Mike Denness and Indian cricket team incident

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Match referee Mike Denness, a former England captain, found six India players guilty of various offences during the second test match of India's 2001 tour of South Africa, played between 16-20 November 2001 at St George's Park, Port Elizabeth. The severity of Denness's punishment to an unprecedented six players was viewed by the India media as motivated by racism, outraged the general public and remains controversial to this day.[1][2]

Second Test[edit]

In the laws of cricket, tampering with the ball is a serious offence, and considered to be cheating. Tendulkar was caught on camera running his nail around the seam of the ball multiple times, clearly breaking the laws and spirit of the game. The other incidents were examples of players excessively appealing, and charging toward the Umpire at the Bowler's end. As there were multiple incidents involving multiple players, team captain Sourav Ganguly was also cited for failing to control his team's behaviour. In addition to forfeiture of a certain percentage of their match fees, the following suspensions were handed to the Indian players:

Denness was heavily criticised for failing to explain his actions at the press conference announcing the punishments, which was caused by the ICC regulations preventing Denness from doing anything more than explaining the charges. Indian journalists hounded Denness regarding an alleged failure to fine Shaun Pollock for what Indian reporters described as "similar" incidents of excessive appealing.[4] This infuriated the Indian cricket establishment, precipitating an international cricketing,[5] political[6] and administrative[7] crisis. In response to Denness's inability to explain his actions at the press conference, former Indian cricketer Ravi Shastri, who was then working as a commentator, stated "If Mike Denness cannot answer questions, why is he here? We know what he looks like."[8]

Public outrage, "Unofficial" Test and Sehwag's ban[edit]

There was a huge outrage in India where protestors took to the streets and burnt effigies of Denness. The matter was raised in the Indian parliament, the popular press termed Denness a racist, and the ICC was accused of discriminating against the emerging Third World.[9]

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) threatened to call off its tour of South Africa unless Denness was replaced as match referee for the third Test, scheduled for 23-27 November at SuperSport Park, Centurion. The International Cricket Council (ICC) supported Denness[10] but the South African board sided with the BCCI's position[11] and the two teams played an "unofficial" Test instead. Denness, who was not even allowed to enter the stadium, was replaced as match referee by the South African Denis Lindsay.[12] Consequently, the ICC declared the match to be "unofficial" and instead classified it as a "friendly five-day match";[13] the Test series was thus limited to the two matches already completed, with South Africa winning 1–0.

The ICC upheld the ban on Sehwag for the subsequent Test, but overturned the bans on Tendulkar and Ganguly.[14] The subsequent England tour to India was placed in jeopardy when India picked Sehwag in the Test squad.[15] Subsequent to this development, the ICC issued a warning that any Test match with Sehwag in the Indian team would not be considered an official Test until Sehwag served his ban.[16] After negotiations with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and the ICC, and in the general interest of cricket, Sehwag was dropped from the team for the first Test against England.[17]

After the incident[edit]

Mike Denness served as match referee in only two more Tests and three more One Day Internationals. These were all in the series between Pakistan and the West Indies in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, during January and February 2002. He retired as a match referee for health reasons, and died in 2013 from cancer.

An ICC Disputes Resolution Committee hearing headed by Michael Beloff QC, the then Chairman of the ICC Code of Conduct Commission, was scheduled to hear the case on 6–7 June 2002. But the hearing was postponed a week before its scheduled date due to the ill-health and surgery plans of Denness.[18]

The Resolution Committee never met to decide on the merits of the cases of Denness and the Indian team as the BCCI decided to forgo the case in view of Denness' heart surgery.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Fines and bans handed down to Indian players". Cricinfo. 20 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  2. ^ "The Denness affair". Cricinfo. 20 November 2001. Retrieved 11 January 2011.
  3. ^ "Tendulkar handed suspended ban from Test cricket". Cricinfo. 19 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  4. ^ "No enlightenment from Denness at farcical press conference". Cricinfo. 20 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  5. ^ "Former cricketers express anger at Denness' decision". Cricinfo. 20 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  6. ^ "Ball tampering controversy aired in Indian parliament". Cricinfo. 22 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  7. ^ "BCCI call for Denness's removal". Cricinfo. 20 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  8. ^ Shastri, Ravi. "rediff.com: cricket channel: Quotes on the Mike Denness controversy". Rediff.com. Retrieved 18 April 2008.
  9. ^ "Cricket outrage unites Indians". BBC News. 23 November 2001. Retrieved 18 April 2008.
  10. ^ "ICC praised Denness' stand against gamesmanship in cricket, and ruled out replacing him for the final Test". Cricinfo. 21 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  11. ^ "South Africa will back India in Denness affair". Cricinfo. 20 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  12. ^ "UCBSA issues statement regarding third Castle Lager/MTN Test". Cricinfo. 22 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  13. ^ "ICC sets out latest position regarding South Africa v India". Cricinfo. 23 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  14. ^ "Centurion Match Is Not a Test and Sehwag Ban Will Stand, Says ICC" (Press release). International Cricket Council. 25 November 2001. Retrieved 6 January 2022 – via Cricinfo.
  15. ^ "India name Sehwag in 14-member squad for Mohali Test". Cricinfo. 27 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  16. ^ "ICC sets out its position on 1st Test at Mohali". Cricinfo. 27 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  17. ^ "Mohali Test will go ahead after BCCI agree to exclude Sehwag". Cricinfo. 30 November 2001. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  18. ^ "ICC disputes resolution Committee deferred". Cricinfo. 31 May 2002. Retrieved 2 April 2007.
  19. ^ "India to 'forget' Mike Denness affair". Cricinfo. 22 June 2003. Retrieved 2 April 2007.