The management of the game and notably its handling of affairs with ICC and other countries need to be assigned to competent hands having innate knowledge.

KHALID BUTT, Bureau Chief, Lahore
Aug 28 - Sep 03, 2006

The scene at The Oval cricket ground put Pakistan in the reverse gear from its glorious moments that were witnessed on the memorable day back in 1954.

In a sense it reminded of the ugly scene witnessed at Faisalabad in 1987, involving both Pakistan and England teams. Both pertained to umpiring decisions, which led to play stoppage.

Just to refresh memory of the cricket followers and as some one watching it from ringside it involved a Pakistani umpire — Shakoor Rana — catching Mike Gatting red-handed while defying rules, which led to English team staging a walkout. The incident of cheating was seen by Shakoor Rana personally and recorded vividly for posterity by a PTV cameraman. English team only returned to the field after Mike Gatting made a written apology. The late Omar Kureishi, the doyen of cricket commentators-cum-writers was later asked to hold an inquiry in which he had clearly spelled out the incident holding Mike Gatting guilty.

The English cricket board, however, unnecessarily and most unreasonably defended its team and announced hefty financial bonuses for each member - so much for English sense of justice and fair play. The only Pakistani, who had tried to mislead Pakistan authorities and advised them to play down the incident, was none other than its then High Commissioner who now happens to be the worthy Chairman of PCB.

The incident nevertheless made headlines the world over and I personally recall it as the banner headline even in an unlikely paper like the New York Time.

Coming back to Sunday's incident here was an umpire, Darrel Hair of Australia - known for his continued bias and proven track record of targeting players of Asian origin - who once again showed his venom against Pakistan. Right through the current series he has been awarding controversial decisions against Pakistan, and to put it mildly, the matter has not gone unnoticed in the electronic and print media. But his latest action without a whiff of warning or a visible proof, take the cake. The result of this indignation heaped on Pakistan team, as even the mild-mannered Inzamam could not take it and responded with a token protest.

But the big question is what our lame duck PCB Chairman - who has been on an extended sojourn in England for the past two months - did to ensure his team should not be continuously and methodically targeted and victimized. For the past three years a PCB nominee compatriot - Ehsan Mani - has been the ICC President, but even then Pakistan has not been getting a fair deal in anyway. His underling, an Australian called Malcolm Spade, has been calling all the shots and his tenure in the ICC seems unending. What to talk of a country India whose chairman in such a situation would have come down on ICC like a ton of bricks, even lesser countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have a better track record in their dealings with ICC.

Ever since the arrival of an anglophile Shaharyar Khan, the ICC has been riding roughshod over Pakistan in every matter. The PCB under its present Chairman has been quite content to make joy rides to all corners of globe attending various ICC moots but failed to get fair deal for Pakistan in various cricketing matters. Can you imagine such a thing happening to India under Dalmiya or even under its current chairman?

The team has a battalion of joy riders out there, including a so-called Manager and Associate Manager accompanied by a "Gora paltan". But what is their precise role when they are seen just roaming around and letting the chairman to become the spokesman of the team. Can one ever imagine the board chairman of England, Australia or even India or South Africa being degraded to such an extent? The complexity of the whole episode is visible to everyone and one is sure, even the Patron of PCB is also fully cognizant of the situation.

It is time for him to act as one knows how deeply involved he is in cricket and the welfare of the game. Things could not have gone any lower than what they are at present. The management of the game and notably its handling of affairs with ICC and other countries need to be assigned to competent hands with innate knowledge and should not be left on the vagaries of non-professionals and mere joy-riders.


Blame for what happened at The Oval and its aftermath can and has been liberally flung in several directions. Darrell Hairís eventual and Inzamam-ul-Haqís initial obstinacy, the ICC match referee Mike Proctorís haphazard communication skills and the Pakistan Cricket Boardís less-than-firm handling of the crisis was reported by Cricinfo, an authentic source of world cricket.

As more information from Sunday dribbles through the last named in particular is being asked increasingly difficult questions in Pakistan and for them, something is about to hit the fan. Inzamam can still count on public support, given the inclusive nature of his protest (he was defending the countryís honor) but it is looking difficult for his board to expect the same. Ex-officials and players are rarely happy with successors but there appears genuine cause for grief. As a fiasco unfolded on Sunday, Shaharyar Khan, Chairman PCB, told Sky TV that his teamís protest was to last ìa few minutesî. Immediately a contradiction was set in place: ìa few minutesî was considerably more and doubts appeared about the teamís intent. Khanís statement was questionable enough given that the teamís manager Zaheer Abbas was hired for just this sort of situation. The next day the PCB only shook up more dust. They were wrong in claiming that the ball was roughed up because Kavin Pietersen was spanking sixes which came after that was changed. They were ambiguous in their stance on Hair: ìhe was a good umpireî but their team had problem with his attitude. They were contradictory in their explanation of what happened in those crucial minutes after tea and before the game was forfeited.

The fate on the ODIs wasnít decided though their captain and coach were already publicly threatening cancellation. As Inzamamís hearing is now postponed, they still canít find one voice through which to speak- do they want hearings postponed or do they not?

Arif Abbasi, Chairman of the PCB through the ball tampering and match fixing crises of the 90s and no mincer of words was appalled by the managementís lack of knowledge through the events. It was in a shambles. No one appears to have known the laws regarding forfeiture as the crisis was occurring. The manager Zaheer Abbas went missing. The chairman was making comments about things that he didnít know and there was no communication at all between Pakistan and the umpires.

As a study in crisis-management, it was poor as it gets. Since then it appears as if they havenít done their homework on anything. Others have been similarly scathing Aaqib Javed when he was in the 1992 side in England during which a ball was also changed, with considerably less hoopla. Itís not the first time that it happened in 1992 while we were playing, our manager Intikhab Alam told us not to worry, he would handle everything while we should just play on. Afterwards he sent a letter protesting where was the manager now and did anyone know the rules?

Letís not forget though that Hair was correct in all the actions he took and he should be lauded for those decisions. Javed also raised concerns that Shaharyar hadnít been firm enough in his capacity as chairman with the players or match officials. ìOne player in the dressing room told me that all decisions were being taken by Inzamam about the protest. Shaharyarís very nature is of compromise, once a diplomat, always a diplomat. Not being clear and firm on issues is natural.

When the convinced Inzamam came out it actually made Pakistan and Inzi look more foolish.î One well placed source close to the board painted a not too flattering picture they were like a whole group of inspector Clouseaus, all bumbling through without knowing quite what they were doing, with our knowing the law making one statement after another, each one contradicting the last.

The list could go on as both Imran Khan and Javed Miandad also registered their concerns over the boardís handling, but as the source acknowledged itís been such a big cock-up that questions will most definitely be asked when they get back for one, the senate is likely to pounce.

Since the 2004 loss at the home to India the standing committee for sports has hounded the board through wins, losses, draws- over their finances, the lack of a constitution (the board has operated ad hoc since 1999) and any other topical controversy. This is heaven-sent the tour is drawing to a close but the PCBís headaches arenít, in fact, on return, likely to turn into a migraine.