Cook: India want Anderson banned
5:01pm Wednesday 16th July 2014 in © Press Association 2014
Alastair Cook believes India have cynically escalated James Anderson's spat with Ravindra Jadeja in the hope England's premier bowler may be banned for part of the Investec series.
Cook described the reported altercation between Anderson and Jadeja at Trent Bridge, and the tourists' response to it, as a case of making a "mountain out of a molehill".
India elevated their allegations against Anderson, "pushing and abusing" Jadeja as the pair made their way through the narrow lobby of the pavilion for lunch on day two of the first Test, to Level 3.
That implies a seriousness commensurate to a much heavier penalty scale than those prescribed for more Level 1 or even 2 offences.
The potential punishment for a player found guilty of a Level 3 offence, under the International Cricket Council's code of conduct, extends to a four-Test suspension.
Only three Level 3 charges have previously been made, although Level 4 also exists.
The England and Wales Cricket Board responded immediately by describing last week's incident as "minor" and Cook confirmed at his press conference on the eve of the second Test at Lord's that a counter-allegation against Jadeja is on its way to the ICC.
Receipt was duly confirmed by the world governing body on Wednesday evening, England team manager Phil Neale having sent a Level 2 charge to Dubai.
Cook was unequivocal when asked if India's motivation might be to try to eliminate Anderson for the latter stages of the five-match series, which stands at 0-0 after the Nottingham stalemate.
"I think so. I think that's pretty much where it's come from," he said.
"It's probably a tactic from India, if we're being honest."
Anderson and Jadeja's disagreement began after the all-rounder was given not-out caught-behind to the seamer, and continued as the teams made their way off for lunch.
There have been suggestions that India might have become poorly disposed towards Anderson previously and made the charge on that basis, rather than merely because of what did or did not take place in the Trent Bridge stairwell.
Cook said: "I think it should be on that one incident ... they should make sure it's that.
"In my opinion, it's a big mountain out of a molehill... We're surprised it's come to the situation it has come to."
Cook must ensure that the controversy does not put his team off their game, as they try to arrest a run of nine Tests without victory - England's worst Test sequence for more than 20 years.
"We just can't let this be a distraction for us as a side," he said.
"We can't sit here in five days' time and (be talking about) the build-up to it.
"There's been toing and froing between Jimmy, (England coach) Peter Moores and the hierarchy at the ECB as well ... and there has been a charge levelled back at Jadeja.
"I think that's quite obviously reasonable."
Cook declined to discuss the specifics of the incident because he is not allowed to do so.
However, he did appear to momentarily forget that protocol when he added: "We're just surprised it's a level three incident, after hearing they've started it - certainly after hearing what happened."
A hearing before a judicial commissioner, within 14 days but with the possibility of further delay in extenuating circumstances, is the established ICC procedure for a Level 3 incident.
Anderson is therefore almost certain to be free to play at Lord's, and probably in next week's third Test in Southampton, but will surely have extra unhelpful matters on his mind at both venues.
"For Jimmy, all the lads will rally round him," said Cook.
"He's a stalwart of our side, an outstanding bowler with a fantastic record.
"I hope, if we can get this ball swinging at a certain time in this Test match, Jimmy will want to let his cricket do the talking.
"If anything, if [this] does bring us tighter - even closer together and supporting each other more during the tough times - then that can work really well for us."
He is optimistic too that he and opposite number Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Jadeja's batting partner at the time of the Trent Bridge fracas, will have the authority to ensure relations between their teams do not descend irrevocably this summer.
"I hope not," he said.
"MS and I have that responsibility as captains of the side to make sure we control our players, and do not let that happen.
"We have a responsibility to people watching the game, responsibility under the ICC rules."
Cook is aware too of an onus too to entertain in professional sport, though, and in that context he senses a bit of extra spice is no bad thing.
"I think it will make it good viewing," said the England captain, who goes into this Test with a personal battle on his hands too - to try to end his worrying sequence of 25 Test innings without a century.