Ted Corbett

PCB Chairman vows team will never play under the umpire again but will complete the one-day assignment in England

  • ICC to hear charges against Pakistan on Friday
  • Umpire was insensitive to the concept of honour

    LONDON: In the basement breakfast room of a luxury riverside hotel, a lonely man sat in a dark corner, clearly more interested in what he was writing than his cup of coffee.

    Darrell Hair, the umpire whose actions on Sunday caused Pakistan to sacrifice the final Test of the series against England, was composing his report. I knew he was unlikely to give me answers to the questions every journalist wanted to put, but I decided to take a chance.

    "Mr. Hair, I'm the freelance cricket writer..."

    "You had better go away."

    "I just wanted to ask if you had any regrets..."

    "I have nothing to say." Said very firmly, brooking no argument.

    You might have thought he would want to explain his actions but I had no more luck than Inzamam-ul-Haq, who twice asked why the ball had been changed and received no answer.

    "Thank you," I said and left him to continue writing his report. Like any other reporter I would have loved to get a glimpse of his comments and I admit I tried but his writing was simply too small for me to read.

    That lonely feeling

    Hair has an even clearer idea of what loneliness is today. He has been left in no doubt that the Pakistanis protested against his authoritarian manner in the third Test and did not want him in the fourth Test.

    "Our problem is with Hair and we have a good relationship with the England and Wales Cricket Board," said Pakistan tour manager Zaheer Abbas.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the cricket world waited for a verdict by ICC, which has charged Pakistan with bringing the game into disrepute. The charges will be heard on Friday in front of Ranjan Madugalle the match referee from Sri Lanka because Mike Procter, match referee at the Oval, was too closely involved in negotiations during Sunday's fiasco.

    It is just as important to ask what will happen if Pakistan refuses to take the field when Hair is appointed to umpire its matches in future. Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman Shaharyar Khan said the team would never take part in another game in which he was standing, because of a whole raft of rulings he has made which have not been in Pakistan's favour.

    Khan pointed out at a press meet that the PCB had sent protest letters to the ICC about the ball-tampering issue and the forfeiture of the match.

    There have been rumours that if Inzamam was banned, Pakistan would go home, but Khan said that the team had played on in West Indies when the skipper was banned. He hoped the ball could be put on public display so that everyone could judge whether it had been tampered with.

    What's in store?

    Will ICC back its umpires? Will Pakistan, which led the vote against the three appeals system because the officials felt that it would undermine the on-field umpires, back down for the sake of the game? Will other Asian countries respect their stance?

    Imran Khan, the former Pakistan captain, now a politician, said that he was "baffled" by the way the team protested and that he would have carried on playing and made his protest afterwards. But Nasser Hussain, the former England captain, said he would have done exactly what Inzamam did.

    No one argues that Hair was wrong according to the laws. But he was clearly not sensitive to the Pakistani concept of honour, nor a student of their culture, nor concerned that he might be considered "arrogant and rude" as they now describe him.

    A sensitive issue

    Inzamam has repeated his statement that he considers this to be an attack on his country rather than an attack on the team or the players.

    Bob Woolmer, a former England cricketer who remained in South Africa while the apartheid laws were in place and therefore has to be sensitive to the issues of race and creed and colour, made his players swear on the Koran that they had not tampered with the ball. Once that had happened he allowed them to behave as they felt right.

    Woolmer has apologised to the fans who were not only deprived of 44 overs of cricket for which they will in any case receive a 40 per cent refund on tickets priced from £30 to £62 and has reiterated that the one-day series against England will continue.

    The 12,000 spectators who bought tickets in advance for the fifth day will receive a full refund. Host Surrey lost £450,000 but it is insured.

    What comes next? I urge ICC to call a meeting of all the ten Test-playing nations to discuss how they can avoid a repetition of this day of disaster.

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