Monday, August 21, 2006

Cricket Chaos 2

I've briefly summarised what happened at the Oval yesterday, below. Not very clearly, I'm afraid - I'm in a ranting mood. So you might want to check out a different version of events, here, before I go off on one.

Here's what's wrong:

The Umpire, Darrell Hair, couldn't have actually seen any Pakistan player tampering with the ball. Sky Sports has about 26 cameras on the ground. Even if all the players aren't always on camera, whoever has the ball certainly is. No TV camera saw anything dodgy being done to the ball.

The Umpires inspect the ball constantly throughout the game - at the end of each over, in fact. But Darrell Hair decided that the ball had been tampered with after the first delivery of an over. So it must have been fine at the start of the over, and not one delivery later - what happened in that time? I'll tell you what happened - the ball swung.

I won't bore you with a history of swing bowling, but basically you need to know this: for a hundred years bowlers preferred the ball to be new and shiny so they could get it to swing. Then in the late eighties/early nineties a couple of bowlers in Pakistan found a way to make an old ball swing - but in the opposite direction. It's called reverse swing. At first they were accused of cheating, but now they're acknowledged as pioneers and everybody tries it. Reverse swing relies on the ball being dry, and scuffed up on one side.

In this match, it had taken about fifty-five overs before the bowlers - on both sides - had been able to get the ball to reverse swing.

Darrell Hair saw the first delivery of the fifty-sixth over. He watched the ball swing, and decided to inspect it. He saw that it was scuffed. OF COURSE IT WAS. It was fifty-six overs old and had been hit into the stands a few times. He hadn't seen anybody tamper with the ball, he'd just seen a scuffed ball. There's a big difference.

Then instead of warning the Pakistan captain, or discussing it with the bowler, he went ahead and changed the ball - in effect declaring that Pakistan were cheating.

Darrell Hair has a history of doing things like this - especially to the Pakistan side. In the past he has penalised one of the Pakistan spinners (Danesh Kaneria) for running down the pitch - when most other umpires would issue a warning first.

He was also the umpire who penalised the Sri Lankan genius Muralitharan for 'throwing' - again without a warning.

In fact, over the Winter, the Pakistan authorities complained about Darrell Hair, and asked that he not be appointed to umpire any more Pakistan matches.

Keep all that in mind when I tell you a few things I don't understand about the official statment that was released last night.

Let's start with this:
"At a meeting between the captains, ECB [English Cricket Board], PCB [Pakistan Cricket Board] and match referee, the players, ICC [International Cricket Council] match referee and boards indicated that they would offer to resume play if at all possible on day five.
The umpires having awarded the match to England and having consulted with the Pakistan captain reconfirmed their decision to award the match to England."

So, hold on, the ECB, PCB, ICC, players and match referee all agreed the game could carry on this morning. That's everybody. Except the umpires. So Darrell Hair stamped his petulant little foot and refused to go and umpire? Is that what happened? He said - oh no, I've already declared the game's over, and that's final...?

Who is he to do that? The umpires are there to facilitate and regulate the game. Not to make some point or to stop everyone enjoying a good match. In my opinion, both umpires should be sacked. Neither should ever umpire a Test Match again.

That's even if it turns out that the ball was tampered with. (And it clearly wasn't.)

The umpires are appointed by the ICC. Why can't they overturn Darrell Hair's decision and get somebody else out there to umpire the rest of the match?

I am also not entirely happy with the conduct of the England team. At the time when the ball was changed, if the Pakistan players were protesting that the ball hadn't been tampered with, the English batsmen should have refused to pick a replacement. OK, if that seems a bit too gentlemanly for the modern game, then later, when the Pakistan players refused to take the field, the batsmen should also have stayed in the pavilion to show solidarity. Then the umpire wouldn't have been able to award England a forfeiture.

I'm most upset that all the news coverage of this has called it a 'ball tampering scandal'. There was no ball tampering. This is a 'match forfeit scandal' or an 'umpiring scandal'.


James Casey said...

The glaring one for me is Hair not having the decency to accuse Pakistan of cheating any way except implicitly. That's a really nasty way of impugning someone's honour.

Apparently Hair asked Inzamam, when the umpires went back into the pavilion for the first time, if they were coming out; Inzamam asked if they were being accused of cheating, and Hair said that wasn't the issue. They then went back out and removed the bails. Not entirely sure if he specifically warned Pakistan of the consequences of their actions.

Joe said...

Yes, I heard that too. If that's true, I'm not sure whether the Darrell Hair actually followed the procedure set down in the Laws of tha game for forfeiting a match. If a team does anything that the umpires think constitutes a refusal to play, they're meant to ascertain from the captain the causes of this, and ask whether the team still refuses to play (Law 21.3). Only then, if the team does still refuse to play, can the umpires decide the match is forfeited.
Of course, I don't know what exaclty happened in that dressing room, but I'd be surprised if the conversation went exactly as I've just described.