England have been given licence to carry on swearing. As the International Cricket Council published details of the full and sometimes extremely frank exchanges which led to the disciplinary hearing for Jimmy Anderson last Friday, England’s captain, Alastair Cook, made it clear he was perfectly content with the way his side behave in the wake of that abusive lunchtime tirade at Trent Bridge.
With the fourth Test in the Investec series starting on Thursday, Cook said: “We know every time you pull on the shirt as an England player, or any international side, you are role models for anyone watching, we’re all aware of that.
“We also want to play competitive cricket, we don’t want to be too nicey-nicey, with everyone saying they’re playing in the right spirit. There’s always that muddied line. We want to play competitive cricket like these three games have been played and I don’t think we need to change too much.”
His liberal views appeared to put England at odds with the ICC, which issued a strong warning about offensive language and the need for umpires to uphold acceptable standards.
Cook also specifically supported the way in which Anderson plays the game, despite growing concerns that the fast bowler’s language and scowling behaviour are excessive. In world cricket generally England are unpopular, which is some achievement considering Australia’s abrasive approach.
The case against Anderson and the India spinner Ravindra Jadeja was finally dropped when the ICC chief executive, Dave Richardson, decided the governing body would not lodge an appeal against the verdict of Gordon Lewis, the judicial commissioner. Lewis found both players not guilty because of the lack of plausible evidence about their encounter on the second day of the first Test in Nottingham.
But in declaring that the disciplinary hearings had been exhaustive, Richardson said: “International cricket is tough, competitive and uncompromising, but we must reiterate that there is no place in the game for the use of offensive language that is personally insulting of one player by another.”
He added: “It is imperative that all captains, players and coaches as well as umpires and referees are reminded of and do not shirk their responsibility to one another and to the game.”
Judge Lewis’s official report after the six-hour hearing last Friday revealed some of the exchanges which took place at Trent Bridge.
Anderson said to Jadeja as they left the field at lunch on the second day: “What the fuck are you smiling at? I’ll knock your fucking teeth out in the dressing room”. According to the testimony of the umpire, Bruce Oxenford, Anderson had directed comments on the field to the India captain, M S Dhoni, saying: “You’re a fucking fat cunt.”
Lewis’s report said that Matt Prior, then the England wicketkeeper, had told the hearing that the words “f***” and “f***ing” were commonplace on the international cricket field. Anderson is an enthusiastic user and Cook has no intention of telling him to curb his behaviour.
“Of course, there’s little bits where he might have overstepped the mark throughout his career but you’d rather be on that line than too passive,” he said. “He needs that for his bowling and the way he bowled, especially at Southampton, was incredible.”
Cook said he had not come across any player whose private and professional characters were so markedly different. Reserved and quiet off the field, Anderson changes once he crosses the white line.
“Jimmy’s an experienced cricketer and he’s found his way of doing it,” said Cook. “He’s a very different personality when he crosses the line and I don’t think anyone should moan about it because what happens on the field should stay on the field, and off the field you should be a nice guy. Of course, you understand the parameters you have to play within.”
Dhoni, for whom the Anderson issue had become a personal crusade, appeared to accept that the time had come to move on. Although he seemed to bear no grudges Dhoni was adamant that standards needed to be upheld.
“Strong characters are needed in the game,” he said. “What needs to be done is for umpires to step in when the individual crosses the line.”
Dhoni paid handsome tribute to Anderson’s bowling skills and hinted that he had curbed his more extreme outbursts since Trent Bridge. “There’s a vast difference between the way he played the first Test compared to the last couple of matches. He only needs to be controlled if something wrong is happening. You don’t want everyone to be one kind of thing, because individuals bring character to the side.”