The use of stump mics by the host broadcasters has come under the scanner after a heated exchange between India players Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja has made its way to the public.
ESPNcricinfo has accessed the video in which the stump mic has captured the players abusing each other during a break in play when Nathan Lyon was having his helmet checked after a blow on the head. The players are seen waving hands at each other, and Ishant can be heard telling Jadeja – in colourful language – not to throw tantrums or else.
On Tuesday evening, a team spokesman played down the incident: “The Indian team management clarifies that the incident between Ishant Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja was in no way a ‘fight’ and happened at the spur of the moment on the field. The management confirms that all is well between them.”
This is not the first time the stump mic has been turned on loud for the players this series. A few of Virat Kohli’s exchanges with opposite number Tim Paine have been heard the world over. As has been Paine’s sledge to M Vijay after Kohli’s dismissal, asking the batsman how can he possibly like his captain as a bloke. Host broadcasters have often asked the commentators to not talk when an India spinner is bowling so they can turn up the volume and let the world hear Rishabh Pant’s chatter.Ironically it was the Australia team earlier this year that felt targeted by the host broadcaster in South Africa. In order to get the stump mics turned down, they innovatively indulged in some ambush marketing in the vicinity of the stumps mics. Before that, now-banned captain Steven Smith had expressed his annoyance at stumps mics when the BCCI website had released an audio of a spat between Matthew Wade and Jadeja in India.”It annoyed me that they had to sieve back through the archives and find those moments, particularly painting a bad light on our team when both teams were guilty of doing the same things. That was disappointing,” Smith had said then. “I think the broadcasters are told over and over again that they need to turn the stump mics down but they keep putting a lot of pressure on and keeping the stump mics on, which is unfortunate.”
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Unaware of this latest video leak, Kohli had said after the Perth Test that he felt under no pressure to behave differently because of the stump mics. “With the stump mics and cameras and all these things, honestly when the bowler is bowling you aren’t thinking whether the stump mic is on or the camera is on or not,” Kohli said. “And when you are facing that ball, literally there is no one in the stadium apart from you and that ball. So, these things are totally irrelevant, and you are actually not aware of them when you are on the field. It’s never bothered me, it’s never been something that’s of importance to me to be honest. For me it’s irrelevant.”
However, India might have reason to be aggrieved with two of their more experienced players for this indiscretion in the vicinity of stump mics. The ICC had clearly communicated to the member boards that starting November of this year, the previous restrictions on the stumps mic when the ball was dead were removed. Audio could now be transmitted anytime. Moreover, their board had done the same with Wade having a go at Jadeja back when Australia toured India. It would be naïve not to be mindful of retaliation.
The duo might not be charged for breaching the ICC Code of Conduct, though. Usually players are charged for any abuse heard on TV, but ESPNcricinfo understands there is discretion and common sense used in these matters. This audio was not broadcast on the live feed, but only find its way to the media after the match. As such, the broadcasters haven’t had to apologise for abuse on their broadcast.
The host broadcasters’ role was also under the scanner when between the two Tests footage reached newspapers showing how many no-balls from Ishant had not been called in the Adelaide Test. There was no comparative study against any other bowler, Indian or Australian. Even when it comes to ball-tampering, the host broadcasters play a big role, providing video evidence without which the ICC cannot act. No home player has been penalised for ball-tampering ever since the ICC formalised the playing conditions.