Referee Lindsay seeks the quiet life

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The Independent Online

Between them, cricketers and microbes rule daily life in India, though only one will be under the microsope as the first Test gets underway here today. It may discover nothing untoward, but player conduct, especially on the field, is the reason the International Cricket Council has been fighting its good fight with Jagmohan Dalmiya.

Television, the agent provocateur of most that went on out in South Africa, such as when Sachin Tendulkar was caught on camera fiddling with the seam, will no doubt play its part again, but so too will the match referee, the former South African wicketkeeper, Denis Lindsay, who seems a sensible man. Incidentally, Tendulkar says he was cleaning the ball, but it must have been extremely dirty for his index finger to be cocked at the kind of angle vultures flex their talons in order to shred carcasses.

Lindsay, a wicketkeeper- batsman who won 19 caps for South Africa in the 1960s, does not see himself as some oppressive one-man police force. "I don't want to be known as the bad-assed bastard," he said yesterday. ''I'd rather people didn't know my name at the end of five days. That will mean I haven't been needed.''

Although the ICC has resolved to get tough with bad behavior, you sense Lindsay will be a pragmatist. Under Dalmiya, the code of conduct, especially after what was applied against India, has been used as a weapon to incite jingoism and racism. For that reason alone, Lindsay will surely have to tread carefully if more rows are to be avoided.

One potential flashpoint is the presence of banned batsman, Virender Sehwag, who, having practised with the squad, will spend the Test around the dressing-room. Lindsay, however, does not foresee a problem, providing the player does not do anything to influence the game.

''He's a young man who now has a few days to think about what he's done," Lindsay said. "But he's not a criminal, so why treat him like one? Personally I see no problem if he carries out the drinks, just as long as he doesn't take the field as a substitute.

"As yet, I've had no specific instructions from the ICC, and I've talked to both captains as normal," Lindsay said. ''I like to treat people as adults. In any case, I like to see the umpires taking control of things in the middle and, in Steve Bucknor and Srinivas Venkataraghavan, we have two very experienced world-class umpires."

It is a fair point, though one made easier by the captains having command over their players, something Sourav Ganguly cannot claim, having infringed the code of conduct seven times himself. Yesterday, after joining practice a day late, he was asked if his team would be on their best behaviour. "I thought we were on our best behaviour in South Africa,'' came the retort.

Like his opposite number, Nasser Hussain, India's captain believes in playing it hard. "As captain, I feel there should be aggression on the cricket field, but obviously there have to be limits," said Ganguly.

Although he felt England's fine showing in Pakistan and Sri Lanka last winter would make them difficult opponents in the series, Ganguly felt his own side would once again raise themselves at home following recent disappointments.

According to the malevolent whispers that circulate so quickly in India, Ganguly and his team are said to have been taken aback by the pitch, which is reminiscent of those they have just left behind – to the widespread relief by their batsmen – in South Africa. The next few days will see if those fears are justified.

* Darren Gough will see out the remaining year of his Yorkshire contract. The 31-year-old England fast bowler has been the subject of months of conjecture over his future at Headingley, and Gough has complained about his apparently deteriorating relationship with some officials at the county, describing the situation as "almost unbearable". The county said in a statement yesterday: "Darren Gough has today confirmed that he will continue his career with Yorkshire. His existing contract has a year to run, and the club have indicated their willingness to extend the contract when the existing term expires."