Cricket: Suspended ban for Ramprakash

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MARK RAMPRAKASH yesterday became the first English cricketer to be handed a one-match ban for dissent after being found guilty of dissent in the second Cornhill Test at Lord's. The Middlesex captain's punishment has been suspended for six months after match referee Javed Burki ruled that his "dissent was both physical and verbal".

It happened in England's first innings, after Ramprakash was given out, caught behind, by umpire Darrell Hair. Television replays later showed that the ball from Allan Donald had clipped the batsman's elbow rather than the inside edge of his bat.

Mr Hair's report was considered by referee Burki and, at a hearing at the close of the third day's play, Ramprakash was additionally fined 25 per cent of his match fee of around pounds 3,400, i.e. about pounds 850.

The punishment is not unique in world cricket. The International Cricket Council has acted similarly in more than half a dozen cases over the last four years. But if Ramprakash was guilty - he stood his ground for quite a while before heading for the dressing-room and clearly on the way back must have said something as well - he should not have been alone. There could have been a veritable shoal of dissenting players: including his captain Alec Stewart.

"We are disappointed for Mark," intoned Stewart, picking his way through a verbal minefield since ICC regulations prohibit anyone from making any kind of comment about disciplinary decisions. "But he has been dealt with by the match referee." Ramprakash was told of his punishment before went out to bat in the second innings, when he went for a four-ball duck. He had wanted the news withheld until his innings was over.

There was the suspicion that the punishment had weighed too heavily on him and had, perhaps, had a bearing on his second-innings performance. But Stewart said: "It must have been on his mind, but I don't think you could blame anything that happened last night or this morning on what happened to him."

Stewart, who projects the right sort of image for the game in this country, according to England and Wales Cricket Board chairman, Lord MacLaurin, made it very plain that he was unhappy about being given out, caught behind for 56, when he and Nasser Hussain were compiling what threatened to be a face-saving partnership. Stewart left the square shaking his head, and even stopped to see if there was a replay of his dismissal on the screen at the Nursery End. Later he said: "Whenever an umpire gives me out, that's when I go."

But dissent is not confined to batsmen. Donald's histrionics, in his final over before lunch, when he thought he had Hussain caught at forward short leg, were certainly worthy of punishment. What the actions of these two have prompted is a meeting with Mr Burki before the Old Trafford Test, specifically to discuss what is and is not expected of players in these situations. These meetings usually take place with the captains and the coaches, but the Manchester get-together will include both managements.

As for the England collapse Stewart, clearly unhappy, admitted: "On this occasion we were badly beaten. They took the game away from us in their first innings and then rolled us over for 110. We were never in it after that."