Contact in a non-contact sport!

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s collision with paceman Mustafizur Rahman was the talking point of the first India-Bangladesh one-dayer.-AP

Cricket is a non-contact sport, but even here incidents of players running into one another occur. By Vijay Lokapally.

In a sport that is considered non-contact, episodes like the one involving Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Mustafizur Rahman cast a dark image. Dhoni, ever the cool man, gave the Bangladesh bowler a hard push during the One-Day International that India lost in Mirpur. The sight of the collision was shocking.

“I thought he (Mustafizur) will move and he thought I will move and both of us ended up colliding. I had to take the closest path possible to get to the other side. If you go around the bowler, more often than not, you (batsman) will get out. Either I should have moved to the right or he should have moved to the left, but both of us thought maybe the other guy will and ended up having what you can say is a typical street clash of a kind. Thankfully, he didn’t get injured and I didn’t get injured,” Dhoni said later.

Mustafizur gracefully accepted his fault. “I had changed sides, I was wrong. Later, we discussed about it. So it’s okay.”

The Match Referee, Andy Pycroft, concluded, “My assessment was that Dhoni deliberately pushed and shouldered Mustafizur, which was inappropriate. Even if there was a narrow gap between the runner (Suresh Raina) and the bowler, an experienced Dhoni should have tried to avoid the collision as cricket is a non-contact sport and the players are expected to avoid physical contact at all times.”

Dhoni may have given the young debutant Rahman a shove, but cricket has seen worse. Javed Miandad of Pakistan lifting his bat and threatening Australian pace great Dennis Lillee, who was looking to evade the assault if one may call it, and North Zone opener Raman Lamba being chased by a livid West Zone seamer Rashid Patel, with a stump in hand, during the 1990-91 Duleep Trophy final are some of the most unpleasant sights one can imagine on the cricket field.

The Sunil Gavaskar-John Snow clash at Lord’s in the 1971 series also comes to mind. Snow gave Gavaskar a push and sent him tumbling, an act that cost him a place in the next Test. “I shall never forget the clash of bodies. I was wrong and I realised that as soon as my shoulder came into contact with Gavaskar. Unbalanced, I merely crashed into Gavaskar. For a moment I did not know what to do while Sunny picked himself up. Then I saw his bat in front of me. I picked it up and gently tossed it to him,” Snow wrote in his autobiography Cricket Rebel. Later Snow apologised to Gavaskar, “Sorry about that.”

Gavaskar wrote in Sunny Days, “The hefty fast bowler gave me a violent shove which sent me sprawling. I crawled to the crease having lost my bat in the tumble. Snow came and tossed the bat back to me. In fact, after lunch he came and apologised.”

The Miandad-Lillee fracas in Perth in 1981 was one of the most shameful happenings on the cricket field. The two collided and traded accusations. Both claimed that the other had hit from behind. The sight of Miandad raising his bat as if to hit and Lillee backing away to save himself with umpire Tony Crafter separating them shocked the world of cricket.

The fracas between Dennis Lillee and Javed Miandad in Perth in 1981.-THE HINDU PHOTO LIBRARY

Many years later, an incident led to an angry response from the crowd and saw the match being held in-camera, with no spectators. This happened at the Eden Gardens in 1999 during the inaugural match of the Asian Test Championship.

Sachin Tendulkar saw Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar in his path, couldn’t veer away and was run out. Here is what Tendulkar wrote in Playing It My Way. “I would have been well in if I hadn’t collided with Akhtar.” Tendulkar had kept his eyes on the ball and crashed into Akhtar. And Tendulkar’s bat was in the air when the throw hit the stumps. The decision to rule him out led to a violent reaction from the spectators and it needed his intervention and appeal to the crowd for the match to resume.

In the 2008 Test between India and Australia in Delhi, Gautam Gambhir was penalised when he stuck an elbow into Shane Watson’s chest when finishing his second run.

The India opener was charged with a Level 2 offence and banned for one match. Watson was docked 10 per cent of his match fee. The previous year Gambhir had been fined 65 per cent of his match fee for barging into Shahid Afridi of Pakistan in a one-day match in Kanpur.

To conclude, it was a most unexpected reaction from Dhoni, since he is known to control his temper and emotions on the field. Of course, the Bangladesh youngster was guilty too, having earlier blocked Rohit Sharma in a similar way. Rohit reacted verbally, but Dhoni chose to make his point more forcefully.

The Match Referee was right in concluding that the episode had to be dealt with sternly in order to protect the spirit of the game. That Dhoni had to attract such a penalty towards the end of his career was unfortunate for the celebrated India skipper.