Falling asleep in front of the Ten O'Clock News is probably one of the first signs of getting old. It still doesn't happen to me that often but it induces a level of disorientation that is often surprising. That's made even worse when you wake up to see an ICC Match Referee (in this case Ranjan Madugalle) passing judgement on the events of a Test match. What? Cricket on the Ten O'Clock News? Have England regained the Ashes or something?

Nothing that exciting, but The Oval, August 17th-20th 2006, was, as we know, no ordinary Test match.

Without going into everything again, I think the ICC got it about right. It was clearly felt that there was no visible evidence of tampering to the ball, and that Hair (and Doctrove don't forget) were mistaken. That's fine. But, as big Darrell apparently said yesterday, '…I know that if I make any mistake when I umpire, I make it in good faith'.

While Madugalle's statement (available on the ICC website here) clearly implies that he did not believe that the actions of Hair and Doctrove were either 'perverse...or involved bad faith' and emphasizes that it was '...no part of his [Inzamam ul-Haq's] defence to these charges to suggest that any of Mr.Hair's decisions were taken in bad faith or dishonestly', there are many in the Asian cricket firmament who take a different view. One of those is of course Shaharyar Khan, the PCB chairman and an annoyingly self-righteous presence throughout, who persists in maintaining that Pakistan's whole stance on the issue has been vindicated.

Well, not exactly, since Inzamam was found guilty of 'bringing the game into disrepute', in case you hadn't noticed. This was also about right as teams can't be allowed to refuse to play if they don't agree with an umpire's decision. That way anarchy lies.

Amid so much hot air, the sanest voice of reason belonged to Bob Woolmer, who reiterated his view that Law 42.3 urgently requires reform. How, in all logic, can polishing be allowed while virtually any other means of altering the condition of the ball is expressly prohibited?

In many ways, the most interesting and sensible clauses of Madugalle's judgement are the final ones, which state that:

'This was an unprecedented situation. If (one hopes not) such a situation were to recur in international cricket, I would hope and expect:

(1). The Umpires would do everything possible to try to defuse tensions in the dressing-room by explaining that a team is entitled to raise any grievance through the ICC but that it is not in their interests, or in the interests of the game, for the team to interrupt play.

(2). The Umpires and other officials should do everything possible to ensure the resumption of play. And they should not return to the field of play and then declare the match to be forfeited unless and until they are absolutely sure that the team is refusing to play the rest of the match. All other options should first be exhausted, involving discussions with the team captains and management.'

There is a clear implication here that Madugalle feels that Hair and Doctrove abandoned the match prematurely, and possibly also that Mike Procter, the Match Referee, did not do enough to try to defuse the crisis.

It also emerged from the hearing that Doctrove initially favoured a more moderate approach, advocating that he and Hair should spend a few further overs observing what was happening and trying to see if they could positively identify the 'culprit' before changing the ball. If that course of action had been followed and no culprit had been found, it is of course possible that the decision to change the ball may not ultimately have been taken and all this could have been avoided. One's feeling, though, is that Hair was dead set on changing the ball and awarding the penalty runs from the time of his first suspicions, so it would probably all have happened anyway.

We'll never know, though, so let's move on.


russ said...

Good post Brian,

It was interesting that as well as the umpires, Mike Proctor considered the ball as tampered with. And that, Madugalle seems to say only that there was insufficient proof of ball tampering, for so serious a charge (is it that serious really?). The implication being that had Inzaman accepted the decision, and had the hearing been held by Proctor straight after play, that Pakistan would probably have been found guilty.

The suggestion of Doctrove's that although the ball had been tampered with, a culprit should be found is problematic. (Even moreso if Madugalle's recommendation to inform the captain that you have suspicions was followed). If Hair believed Pakistan was deriving an advantage from a tampered ball then he was right to change it.

The same with requiring that an umpire is "absolutely sure that the team is refusing to play the rest of the match". Doesn't this imply that a team is not forfeiting unless a team actually forfeits?

The ICC should probably revise quite a few laws. I am sure there are several more where the application of them as they are written isn't actually what they want.

Brian Carpenter said...

Thanks, Russ. And I forgot to go into the saga of Hair being pulled out of the Champions Trophy for 'security' reasons. More like to appease India and Pakistan!

And now the ECB want compensation from the PCB for lost earnings as a result of the early end to the Test.

Seems this one just won't go away.

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