Monday, August 21, 2006

Cricket, lovely cricket........

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I've done a fair bit of umpiring in my time both as a schoolteacher in London and Bristol and at Club First Division and Schoolboy County Cricket levels. So I've got a lot of sympathy for Messrs Hair and Doctrose and rather less for the petulant attitude of the Pakistan team and less still for what I see as the attempts to excuse their petulance by commentators who ought to know better.

I don't know whether the ball was tampered with or not. Nor do Botham, Hussain et al. It will be for an ICC investigation to determine whether it was or no. The umpires on the field and with the thing in their hands evidently thought it had been, so they changed it and the game continued for over an hour thereafter. The real issue is not, then, the decision on this. The real issue is that, after an hour or more off the field for bad light and the tea interval, the Pakistan team decided, for reasons best known to themselves, not to resume play when invited to do so - twice, as it happens.

If they felt they needed to launch a protest they had bags of time to do it during the time off the field. They aren't an Under 12 School XI. They are experienced, professional cricketers and they know (or should know) the Laws and that the Umpires have no choice but to act in accordance with them. Once a decision has been made and the game has resumed under the new circumstances created by that decision, the decision cannot be revoked. For instance, once a batsman has been given out and a new one has taken his place, the original one cannot be put in again if someone (even the umpire himself) convinces the umpire that he made a mistake in giving him out in the first place. To use Blair's expression 'you move on' and the original decision has to stand.

The Laws, accepted the world over, provide that, when resuming after an interval the same procedure applies as at the start of play - the umpires check the time and call 'play'. If there's no-one to bowl, or no batsman has appeared, the match will be deemed by the umpires to have been forfeited by the absent side. There's no provision for a side not appearing because it feels hurt by a decision made 2 hours earlier. Pakistan know that fine well - so do all those commentators on TV and in the press who are happy to make out that it's all Mr. Hair's fault, or the ICC's fault... or anybody's fault......except Pakistan's.

It's a dreadful way for any match to end, but the cause of cricket will not be well served by the kind of cringe that we've been getting from commentators.

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