There have been quite a number of bright performances in the ongoing Ranji Trophy championship. As usual the batsmen have got into the habit of scoring runs on generally flat tracks and a handful of bowlers have made a fine impression.

While this is normal activity, what has really gone unnoticed is the critical performance of the on-the-field and off-the-field officials. Directed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to be vigilant and punish the offenders of the laws of cricket and the BCCI Code of Conduct, the umpires and match referees have done their bit to penalise bowlers with illegal bowling action and players who crossed the line on the behavioural count.

Former Bombay and Saurashtra all-rounder and match referee Rajendra Jadeja was in the thick of things at Pune pointing to Karnataka skipper Robin Uthappa a level 2 offence he committed soon after he had caught Maharashtra batsman Ankit Bawne at point.

According to Jadeja, Uthappa’s act of throwing the ball, for whatever reason, and the ball hitting the batsman’s pad constituted a level 2 offence. As a result Uthappa lost his entire match fee of around Rs. 40,000; a big sum for a four day’s work.

Exactly a year ago, former Uttar Pradesh wicketkeeper–batsman and now match referee Sunil Chaturvedi came close to banning Irfan Pathan for a match or two for throwing the ball dangerously at Sanjay Bangar in the Railways-Baroda match at the Karnail Singh Stadium.

In that incident Pathan on his follow-through picked up the ball and directed it at the batsman which according to the match referee was a grave offence. Pathan was let off with a 100 per cent match fee fine. He should have been banned then.

Second look

Once told about the fine, Uthappa and coach Sanath Kumar had a second look at the video footage of the Pune episode and he was heard saying that he threw the ball at his shadow and never intended to hit another fellow player from the rival ranks, who showed admirable character to stand up to the pace of Abhimanyu Mithun & Co and scored a superb first century in the national championship.

Obviously there was lack of trust between the Karnataka captain and the match referee. While Jadeja went by the book and assumed that Uthappa had crossed the line, the later, after second thoughts was keen to withdraw guilt. The damage had already been done though.

Brijesh Patel, Secretary, Karnataka State Cricket Association said Uthappa will appeal against the 2.7 decision. It’s possible that the percentage of the match fee may be reduced.

In another match between Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, former Mumbai left-arm-spinner and match referee, Sanjay Patil banned Dinesh Karthik for a match on a number of counts. Karthik, who has appealed against the decision, would continue to play until the BCCI’s Disciplinary Committee gives a ruling.

In another incident match referee Raju Mukherji docked a 50 per cent match fee fine on Rajasthan coach Parthasarathi Sharma after the Rajasthan-Tripura match.

The ruling of the BCCI’s Disciplinary Committee on the Karthik and Uthappa case would have an important bearing on the remaining part of the Ranji Trophy. Both Jadeja, who had brought Gujarat skipper Parthiv Patel under a level 2 offence last year and Patil have been distinguished first class cricketers of their State.

They get no pleasure in punishing another cricketer, but they know the mindset of the players — whether their act was intentional or not. The match referees may be stifled should the BCCI committee overturn their decisions.

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