and that is why I am very hurt by the verdict that has been given.”
Testimonies from each side differed. England’s players stated Jadeja instigated the matter by turning around. India’s contested that Jadeja only did so after being repeatedly sworn at. Matt Prior put forward that Jadeja raised his bat dangerously towards Anderson. Dhoni insisted Jadeja’s bat remained tucked under his arm at all times. Ben Stokes suggested Jadeja pushed Anderson first. Jadeja swore he never touched anyone. The only unbiased observer, steward David Doyle, could offer only a partial account.
If it all felt rather playground and juvenile, the consequences could have been serious. But, with Jadeja’s appeal heard alongside Anderson’s hearing, both were found not guilty. No one came out of the judgement of judicial commissioner Gordon Lewis looking good. He described all witnesses, Doyle apart, as “hopelessly biased”, and suggested that some of Jadeja’s testimony, having only appeared recently, was an “embellishment”. Anderson, for his part, admitted to swearing, but little else.
Still the matter wasn’t quite done, with the BCCI requesting another appeal, this time against Anderson, and Lewis arguing the ICC’s Code of Conduct needed to be rewritten. It then emerged that, during mediation, the ECB had offered to investigate Anderson themselves, and given he received no punishment at all, such a compromise might have ended up preferable for the BCCI.
In the end, the issue fizzled out, not unlike India’s efforts in that series. A free man once more, it was Anderson who seemed to have gained extra motivation, taking 16 wickets at 13 in the last three Tests, all won by England, set against seven wickets at 34 in the opening two. Jadeja, meanwhile, was dropped for the final Test. With England having claimed a dominant third-Test win this time around, just as they did in 2014, India will hope the similarities have come to an end.