Alastair Cook believes India have cynically escalated James Anderson’s spat with Ravindra Jadeja in the hope England’s premier bowler may be banned for part of the Investec series.
Cook described the reported altercation between Anderson and Jadeja at Trent Bridge, and the tourists’ response to it, as a case of making a “mountain out of a molehill”.
India elevated their allegations against Anderson, “pushing and abusing” Jadeja as the pair made their way through the narrow lobby of the pavilion for lunch on day two of the first Test, to Level 3.
That implies a seriousness commensurate to a much heavier penalty scale than those prescribed for more Level 1 or even 2 offences.
The potential punishment for a player found guilty of a Level 3 offence, under the International Cricket Council’s code of conduct, extends to a four-Test suspension.
Only three Level 3 charges have previously been made, although Level 4 also exists.
The England and Wales Cricket Board responded immediately by describing last week’s incident as “minor”, and Cook confirmed at his press conference on the eve of today’s second Test at Lord’s that a counter-allegation Level 2 charge against Jadeja has been sent to the ICC.
All Level 2 breaches carry a fine of between 50-100 per cent of a match fee or a possible one-Test ban.
Cook was unequivocal when asked if India’s motivation might be to try to eliminate Anderson for latter stages of the five-match series, which stands at 0-0 after the Nottingham stalemate.
“I think so. I think that’s pretty much where it’s come from,” he said. “It’s probably a tactic from India, if we’re being honest.”
Anderson and Jadeja’s disagreement began after the all-rounder was given not-out caught-behind to the seamer, and continued as the teams made their way off for lunch.
There have been suggestions that India might have become poorly disposed towards Anderson previously and made the charge on that basis, rather than merely because of what did or did not take place in the Trent Bridge stairwell.
Cook said: “I think it should be on that one incident... they should make sure it’s that.
“In my opinion, it’s a big mountain out of a molehill ...
“We’re surprised it’s come to the situation it has come to.”
Cook must ensure that the controversy does not put his team off their game, as they try to arrest a run of nine Tests without victory – England’s worst Test sequence for more than 20 years.
“We just can’t let this be a distraction for us as a side,” he said.
“We can’t sit here in five days’ time, and (be talking about) the build-up to it.
“There’s been to-ing and fro-ing between Jimmy, (England coach) Peter Moores and the hierarchy at the ECB as well... and there has been a charge levelled back at Jadeja.
“I think that’s quite obviously reasonable.”
Cook declined to discuss the specifics of the incident, because he is not allowed to do so.
However, he did appear to momentarily forget that protocol when he added: “We’re just surprised it’s a level three incident, after hearing they’ve started it – certainly after hearing what happened.”
A hearing before a judicial commissioner, within 14 days but with the possibility of further delay in extenuating circumstances, is the established ICC procedure for a Level 3 incident.
Anderson is therefore almost certain to be free to play at Lord’s, and probably in next week’s third Test in Southampton, but will surely have extra unhelpful matters on his mind at both venues.
India’s captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is unrepentant about India’s decision.
Dhoni was close at hand when the altercation took place, but remains convinced that the tourists have merely responded as they must to a serious matter.
“Definitely, that’s what we think,” he said.
“We felt what happened was wrong, so we went ahead with the charges.”
Dhoni also dismissed Cook’s allegation that it was a ploy to try and eliminate Anderson during the remainder of the series.
“It’s not something we have done... let’s realise the facts,” said the India captain.
“In a press conference you can ask me tough questions; I have the right to answer them or not to answer them. But in no way can I go and touch you, or you can come and touch me.
“You can put it in whatever way possible, but there are certain things that need to be followed and should be followed.”
Dhoni concedes his team have not always been blameless in inevitable occasional Test match confrontations.
“We talk a lot about the spirit of the game and the guidelines that need to be followed,” he said.
“There have been a few individuals from our side in the past that have crossed that line.
“You can be aggressive; you can be vocal – that’s fine. But there are certain guidelines that are laid (down), and we should be following all of them.”
Dhoni hopes relations between the teams will not be soured for the rest of the summer. “I’m not really worried about that,” said Dhoni.
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