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Umpire's word is not final!
by Gulu Ezekiel
Sep 28, 2006
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 'punishment'.

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 Pakistan.

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 2001.

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 cast.

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 again.

 
More Views by Gulu Ezekiel
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