Tuesday, January 15, 2008

India, Oz drop ‘catching agreement’

India and Australia may have kissed and made up in public over the post-Sydney spat, but obviously the mistrust created by what transpired particularly on the last day of the acrimonious last Test has left its scars. On Monday, it was learnt that Anil Kumble and Ricky Ponting have agreed to drop the ‘catching agreement’ that was agreed upon before the series. The on-field umpires’ word will now be final and they can make a choice to refer the decision to the third umpire.

Asad Rauf and Billy Bowden will be the two field officials standing in the third Test that begins at the WACA ground here on Wednesday, the latter replacing Steve Bucknor, who had formed part of the panel along with England’s Mark Benson at the controversy-hit Sydney match at India’s insistence. Ahead of the series, both captains had decided that in the event of a doubtful take, they would ask the fielder concerned and take his word whether or not the catch had been completed cleanly.

However, the combination of Michael Clarke not walking when he had nicked a catch to Rahul Dravid in the slips in the Sydney Test’s second innings and thereafter claiming a doubtful take to see off Sourav Ganguly as India were battling to save the game, put the deal under enormous stress. Ganguly was given out by Benson after Clarke claimed to have caught Ganguly in the slips though replays indicated that the ball might have touched the ground as the catch was completed. Had it gone to the TV umpire, the outcome may have been different but Benson instead checked with Ponting, who confirmed the catch was clean when Clarke nodded "yes".

Kumble had earlier raised the spectre of the deal being trash-canned in a newspaper column where he doubted Clarke’s claim that the catch had been clean. "We had decided that in the case of a disputed catch, we would take the word of the fielder concerned, if he was certain," Kumble wrote. "But that agreement was based on the premise that come what may, whatever the situation, the fielder concerned would be completely straight on what happened. Now, there will obviously be a big question mark moving forward on that.

"I’d like to point out that someone (Clarke) edged the ball to slips in the second innings of the Sydney Test, and stood there even when there was not an iota of doubt over the dismissal. "He then claimed a catch that showed more than reasonable doubt and said he was 100% certain it was clean."

Given what transpired thereafter in the form of the three-match ban on Harbhajan Singh and the Indian counter-charge against Brad Hogg, the tension between the two teams escalated rapidly. On Monday, some of the bad blood was purged when India withdrew their "abuse" charge against Hogg, but the long-term casualty of the mistrust between the two teams — particularly on the part of the Indians — was the demise of the catching deal.