Gautam Gambhir was handed a one-match ban for breaching the ICC's Code of Conduct for the second time in twelve months. Chris Broad, the match referee, told the Indian team of his decision on Friday morning, after reviewing evidence in the case. A level 2 offence allows a player to appeal any punishment imposed and the Board of Control for Cricket in India announced through a press release that Gambhir would be exercising this option in due course.
Gambhir, who elbowed Shane Watson in the midriff on the first day of the third Test on Wednesday, could still feature in the final Test beginning in Nagpur on November 6. The ICC must appoint an appeals commissioner within 48 hours of formally receiving the appeal from Gambhir or the BCCI.
The appeals commissioner will then review evidence pertaining to the case, and conduct a hearing, if required, before delivering his verdict within seven days. This verdict will be final and binding on all concerned. Under existing ICC regulations, a player is eligible to play, despite being banned, while the appeals process is on.
Gambhir, who was accompanied by captain Anil Kumble and coach Gary Kirsten, pleaded guilty in the hearing conducted by Broad on Thursday evening. Aleem Dar and Billy Bowden, the two on-field officials who were among those who brought the charge against Gambhir, were also present at the hearing, which was adjourned to allow Broad to further review evidence.
Gambhir had pleaded guilty to a charge under Rule C1 of the Code (Level 2), which states that players 'shall at all times conduct play within the spirit of the game'.
Gambhir would have attracted a much stiffer penalty had he been found guilty under rule 2.4, which deals with inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between players in the course of play.
Broad explained the downgraded charge, saying, "The decision to find Gambhir guilty of a Level 2 offence is indicative of the fact that any degree of physical contact is unacceptable.
"Had Gambhir been charged with and found guilty of a charge under 2.4, due to his previous offence, I would have been obliged to impose a minimum penalty of a two-Test match ban. In the view of the umpires, the facts of this case — the lightness of the physical conduct and the element of provocation — would not justify such a penalty.”
"The umpires accordingly had regard to the notes of the ICC Code of Conduct, which provides for a player to be charged under Rule C1 if the circumstances of the alleged incident are not adequately covered by the listed offences.
"Whilst I concur with this view, the ICC has repeatedly told the players that deliberate physical contact will not be tolerated. I have also taken into account the previous offences of Gambhir and therefore, I am satisfied that the penalty imposed is an appropriate outcome in the circumstances of this matter. I hope Gambhir will learn from this," he said.
Only last year Gambhir was found guilty of breaching law 2.4 when he had inappropriate contact with Shahid Afridi during the Kanpur ODI. Gambhir was then fined 50% of his match fee. It is now up to the appeals commissioner to decide whether to uphold Broad's ban, and that seems likely given Gambhir's history and the fact that he pleaded guilty to the charge.