Speed calls for improvement in Test players' behaviour

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The Independent Online

A graphic illustration of modern international cricket was verbally drawn here yesterday as the fourth Test match between Australia and England headed towards its conclusion.

A graphic illustration of modern international cricket was verbally drawn here yesterday as the fourth Test match between Australia and England headed towards its conclusion.

It came from the game's most senior official, all those who heard it nodded in agreement and it proved that the game's crises are not restricted to external events, such as playing in Zimbabwe and players' sponsorship disputes. Above all, it confirmed that the game still needs cleaning up.

Malcolm Speed, the chief executive of the International Cricket Council, will write to all international captains, umpires and match referees this week stressing that behaviour must improve. Speaking at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where he saw England take the fourth Test into a fifth day by scoring 387 in their second innings to leave Australia requiring 107 runs for victory, he did not say whether he might also try whistling in the wind.

"My major concern is the celebration going ahead of an appeal," Speed said. "The players gather, they are celebrating the dismissal and they turn and the umpire says 'not out' and trudge back to their marks. That's not the way it should be.

"We are concerned generally that there are elements of dissent creeping back into the game, where batsmen are standing their ground and shaking their heads. We've seen it with bowlers when they get a not out decision and they stand with their hands on their hips shaking their head. We've been very disappointed with the way things have gone over the last 12 months."

Speed may have been prompted to speak by what he has seen here. Both captains, Nasser Hussain and Steve Waugh, have stood rooted to the spot with only their heads moving, to and fro, as they have been given out. Bowlers have regularly rushed up to their teammates in glee without bothering to ask the umpires or listen to their reply.

When he was appointed two years ago, Speed said he wanted to ensure the game was played in the proper spirit. A panel of full-time referees and umpires were appointed to fulfil the objective. It may not be working.

In 1998, 21 players were penalised by the match referee, in 1999 it was 19, in 2000 it was 15, in 2001, the early stages of the clean-up campaign, it was 31. This year, however, only five players have been ordered to appear before the match referee to answer for misbehaviour.

Since the system changed in April, the number is four, with only one being suspended. Nobody who watches the game regularly seem to know what referees are dong for their cash. Neither Hussain nor Waugh are on a charge.

On the field, England were heartened by an innings of 145 by Michael Vaughan, which took the Yorkshire batsman's tally for the year to 1,481 runs. He ends 2002 as Test cricket's leading run-scorer for the year, ahead of India's Sachin Tendulkar.

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