The International Cricket Council is one of those organisations which will never truly satisify its public with the way it runs the game. No number of ex-politicians fed through the presidential revolving door will change that, but not all of the criticism is warranted. However, the ICC's approach to player discipline seems to win very few friends indeed.
One case study of the ICC's questionable disciplinary practices comes from last Wednesday's ODI between New Zealand and Australia at Napier. NZ match-winning batsman Scott Styris became entangled in a heated exchange with his frustrated Australian bowling victim, Mitchell Johnson. At one point in proceedings, Johnson nudged his head forward in a muted head-butting action, making contact with Styris's helmet, before probably realising that even his hard head would be no match for the metallic grille.
Johnson was charged by the umpiring team of Rudi Koertzen, Tony Hill and Chris Gaffaney with "inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between players in the course of play" - a Level 2 Offence under the relevant Code of Conduct. With a maximum penalty of a suspension for either one Test or two ODIs, Johnson pleaded guilty, thereby saving match referee Ranjan Madugalle the trouble of conducting a hearing.
Madugalle responded by giving Johnson a fine of, in the words of the ICC statement, "equivalent to 60 per cent of the player's match fee". Styris, for his part, pleaded guilty to a charge of a Level 1 offence, and was fined 15 per cent of his match fee.
Having seen the video of the incident, I believe that Johnson should have received nothing short of a suspension. Physical contact in anger with an opposing player should not be tolerated to any degree. Johnson has, instead, been issued with a fine, and one towards the lower end of the scale, 50 per cent of match fee being the minimum punishment for a Level 2 offence.
I have a huge problem with this kind of punishment by imposition of a fine. What is the "match fee", and how can we feel confident that payment of a portion of the "match fee" is a suitably chastening punishment for a player?
There is an answer. Maybe. In appendix 3 of the "ICC Code of Conduct for Players and Player Support Personnel", the "designated Match Fee" for men's Tests, ODIs or T20Is is defined as:
"A country-specific amount which is to be determined by the ICC’s Chief Executive’s Committee in consultation with the relevant National Cricket Federations."
Yes I found it just as helpful as you did. What about bonuses? What about prizemoney? What about a cut of the team's series or tournament winnings? I can understand the need for country-specific pay scales because of the different economic levels in different countries, but don't we deserve a little more transparency than this?
What proportion does "60 per cent of the match fee" represent in terms of the player's annual earnings? Does he actually pay the fine or does a mate, sponsor or wealthy WAG do it for him?
When does the fine get paid? And does the ICC send the Sheriff around to collect if the player hasn't paid up?
Most important of all: Does the player actually feel as if he has been punished? And will he do it again?
For the record, here's the ICC Naughty Book, with details of all the Code of Conduct hearings since inception in 1992, together with all the
slaps on the wrist penalties handed out.