I happened to read an article on cricinfo.com some days ago, in which former umpire Darrel Harper was reported to have said that allowing Indian captain M.S. Dhoni to get away with his very public criticism of an umpire flagged off an era of 'selective management' by the ICC.
I can largely empathise with Harper. Whatever the reason, it is wholly unacceptable for a captain to publicly speak out against an umpire. If it is indeed true that Dhoni told Harper that India had had problems with him earlier, then Dhoni deserves a suspension, never mind the fact that Darrel Harper did not put it on record or the fact that Harper has a reputation of being an over-bearing and abrasive character.
Nevertheless, Darrel Harper's claim that this 'begins' an era of selective management is absolutely incorrect. I have followed the game closely since the mid 90s and truth be told, selective management has been the way the game has been administered ever since I started following the game- possibly even earlier. I can remember countless instances when the administrators blatantly apply different standards for different people.
There has been much talk about Abhinav Mukund's act of charging at the umpire while appealing in the first test. But there is nothing new in it. Back in 1996-97, two young Indian players in their first season- Saurav Ganguly and Pankaj Dharmani- were fined for similarly charging at the umpire while appealing and Indian paceman David Johnson was fined for dissent for rubbing the shoulder in pain when he was given out caught off his shoulder. The same match refree turned a blind eye to the fact that Shaun Pollock flung the ball at Dravid without provocation in the same series, or that Allan Donald later that season abused Dravid in full view of the cameras in a crucial game.
Less than a year later, the South African captain, in a moment of frustrated impotence passed a whole stump through the third umpire's room after a desperately fought draw at Adelaide. The match refree Ranjan Madugalle did not consider the action significant enough to so issue so much as a warning to Hansie Cronje. The same refree fined Indian seamer Venkatesh Prasad for over the top celebrations when he got a wicket in Australia two seasons later.
The ICC Champions Trophy showcased the game's administration at its inconsistent best again. Chris Gayle was fined for initiating physical contact with Michael Clarke. The match refree Mike Proctor, for some reason best known to himself, did not take into account the fact that it was Michael Clarke who provoked it in the first place. The same refree was in charge when the Harbhajan-Symonds blow up happened a year and a half later. In the proceedings that followed, Mr. Proctor decided that Symonds' claim had a greater ring of truth to it, eventhough he had not a single witness to back his claim.
Take for that matter the Border-Gavaskar trophy in 2008. Remember that incident when Gautam Gambhir accidentally ran into the bowler Simon Katich? Anyone who witnessed Katich's ugly outburst would recollect that it was the Australian southpaw who was at fault in the first place. The match refree Chris Broad did not consider the incident worth acting on. The same Chris broad fined Gambhir later in the series for elbowing Watson, making no account for the abuse that the Australians were dishing out to him.
And to top it all is Stuart Broad. The English fast bowler is a player I admire personally. Nevertheless, even an admirer like me cannot turn a blind eye to his repeated transgressions. Time and again, the young man has acted in a manner that's very petulant and extremely unbecoming of an international player when things haven't gone his way, not least when he flung the ball at Zulqarnain Haider in the Edgbaston test last year. Not even once has he copped a suspension till date. Its hard to imagine a player from the sub-continent getting away with much less.
We could perhaps go on about the number of instances when match refrees blatantly followed different rules for different teams and that is scarcely the objective of this article. That point I wish to make is that there is absolutely nothing new in the selectiveness of the manner in which the game is administered. The only difference is that the newly powerful too are in the list of favoured nations now.