Desperate and Devious
By Dr Shireen M Mazari


Desperate, deceitful and devious -- these three words describe the English cricket team most aptly after watching their performance and antics for the first two days of the Second test at Faisalabad. Clearly, they do not regard cricket as a sport to be played and enjoyed in a sporting environment. Instead, they have shown that they can stoop to all levels of deceit simply to try and take advantage. Of course, one has to concede that the English team is traumatised after their defeat at Multan. After all, they had come as the conquerors of mighty Australia and the winners of the Ashes and they were not prepared to be humbled in the first encounter with poor little Pakistan -- a team that is always underrated because of it marches to its own beat.
Having lost at Multan, the English team saw itself being rent asunder by the Pakistani batting at Faisalabad, after an initial disaster. So, what did the visitors from England do? First, we saw the Bell incident where clearly he claimed a catch wrongfully to put out the flowing innings of Mohammed Yousaf. One would not like to use the word cheating but it is difficult to find a more diplomatic term for what Bell did. What a contrast to a similar incident involving Shane Warne in the last match of the Ashes, earlier this year. Fielding in the slips he took what seemed to be a catch but he was sporting enough to refer it to the umpires even though everything rested on this match. Of course, many questions have been raised about the two field umpires also, especially since they have the facility of the Third Umpire to utilise when things are as unclear as they were in this instance -- although for the television viewer it was clear that the ball had touched the ground before Bell had secured it and that he tried to suddenly cover this by moving his other palm in front of the ball.
Having successfully carried out a deceitful action, the English team no doubt felt buoyed. But to the Englishmen's horror, the dismissal of Yousaf only led to the advent of Afridi and his complete destruction of the English psyche. Watching Vaughan in the field during the Afridi batting tornado was like watching a man about to burst into tears of desperation. They had no answer to his batting blitzkrieg. He showed what Pakistani cricket is all about as did the always-underrated but brilliant captain Inzamam. With Afridi out, the Englishmen continued to feel helpless before Inzi and hence the most blatant act of deviousness by Harmison. With Inzi in the crease, Harmison physically dislodged him by throwing the ball straight at him more than at the wicket. Given that Inzi was not seeking a run, obviously this was a straight-forward ploy to get him to move and be "run out" or be injured and be out of the next few games. As in the Bell case, the role of the field umpires was dubious at the very least while the TV Umpire, Nadeem Ghauri, was either desperate to show his "neutrality" to the visitors or was simply ill-informed about the rules. After all, Ghauri's own test experience has been limited to one innings in one test match in his whole career (1990 against Australia at Sydney) with no runs on the record at all. Even in terms of umpiring, he has only umpired two test matches and these were earlier this year -- Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka vs West Indies.
Clearly he is ill-informed about ICC rules. As has now been cited in the press, Rule 38 of the ICC dealing with run-outs states: "...a batsman is not Run Out if (a) he has been within his ground and has subsequently left it to avoid injury, when the wicket is put down." But if Ghauri can be faulted for ignorance what about the very experienced field umpires? Why did they deliberately ignore the deceitful ploy used by Harmison? That Inzi kept his cool simply shows the immense tolerance level and sporting spirit of the Pakistani captain.
The final nail in the coffin of the visitors' claims to fairness and sporting spirit was the way in which they reacted to Afridi's turn on the pitch. That Afridi would actually and deliberately tamper with the pitch is unthinkable especially since he had no reason to do so. The decision by the match umpire is unfair and biased and his statement that the ban "should serve as a message to players that this type of behavior is not allowed" would have been better directed at Bell and Harmison. It is a pity that Mahanama has chosen to turn a blind eye to the antics of the English team and has fallen prey to their devious tactics to rid themselves of the Afridi menace. And what of the threatening manner in which the English batsman, Pietersen, wielded the bat in Afridi's face on the pitch? Why was no note taken of that behavior?
Unfortunately, the answers to many of these disturbing questions lie with our own cricketing officials -- primarily the PCB Chairman and Coach Woolmer, both of whom are desperate to fall in line to please the English team. The PCB's decision not to appeal against Bell and Harmison smacks of a strange absurdity and duplicity. The Chairman of the PCB, who is arrogant in his defiance of the elected representatives when he is summoned before a parliamentary committee, has shown servility towards England that smacks of a continuing colonial hang-up. Even on the issue of having the ODI in Karachi, we seem to be giving in to English pressure. The security argument seems a little futile given that the London bombings did not upset the Ashes despite the massive devastation they wreaked. If the logic of security is followed, then London should be out as a venue for any sporting event in the future. We should learn a lesson or two from the Indians on the issue of venue selection. (Talking of selection, why does Yasser Arafat continue to be ignored despite his outstanding performance in domestic cricket?)
As for Woolmer's argument that the Pakistani side would not appeal to the match referee because we wanted to "maintain a good spirit in the series," he should wake up to the reality that the English team has destroyed this spirit. They are out to win at all costs and it seems a little foolish to continue giving in to their bullying ploys to sustain a one-sided "good spirit"!
It was equally disturbing to see the shameful acquiescence of commentator, Waqar Yunus, in the antics of the English team. Not a word of condemnation for what Bell and Harmison did. Of course, English cricketers have been indulging in unsportsmanlike behavior for some time now. Remember the sandpaper Atherton's trouser pocket? The Pakistanis have always won against all odds because they play from the heart with a spirit of defiance as they march to their own drumbeat. Let them do it again despite the English team's ploys and despite the PCB pusillanimity.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


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