Sometimes there are enough cues from the proceedings on the field of play to understand what’s going on behind the scenes.
While allowing the International Cricket Council’s law to take its course in the James Anderson and Ravindra Jadeja case, it is obvious there are clear instructions from the men in authority in both cricket Boards to the teams not to make a circus of the incident.
On the day the ICC appointed the Judicial Commisioner to hear the case, the teams looked keen to get on with the game.
When Ravindra Jadeja walked in to bat, there was a lot more to take note of than just the technique of the batsman, the bowling or field placements. It would give a good idea of the line of thinking of both the teams, and by extension, their respective boards.
The batsman’s long walk from the pavilion to the middle was accompanied by a continuous stream of boos from the packed stands. Painted as the villain for ‘scheming’ to take down the home team’s star player, the left-hander was a hated figure.
Stuart Broad was bowling when Jadeja took guard at the score of 123 for 5. However, the buzz around the stands was in anticipation of the next over. This Test’s main battle, off the field as well as on it, is to be fought between Anderson and Jadeja. As it happens every time such a row erupts, the fielding captain instinctively throws the ball to the bowler to get his man, giving him the chance to get even, make his statement. Cook had already declared on the eve of the game that Anderson will let the ball do the talking.
To the surprise of many, Cook didn’t allow that battle to happen. Ironically, of all the bowlers, he threw the ball to part-time spinner, Moeen Ali. It defied cricketing logic too. Not only had Anderson a point to prove, he had the psychological edge over Jadeja, having ripped him apart in the last innings at Trent Bridge with a superb spell of reverse swing.
One of the enduring scenes from the last series here in 2011 was how captain Andrew Strauss would immediately get Anderson on when Sachin Tendulkar came in to bat. Here, it was not only about exploiting the psychological edge, even the conditions dictated that Anderson be brought on. Even when captains are reluctant, there are examples of the bowler in question himself going up to his skipper and asking for the ball. This time, the usually fiery Anderson was content to watch from the sidelines as Moeen and Broad had a go at Jadeja.
The Boards would have only been pleased with how the two captains have gone about handling the issue. Before eyebrows could be raised and Cook come under fire from experts for letting go of a good chance, Jadeja fell to the innocuous spin of Moeen, taking a straight ball on his pads.
While the undercurrent was palpable while Jadeja was batting, it was obvious the captains were under instructions to defuse the situation. Interestingly, immediately after Jadeja was out, Cook brought on Anderson.
The two Boards simply cannot afford to have strained relations, having only a few months ago struck a strategic partnership to take over the ICC administration. The stakes are too high to upset the alliance.