As I was flipping through the channel on late Sunday night (the 20th Aug 2006), I caught a set of surprised TV commentators who were talking about history about to be made.. I got a call from a colleague asking me if I was watching the idiot-box – I sure was, with morbid fascination of what was about to unfold at the Brits Oval ground in
The trigger being, earlier the umpires – there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that it was Darrel Hair, who was driving the agenda – had called for a ball replacement; the fielding captain, Inzi was given no explanation as to why the ball was being changed; after the change Hair awarded five penalty runs to the batting side – which clearly implied that he was docking Pakistanis for ball tampering. I caught another TV snippet yesterday that had Hair following the bowler walk-back to the top of his run very intently – he obviously was very convinced that the Pakistanis were tampering with the ball. The problem however is this – in the age of legal challenges and the need for substantive proof rather than circumstantial evidence, the 26 cameras on field had not caught a single Pakistani fielder or bowler scratching the ball; the fact that the ball was 55 overs old and it had some natural wear and tear and the fact that it has been hit onto the stands by hard hitting Pietersen could have resulted in the scruffing that Hair was indicating to the other umpire Billy Doctrove (an inept umpire if I may add).
Pakistanis felt naturally aggrieved and wanted to stage a protest. After a confusing period of events that gets stated in a different chronological order depending on whose side one is on, the umpires had called of the match and awarded the test match to England, since according to them, Pakistan had forfeited the match as they failed to turn up after tea. This was the first forfeiture in the history of cricket.
After all the froth and fury on either side, let us take a look at the past record of both parties. Hair’s run-in with the teams from the sub-continent and his apparent policing of sub-continent teams more sternly; and that of
First, Mr. Hair:
November 1998: In his autobiography, Decision Maker, Hair noted that Murali's action was 'diabolical' .
Now to the
The English tour of 1991 (?) – When Wasim, Waqar and Aquib Javed were suspected of ball tampering, because they could get the ball to reverse swing prodigiously throughout the tour. Pakistani’s had attributed to the heavy overcast weather through the tour and to their ability.
Waqar Younis Pakistan v
Shoaib Akhtar New Zealand v Pakistan, Dambulla, 2003: Fined 75% of his match fee and banned for two one-day internationals for ball-tampering after television footage showed him scratching the surface of the ball during Pakistan's 22-run victory, over New Zealand, in the Bank Alfalah Cup.
Another theory is that the umpires started to watch closely after Alistair Cook was out LBW to Umar Gul after a reverse-swinging yorker got him plumb in from of the stumps. Strangely, when Simon Jones and Andrew Flintoff, used reverse swing so well in the 2005 Ashes series to defeat the all conquering Australians, there was no talk about ball tampering.
On the other hand, Pakistanis had not pulled out matches when both Waqar and Shoaib were fined; which does imply there is some substance to why they feel aggrieved this time.
To me this looks like a case of judging by past events. Cricketing-wise, I’ve seen Hair make some perfect decisions including on LBWs. I believe he is one of the competent umpires on decision making. I also believe that
The next few days would be interesting – ICC would make its usual inane statements that have no relation to the reality of where the actual sponsors are. The boards will get arrayed on either side – one group with ICC and the other with PCB – hectic parleys would go on behind doors (perhaps such skill can actually be put to use to bring about World peace, I’d think); Both sides will talk at each other without trying to understand the cultural undertones of certain behaviours. We will all be left to wonder if the international cricket is headed towards Splitsville. As is wont these days, anything cricket is just not cricket; it has become anything but the actual game.