Sussex’s hopes of promotion to Division One have ended abruptly after they were slapped with a 12-point penalty that has led to four players – including captain Cheteshwar Pujara – being banned for this week’s fixture against Derbyshire.
Sussex were handed two fixed penalties by the match referee in a fractious win over Leicestershire last week, taking them to four penalties for the season, triggering an automatic 12-point deduction from the England and Wales Cricket Board and a one-match ban for Pujara, who was captain on all four occasions.
In addition, Sussex suspended two of their best young players, England Lions Tom Haines and Jack Carson, because they were found guilty by the match referee Wayne Noon. The club’s leading wicket-taker, Ari Karvelas, has also been made unavailable by the club “until an investigation into an incident in the Leicestershire game has been concluded”.
The ECB have confirmed that they are conducting a probe into Karvelas’s conduct, but would not be drawn on the nature of the allegations.
The Cricketer reported the investigation is for alleged racist or discriminatory language, aimed at Leicestershire’s Pakistan batsman Umar Amin. Karvelas is alleged to have said “send him back to the village he came from” after dismissing Amin for 94 in the second innings.
Karvelas is said to have claimed that he was using the word “village” in the context of village cricket – as in a derogatory remark over the standard of play, not the player’s background.
Haines committed a Level One offence for the second time this season, but Carson committed a more serious Level Two offence. He was charged with “making inappropriate and deliberate physical contact with another player”, which is thought to relate to a subtle attempted trip of the Leicestershire batsman Ben Cox as he attempted a run during their chase of 499.
Both Haines and Carson apologised for their behaviour.
“In the heat of the battle during the previous match against Leicestershire my desperation to compete and ultimately win the game resulted in me crossing the line in what is deemed acceptable within the spirit of cricket,” said Carson.
“I would like to apologise to my team-mates and to all our Sussex supporters for my actions during the game.
“I plan to learn from the experience and conduct myself in the correct manner without losing my fierce determination to compete in all fixtures while representing the club.”
Haines added: “In light of the recent game against Leicestershire, I’d like to apologise to all Sussex supporters for overstepping the mark with regards to discipline on the field.
“It came out of pure passion to compete and help the team win the game. This is something I will learn from and channel better in future games for Sussex.”
Sussex appealed vociferously throughout the chase and Pujara was spoken to by the umpires Paul Baldwin and Ben Debenham on a number of occasions, but was unable to improve his players’ behaviour.
Earlier this season, Pujara himself committed a Level One offence, for “wilfully mistreating any part of the cricket ground, equipment or implements used in the match” in the game against Durham.
As a result of the suspensions, Sussex travel to Derby with a very inexperienced side and their hopes of promotion over. They were due to go into the final two rounds 18 points behind Worcestershire, with a more favourable fixture list. But now they have dropped from third to fifth.
“We have made Jack and Tom unavailable for selection for this game at Derbyshire,” said head coach Paul Farbrace. “Following the umpires and match referee’s decision to charge both players with on field Level One and Level Two offences, we needed to take a stance, and show them we will not condone such behaviours.
“Ultimately it has cost us the availability of Cheteshwar and we have been deducted 12 points.
“It is a great shame that these incidents have tarnished what was a fantastic game against Leicestershire, and all the hard work that has gone into the season.
“I am disappointed for our fantastic members and supporters and can assure them we will be working hard to make sure we are not in this position again.”
Sussex are without Ollie Robinson, who is nursing a finger injury and has not played since the third Ashes Test 10 weeks ago. In better news for the club, however, the seamer is understood to have agreed a new one-year contract at Hove.