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November 28, 2001
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Tendulkar's fault technical, not deliberate: Denness

Sanjay Suri,
Indo-Asian News Service

Controversial British cricket match referee Mike Denness has said he does not believe that India's Sachin Tendulkar, whom he had found guilty of ball tampering, committed the offence deliberately.

Speaking to the British media, Denness denied he accused Tendulkar of "tampering" with the ball. "Tampering seems to be the instant word that everyone wants to use," he said.

The rule under which Denness booked Tendulkar (Law 42.3) speaks of "altering the condition of the ball." But Denness himself now says that he did not suggest that Tendulkar had tampered with the ball.

The rule required Tendulkar to clean the seam under the supervision of the umpires, which Tendulkar failed to do. Denness says he felt this was technical neglect, not deliberate offence.

"I can't use the words ball-tampering. I can use 'action on the ball' or whatever because there's nothing in the laws about 'tampering'. It depends how you interpret the English language, I suppose."

Back in England after starting it all off in South Africa, where he heavily penalised six Indian cricketers for various misdemeanours, Denness sees himself as a man more sinned against than sinning.

Denness' actions have caused the latest storm in international cricket. The Indian and South African cricket boards removed him as match referee for their series because of his controversial decisions.

This angered the International Cricket Council , which found no fault with Denness. The Indian cricket board and the ICC now seem headed for a showdown.

Such is the sympathy that fans are being invited to send greetings to him on his 61st birthday this Saturday. The sympathy has been sought by Denness himself.

After declaring in South Africa and again on arrival back in Britain that the rules do not permit him to say anything about the controversy, he has had much to say to media sympathetic to him.

Denness continues to make statements while saying he cannot say anything. "I've been terribly saddened for the game of cricket," Denness now says. "If someone says you've got your decisions wrong and they can justify it, you can have a discussion and you can learn from it." It was not clear whose wrong decisions Denness was talking about. But he was at least hinting that mistakes may have been made.

Denness said in response to a question whether he had been too harsh: "You've been asked to do a job and you do that to the best of your ability. But in life you must always look to see where improvements can be made." Denness was tentative about the nature of Tendulkar's offence. "Anybody who has been punished usually feels hard done by, but I can only act on what I think I've seen," he said.

Denness has been making statements that are far from clear. Take this: ''From my point of view, whenever you do anything, you have to sit back and say to yourself, 'how well did I do that? Where can I improve, if at all?' You've got the game of cricket at heart, you've got natural justice to look into. I'm not a judge, I'm not qualified in the legal profession, but I do have a great interest in the game of cricket."

Earlier Denness said at Heathrow airport on return from South Africa: "I am bound by ICC rules, and at this stage I cannot talk about anything to do with the sanctions or penalties that I imposed. If I get clearance from the ICC to talk openly about it then I will." Denness had evidently got clearance to talk to the English media but not to the Indian media.

Denness indicated that he had taken tough decisions on the basis of a directive from the ICC. He said: "I've had communications from Malcolm Speed telling us where he was coming from and what we were to look for in the future. He said the ICC were probably looking towards more bans rather than fines or suspended sentences. But I haven't really followed that through, have I? I gave suspended sentences in the main. I thought that on this occasion, only one individual warranted a ban."

Following that the support to him from the ICC was expected. "The ICC have been very supportive," he says. "I've received calls regularly from (ICC chief executive) Malcolm Speed and (ICC chairman) Malcolm Gray, and they have kept me posted."

The Mike Denness controversy

India's tour of South Africa : Complete coverage

--Indo-Asian News Service

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