It must be the first time a cricketer having just been
banned for four ODIs, sits in front of television
cameras and repeatedly thanks the Almighty for his
good fortune - going on for good measure, to justify his
Then again when you have been going on for weeks about
upholding the honour of your countrymen and you are
punished for 'bringing the game into
disrepute' - apparently a mild charge, rather than for
cheating, I guess one must thank one's lucky stars.
So Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Huq can take a
well-deserved break rather than waste his time and
energy traipsing round India in what much of the
cricket world considers a meaningless event, the
Champions Trophy, but which the ICC had grandly dubbed
at one time the "mini-World Cup."
Ironical indeed that it took a courageous stand by
Pakistan's iconic captain Imran Khan in the 1980s that
saw neutral umpires (incidentally, two Indians) stand
for the first time in a Test series. Now the very
concept of neutral has been rendered meaningless by
They have demanded that Darrell Hair not stand in any
matches involving their team and their strong-arm
tactics have obviously worked. Hair has effectively
been banned by his parent body, the ICC.
The explanation that he will not be standing in next
month's Champions Trophy on the absurdly flimsy
grounds of 'safety and security' is a spineless
decision by the ICC to abandon one of its own.
Then again, Pakistan are not the first team to make
such demands against neutral officials. In 1995 Sri
Lanka rose up in arms when Hair repeatedly no-balled
Muthiah Muralitharan for chucking and got him
temporarily removed from the elite panel of umpires.
To save face, the ICC simply changed the laws on
chucking. Now to save face again they will have to
change the laws on ball tampering. Remember, till now
the umpires did not have to provide any evidence if
they suspected foul play in this regard.
But the real precedent in arm-twisting was set by
Jagmohan Dalmiya, then the head honcho of the BCCI in
It followed the Port Elizabeth Test match in which
Match Referee Mike Denness (former captain of England)
banned Virender Sehwag and imposed fines and suspended
sentences on five other Indian cricketers for various
transgressions. What really set off the fuse on the
streets of India was that Sachin Tendulkar was among
those six, ostensibly for ball tampering, though that
charge was later dropped.
Dalmiya insisted India would never play a match again
in which Denness was an official and that led to the
farce of the next Test match in the series being
declared 'unofficial' by the ICC. Like the forfeit at
the Oval, that 2001 incident too was unprecedented in
the history of Test cricket. But the die had been
It is the financial clout of the Asian bloc that
sustains international cricket today. That clout has
come after nearly a century of the Anglo-Australian
founders acting like cricket was their personal
fiefdom. And it is the financial muscle that allows
Asian countries to assert themselves so aggressively.
Let us remember that the ICC is made up of just 10
senior and full members, unlike FIFA that has more
members than even the United Nations!
So now we have a situation in the world of cricket
(and not just on the international stage) where the
umpire's verdict is no longer final as it has been for
around 350 years.
Now there will always be pricey
lawyers lurking around, splitting legal hairs and
overturning the laws and rules of the game to suit
their client's needs. Cricket will never be the same