Will heads roll now after bad Hair day of Pakistan ?
After it clearly appeared that the Pakistan cricket team had been hard done by on Sunday, when it was docked a five-run penalty for alleged ball-tampering, their place on high moral ground seemed assured. During the following, rather bizarre turn of events, it now looks as if they are going to be slapped with some kind of fine and accused of bringing the game into disrepute.
It all started after some 55 overs had been bowled in the England second innings, with the host side fighting to clear a big 331-run deficit following Pakistan’s massive first innings effort of 504. Umpire Darrell Hair took the ball from Pakistan’s pace bowler Umar Gul, examined it, consulted with fellow official Billy Doctrove, decided the ball had been tampered with and awarded five runs to England with the visual indication given to the scorers.
Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq did inquire from Hair about what was happening. Wirephotos and television footage showed that the apparently doctored ball was shown to him. What actually transpired in terms of conversation is not quite clear. The ball was changed and the Pakistan team continued playing until the next stoppage due to bad light arrived.
Those who saw these few episodes and realised what was happening were appreciative of the Pakistan team’s conduct, which was playing on with dignity and having kept its cool. Then the mirror cracked… from side to side!
Bad light took the players inside and an early tea was taken. With some ‘wheeling dealing’ going on in the Pakistan team’s balcony, with grim faces all around and members of the management on their mobile phones, it seemed that the Pakistan players were not coming out after the tea interval.
The umpires came out. Then they went back in. They came out again and so did the two unbeaten England batsmen. Still no sign of the Pakistan team. The umpires then took the bails off. Officially that was the end of the match. At least that’s what the rules say.
Then, after a while, the Pakistanis marched in. Now the umpires refused to come out. The crowd, made to wait without being told what really was happening, jeered at the Pakistanis. A while later, the touring side went back into their dressing room.
The comedy, rather tragedy, of errors had by now added to the pall of gloom over The Oval Test ground. Play was called off for the day. Now came the realisation of finding who was right or if anyone was wrong.
To start with, as agreed by most cricketseers, perhaps the appointment of umpire Darrell Hair was an unfortunate one. Known for his Paki-bashing in the past, though really unconfirmed whether he had any ulterior motives, he was at least thought of as someone who wasn’t too fond of the Pakistanis as they were not too fond of him. He made the ball tampering allegation without substantiating it.
How should have this situation be handled? The tour manager (in this case Zaheer Abbas) should have been called into the ground and a protest lodged there and then with the match referee. Then, the administrators should have taken over.
Were the players right in taking the law into their own hands? Apparently they did. Mainly because there wasn’t anyone to give them any direction. True, the manager, coach, even the PCB Chairman, a member of the Board’s ad-hoc committee and also the Director Board Operations were all there. Their brief should have been: Go in and carry on playing. We’ll handle the diplomacy.
Apparently, the players continued to operate on their own. Or, perhaps, the PCB’s top brass was reluctant to take any impromptu decisions. Maybe the players should have been asked just to play on while the management conferred with the referee in the meantime.
Various accounts of the happenings at The Oval reveal that much of this, in fact, was done as it should have been. But there was no order in the chaos and things continued to deteriorate. The victims, by the end of the day, were being painted as the villains.
The British media as well as the newspapers the next morning were actually sympathetic of the Pakistanis. They believed that several moral considerations had not been kept into view while handling the situation. But, if Hair was wrong in hurling a virtual allegation of cheating towards the Pakistanis, he was within the laws of the game when he called off the match and handed the result to England.
Inzamam-ul-Haq has very rightly said that his actions were “all about respect”. But soon enough he is certain to be dubbed as a ‘cry baby’ who jumps the gun without taking into view the repercussions. His own people would then turn against him, accusing him of bringing Pakistan into disrepute.
Already, several former captains and cricketers and leading cricket critics have indulged in letting out such soundbytes. The crescendo is definitely going to build. Will this mean that he’s soon going to be removed from the Pakistan captaincy?
If the Pakistan players were playing to the gallery on Sunday, then at least Kamran Akmal made a somewhat bad show of it. He appeared on the balcony, without his wicket-keeping gloves and pads, and started reading a newspaper. He only looked at the first two or three pages. If he was looking for the sports pages, they are at the back of these tabloids.
Hair could come up in his defence by saying that he is not averse to discussing anything with the players. When the umpires offered the England batsmen the light, Younis Khan asked Hair to show him the light metre. The latter immediately did. Apparently, he might have discussed the state of the ball with Inzamam too. That’s why the team continued playing.
PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan said yesterday that the players protested bcause the umpires used derogatory language in their report about them. Even this aspect should have been discussed behind closed doors, with the referee. Perhaps, someone might have suggested that now was the time to get even with the ‘goras’.
Well, the ‘goras’ needed to be taken care of on the field, and the Pakistanis had done quite a good job of it until then. But everyone instead went on issuing statements to the press and the electronic media. The manager, who is a team’s real spokesman, continued to be ‘invisible’; instead the coach and of all people the PCB Chairman happily faced the cameras.
One doesn’t really know which way all this is headed now. What’s going to be the fate of the five-match One-day International series, scheduled to start on August 30? Will Inzamam’s head roll? Will the other members of the Pakistan management as well the PCB top brass now hit the dust? What’s going to be the fate of cricket in the scenario before the impending World Cup? At least, as someone said yesterday, something has just happened that you can’t blame on either George Bush or Tony Blair, or the Islamic Jihadis!
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