Take this comment, for instance - “What a wonderful sight it is to see cricket between Pakistan, a Muslim Country, and England, where the majority are Christian. Why destroy this over a technicality?”
The words of a Pakistan or British politician? You’d probably think so, but No. This was the post-match comment of Shahriyar Khan, the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, following last Monday’s events.
Another one – “To accuse Pakistan of cheating brings these tensions (recent terrorist activities – REC) to the fore. I wonder whether Darryl realizes the consequences of his actions.” – this from Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan Coach.
Where are they both coming from? How do we get from a flare-up in a Cricket match, to something heading towards a conflict in religious politics and forebodings of international terrorism?
An amazing number of words has poured out from all manner of people giving their opinion on what happened, but, from the viewpoint of a very simple mind (mine!), the whole thing boils down to a couple of clear issues. Whether “those in power” turn these “simple issues” into a “simple solution” remains to be seen. The omens are not as bright as one would like.
The issue that started it all is very simple. It’s about cheating in a Cricket Match. It’s about breaking the rules of the game, and not liking the effects of the penalties levied by the Umpires.
Let’s for a moment do a John Major, and get “Back to Basics” – the Rules of the Game. The Rules were last changed in 2000, with the main change being the addition of two pages which have now been included at the very beginning of the Rules, before you even get to Law 1, and simply called – The Preamble – The Spirit of Cricket.
The first thought that comes to mind is – Why, some 250 years after Issue 1 of The Rules, did “those in power” deem this addition to be required at all? I think we probably all know the answer to that, but the fact is that they have been written, honed, agreed (including, presumably, the Pakistan Cricket Authorities, by the way) and have become Cricket Law. They now form an integral part of the way the game is now played. Everyone knows this, and presumably, at Test level, the highest form of the game, it is implicit among all the players that the game is played with these attitudes in mind.
I know it’s a bore, but just read them – the red highlighting is mine.
Cricket is a game that owes much of its unique appeal to the fact that it should be played not only within its Laws but also within the Spirit of the Game. Any action which is seen to abuse this spirit causes injury to the game itself. The major responsibility for ensuring the spirit of fair play rests with the captains.
1. There are two Laws which place the responsibility for the team's conduct firmly on the captain.
Responsibility of captains
The captains are responsible at all times for ensuring that play is conducted within the Spirit of the Game as well as within the Laws.
In the event of a player failing to comply with instructions by an umpire, or criticising by word or action the decisions of an umpire, or showing dissent, or generally behaving in a manner which might bring the game into disrepute, the umpire concerned shall in the first place report the matter to the other umpire and to the player's captain, and instruct the latter to take action.
2. Fair and unfair play
According to the Laws the umpires are the sole judges of fair and unfair play.
The umpires may intervene at any time and it is the responsibility of the captain to take action where required.
3. The umpires are authorised to intervene in cases of:
■ Time wasting
■ Damaging the pitch
■ Dangerous or unfair bowling
■ Tampering with the ball
■ Any other action that they consider to be unfair
4. The Spirit of the Game involves RESPECT for:
■ Your opponents
■ Your own captain and team
■ The role of the umpires
■ The game's traditional values
5. It is against the Spirit of the Game:
■ To dispute an umpire's decision by word, action or gesture
■ To direct abusive language towards an opponent or umpire
■ To indulge in cheating or any sharp practice, for instance:
(a) to appeal knowing that the batsman is not out
(b) to advance towards an umpire in an aggressive manner when appealing
(c) to seek to distract an opponent either verbally or by harassment with persistent clapping or unnecessary noise under the guise of enthusiasm and motivation of one's own side
There is no place for any act of violence on the field of play.
Captains and umpires together set the tone for the conduct of a cricket match. Every player is expected to make an important contribution to this.
So, the Umpires are the sole judges of fair and unfair play. Not the Chairman of either of the team’s Cricket Boards, any politician, any outside Sports Writer, the team coaches or Managers, Nasser Hussain, Ian Botham, Michael Atherton (I’ll come back to him in a minute), David Lloyd, Sky Television, Dickie Bird, or even, I suppose, me!
It is SOLELY down to the umpires (note the plural). The Rules do not require that they have to be absolutely right, or have to obtain a signed confession from the parties they believe to be guilty. It is “in their opinion ….” – and no more. That rule is clear, unambiguous and sets the tone for the way the game is played as well as being the base on which the Rules have been drafted.
Now Darryl Hair, and Billy Docktrode are two members of a panel of ten Umpires, selected, and approved (including Pakistan). They are presumably considered to be the ten best umpires in the World. Darryl Hair is no stranger to controversy – it was he who “called” Muralitharan in 1995 for “chucking”, at that time bringing down hell fire and damnation onto his broad shoulders. He must have felt quite isolated around that time, and yet, it would also seem he was right – the laws on throwing being subsequently changed. So he is quite clearly a man who is prepared to go out on a limb for something he believes to be right.
No-one has yet suggested that Darryl Hair, or Billy Docktrode, do not know what they’re doing, or are making things up. You have to recognize that to say otherwise is to suggest that both umpires, not just Darryl Hair, came to the wrong decision, or are cheats. This “ball tampering” decision was not one requiring a judgement taken in a momentary flash, like an LBW or a catch off a glove – this was a considered, deliberate decision taken over a significant period of time by both individuals.
It is difficult then to see the grounds anyone has to dispute the Umpires’ decision. In the event, Inzamam, with a good deal of dignity, played on after the actual event for a good hour or so, and it was only after being ensconsed in the dressing room for tea, that the second charge of Inzamam and his team not taking the field (after two requests from Umpire Hair) occurred – Do we perhaps sniff a touch of outside political influence here?
It is difficult to understand why the situation on both counts isn’t simple – On the first count, the umpires believed that “ball tampering” had taken place, and it is on their authority, and theirs alone to come to that conclusion – therefore GUILTY. You cannot imagine either umpire not realizing how dramatic such a decision would be, so you must believe that they were as certain as they could be. Secondly, it is absolutely clear that Inzamam did not bring his team onto the field within the time allowed in the Rules (in spite of two warnings) – therefore GUILTY again.
We all know that in a British Court of Law, bringing a defendant’s “previous” into the case is not allowed. It is worth spelling it out here though – Inzamam has “form”. Look it up, and four or five instances quickly appear where he does not seem to be as pure white as his “kissing the pitch” demeanour would suggest.
If he felt that strongly about the decision, why didn’t he leave the field immediately after the incident, or even come back on the pitch after tea, and make some form of protest on the field. At least, he could have prevented one of the two charges against him being raised.
And then we get the response from the Sky pundits. We now know that there were 26 cameras around the ground, and that subsequent examination of all the video footage from all the cameras, has not yet revealed any sharp-practice. It seemed that all the Sky Commentators, to a man, believed that this lack of TV evidence was sufficient to find the Umpire guilty.
So, what now?
You could suggest, using a bit of beneficial hindsight, that it wasn’t the brightest move, even though Darryl Hair was on the Top Ten Panel, to put him up for these tests. It does look a bit like asking for trouble. Well, they got it, and the words Irresistible Force, and Immovable Objects jump into one’s mind. Clearly, money has now started to raise its head, and the Pakistan authorities are clearly now of the opinion that they want the rest of the tour to go ahead.
The hearing, helpfully benefiting from the unavailability of the ICC’s Chief Match Referee to take charge on Friday, will surely not now take place until after the One day matches have been safely played, and all the money is in. The only dissenter so far is Inzamam, who, understandably wants it held as soon as possible. But we all know it won’t be.
Tempers will be cooled, memories will fade a bit, and it will slide down the Editors’ priority lists for Front Page Headlines. Then it will take place. Inzamam will be found guilty or guilty-ish. He will probably show an appropriate smidgin of humility, enough for justice just to be seen to have been done, but not enough to humiliate him totally. A small, exquisitely balanced punishment will be handed out, and we all then wait until England visit Pakistan next to see how everyone really feels. What bets that the first Pakistan ball bowled in the First Test will be a bouncer?
All that is supposition, but you can guarantee that the offending ball will never see the light of day again, and that Daryll Hair will not be standing in that match.
One does hope however, that his action will act as a long term reminder to all who play the game that The Spirit of Cricket, as enshrined in The Preamble, remains a Principle to be honoured.
The Rules ARE the Game.