Ever since the ICC introduced the Code of Conduct for players and officials, the role of a match referee became highly important. The success of an international cricket match depends on his ability to interpret the Code of Conduct judiciously. Ranjan Madugalle was the match referee in the India-Australia three-Test series that concluded in the Sydney on January 4.
During this series, Madugalle had pulled up India's paceman Venkatesh Prasad for his 'reaction' after having dismissed Australia's Michael Slater. Venkatesh Prasad's action cost him 35 per cent of his match fee and a four-month suspended sentence of one Test match or two ODIs. Whether that decision was harsh or justified is irrelevant to those who respect the ideals behind the Code of Conduct. But the aspect that could not be digested is the explanation given by Madugalle for his failure to pull up a couple of Australian players.
Madugalle warned Australian paceman Glenn McGrath for his 'reaction' after having dismissed India skipper Sachin Tendulkar. Why this double standards? Madugalle was asked. His reply was, "These things will continue to happen in every single session of every match. You can't haul everyone to the judgement room. It will tear the game apart". This observation by the match referee might not give the needed confidence to all the players of all the teams. "You must maintain uniformity while dealing with the Code of Conduct"; the teams would love to tell a match referee.
Then Madugalle came up with a sort of a stunner. When asked about players mouthing four-letter words on the field, Madugalle had said, " A few of these four-letter words are common to certain societies. But are not meant as an obscenity". Does Madugalle want everyone to believe that the ICC Code of Conduct must be interpreted with the order of a society in mind? Has the Code of Conduct been framed with different scale for different society?
Madugalle who has been the match referee for several tournaments so far must be the most experienced match referee. The cricket world would not have expected such a senior official to come up with such an unconvincing statement. Madugalle's statement only suggests that having erred he showed a strange tendency to drag the society into the ICC's Code of Conduct. No wonder the concept of match referee is being ridiculed in certain quarters