PCB decision to send team back compromised stand of Pakistan

The decision of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to send the team back to the field in a gesture that in the end proved completely futile has, many feel, totally compromised Pakistan’s stand in an issue which was of fundamental national interest.

What the repercussions of this will be is something that will only be spelt out with time, but none of them appear to have positive implications given the manner in which the ICC conducts its business.

The bottom line on this issue was simple: Pakistan was accused, effectively, of cheating and no evidence was produced in furtherance of that accusation. As such, should the side have continued with the game, or was it justified in taking the action it did and refusing to come out to play. Should it have registered its protest through the established channel which would have meant handing in a letter to the match referee and hoping that he would handle the situation.

What chance there was of that procedure working can be gauged from the fact that Pakistan’s reservations about Darrell Hair officiating in games featuring Pakistan counted for zilch, under the lofty principle that boards cannot be allowed to dictate who they want as umpires was inviolable.

If there is such a thing as principle, then there have to be certain things that are not negotiable. One of them is that if you call me a cheat, you must provide evidence for it. If you do not, then I shall have to register my protest and given the extremely grave nature of the allegation and the ICC’s dismal record on the handling of protests, the usual procedure of writing a letter was hardly an option.

I entirely disagree with Imran Khan when he said that he would have continued with the game and sorted out these matters later. Yes, it is important to win a Test match and yes the spirit of the game is important. But if these can only be maintained by my accepting the “right” of someone to call me a cheat without finding it necessary to provide a shred of evidence, then I am afraid that is too high a price to pay for maintaining the spirit of the game or for winning a Test match.

That price cannot be paid by anyone and Nasser Hussain, David Gower and Ian Botham, the last named not having a particular reputation as a sympathiser of Pakistan, said so in as many words.

All of them maintained that if there was no firm evidence on which Hair’s decision was based, and that it was based on a general suspicion, then he was on very thin ice. More than 24 hours after the incident, it is still not known what were the grounds on which Hair took his action. Given the manner in which the game was proceeding, it is of course more than likely that the scuffing of the ball was through natural wear and tear with Pietersen thrashing Kaneria to all parts of the ground and quite often into the stands as well.

In fact, that Kaneria angle is a major argument against any alleged Pakistani plan to tamper with the ball. If you are going to tamper with the ball, you are not going to have a spinner bowling from one end all day. You tamper with the ball to produce reverse swing and seam bowlers produce reverse swing, not spinners.

Where Pakistan went wrong was when their Board officials intervened. The stand taken by the Board that it was only meant to be a limited protest “for a few minutes” after which the players had every intention of resuming the game, sounds unconvincing. It took the Pakistan side almost 40 minutes to come out and that is more than what most people mean by “a few minutes” You either protest or you do not; you cannot do both and hedge your bets both ways.

That takes away the moral high ground completely and that is what the Pakistan Board’s action has done. The bottom line here should have been that unless there is evidence forthcoming proving the allegation of ball tampering against Pakistan, the team would not take the field with Hair still officiating. No ifs, no buts, no half way houses. If the evidence was produced, the Board should have undertaken to take the stringiest action against those involved.

The result of the Board’s stand that the side had no wish to forfeit the game, is that the issue of evidence is now in the process of disappearing from the public eye and given another couple of days would have gone completely. It is not only that if the idea was to lodge a protest, why could not the protest be lodged through the usual, prescribed channels.

The argument against that, that the allegation was so serious that there was no compromising with it and that it had to be one way or the other, is now lost, because in the eyes of the Pakistan Cricket Board the allegation was obviously not that serious. That is a matter of perception and where one draws the line. If one does not draw it where the honour and reputation of Pakistan are at stake, one does not know where one draws it.

This issue is by no means over. The ICC is almost certain to take Hair’s side, evidence or no evidence, and take action against Inzamam. Will the PCB then support its captain? If it does, it will be in open conflict with the ICC and so the story rolls on. If it buckles under the ICCís ruling that would not go down at all with either the team or most Pakistanis, wherever they may be living.

It may be of interest to mention here that on a BBC phone-in radio programme this morning, some dozen listeners, all Asians, called in to record their views. All felt that the Pakistan side was fully justified in recording their protest in the manner in which they did, but that the PCB in “persuading” them to go and take the field had only diluted Pakistan’s protest and in the process achieved nothing, for the dangers of all the sanctions and the resultant financial implications thereof hang over Pakistan just as strongly as ever.

It may not be long before the PCB will have no alternative but to approach the matter in a situation where a compromise may not be an option. The principle here has to be that there is no consideration higher than Pakistan’s good name and a slur against that without any evidence to support it, is simply unacceptable.

I would once again reiterate the possibility of taking Hair to court as there is little point in expecting succour from the ICC. That may soon be the only way open for the PCB to restore Pakistan’s image and reputation in this entire sorry episode.

This was no farce. A farce is meant to be funny and there is nothing even remotely funny about all this.
Source:The News

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Written by Team CricketViewer on August 23rd, 2006 with no comments.
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