Why is ICC brokering peace between Kohli and Smith?
Is that the right way of implementing the cricket code of conduct?
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International Cricket Council (ICC), cricket’s governing body, has chosen to play the perfect peacemaker by refusing to charge either India or Australia over the scenes that followed Steve Smith's dismissal in Bangalore.
It comes across as an attempt by the game’s governing body to avoid another flare-up between the game's leading sides, a la Monkeygate, by brushing the Bangalore tension under the carpet; particularly with both cricket boards having issued media statements backing their respective captains.
It appears a cover-up because the match referee was well within his rights, many would think duty-bound, to charge the Australian captain to explain his "brain fade". The relevant clause in the ICC code of conduct reads: “If the umpires believe the captain or batsman has received direct or indirect input emanating other than from the players on the field, then they may at their discretion decline the request for a Player Review. In particular, signals from the dressing room must not be given.”
In Smith’s case, neither were the umpires nor opposing captain Virat Kohli able to prevent Smith from seeking a second opinion in time. There is little video evidence from the live broadcast feed to confirm or refute whether Smith left the field after getting a signal from the Australian change room or he moved away sensing his folly exposed, with umpires rushing close to him.
But regardless, rules were broken by Smith’s own admission. Whether it was an honest mistake or as India charges, a systematic attempt to cheat during the test, should have been adjudicated in the match referee’s room.
The referee could also have chosen to question Kohli’s aggressive charge towards Smith to prevent his dressing room review attempt. There have been many instances in the past where players and captains have accepted their mistakes and have been let off with reprimands or fines.
Reading the fine print of the ICC media statement on the matter - “the ICC has considered both incidents in the context of this match and concluded it will be taking no further action against either player" - suggests the governing body is justifying its decision based upon the fact that the winning team did not suffer because of Smith’s act with "context of match" being the operative word.
ICC’s haste in playing peacemaker raises a number of questions. Would they have charged Smith or both captains if the act was game-changing? Is that the right way of implementing the code of conduct? More importantly, is the ICC overlooking a loophole in the Decision Review System guidelines?
The ICC’s inaction may have left a bad precedent to a situation that could potentially face them again. Given the discord between the two teams, perhaps in the not so distant future.