Call the Boys Back
By Dr Shireen M. Mazari

Pakistan has clearly been sending out wrong signals post-9/11 which has allowed all and sundry to attack and vilify Pakistan at will. Even in the field of cricket, we have allowed our players to take abuse at the hands of racist umpires and an ICC which still seeks to exude an imperialist legacy long after the demise of British imperialism.
Why else would Pakistan's cricketing officials -- most holding office without any merit credentials -- have allowed our hard working and dedicated team to suffer insults, racist slurs and simply bad umpiring over and over again. On the English team's tour of Pakistan in 2005, we saw no protest to a clear case of cheating, when Ian Bell wrongfully claimed a catch to put an end to Mohammed Yousuf's flowing innings. This, despite the fact that an appeal could have been made to the umpires -- as Shane Warne had done in the last match of the Ashes in England the same year.
We also saw the Harmison incident when he physically dislodged Inzamam by throwing the ball at him rather than at the wicket, and we know the absurdity of what followed. To no one's surprise, Darrell Hair was central to letting the English team's unfair tactics go by, but the fault also lay with chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Coach Bob Woolmer who took no issue of this abuse of Pakistani cricketers because they wanted to "maintain a good spirit in the series".
So it should not have surprised us to see Pakistan continue to be mistreated and abused on the cricket pitch ad nauseam. Why did Pakistan not lodge a protest against the appointment of Hair as a test umpire for the present series is a question whose answer lies in the colonial subservience of the PCB chief to all things British. So the maltreatment continued and most commentators have accepted the fact that the England's Headingley victory was as much a result of Hair's decisions as cricketing prowess of the English cricket team. Yet the Pakistani officials kept a highly questionable silence. In fact, I am surprised our players kept their cool for as long as they have done and Inzamam's only fault at the Oval was to have reacted late in protesting and then walking back on to the field.
Enough is enough. How much abuse are we Pakistanis to take? We have been called "terrorists", the slur "Pakis" is used with gay abandon in England, and in cricket we have had to put up with cheating and wrong decisions at the hands of badly selected umpires. Now again, the ICC has chosen to fault Inzamam without first collecting evidence to establish whether the so-called ball-tampering actually took place. How can the ICC charge the Pakistani captain in this fashion -- all this is reflective of an imperial approach towards a minion? Why have no charges been leveled against Hair?
In these circumstances, it seems totally absurd to continue to play in England. Just as South Africa called off their tour of Sri Lanka on security grounds, Pakistan should call off the England tour on grounds of an unplayable environment. But the PCB officials continue to grovel to the ICC and English sensibilities. The PCB Chairman's mumbled defense, if one can call it that, of the innocent Pakistanis is pathetic. I have stated earlier in these columns, and I will reiterate once again that the present PCB chief has been bad news for Pakistani cricket and should immediately be removed. We need someone who will have the spirit to defend and support our team in trying times. Cricket is a sport which is played to win -- it is not a diplomatic tool nor should it be sacrificed in the name of diplomacy.
The colonial hangover of the PCB chief was also reflected in Pakistan being the only country that opposed dilution of the umpires' authority by offering players recourse to replays and so on. As for the ICC, it is a body that has outlived its usefulness. We need to remember that the chief executive is Malcolm Speed who, like Hair, is an Australian. The fact is that the ICC is destroying cricket. In any event, given that most of the Test-playing cricketing countries are independent non-white states, why select an ICC chief executive from Australia? Obviously, Pakistan is not going to get a fair decision from the ICC. Why even bother to go to the hearing when the charges have been made with no investigation?
As for the umpires, Hair was deliberately not put on the elite panel of umpires when it was announced in 2002 because of his controversial decisions in the past. Once Malcolm Speed had strengthened his position in the ICC after taking over in July 2001, he became instrumental in putting Hair on the elite panel in 2003. But Hair is clearly unfit given his racism and very evident bias against South Asians -- he referred to Muttiah Muralitharan's bowling action as "diabolical" in his autobiography.
Given Hair's record, the ICC clearly showed mala fide intent towards Pakistan by appointing him as the umpire for the test series. Yet there was no protest from Pakistan. As for Doctrove, he has only joined the Elite Panel in March 2006 and in the India-West Indies Test series in June 2006, he was found dithering on a crucial decision involving Lara and Dhoni. Perhaps he should have stuck to his football refereeing.
With the deck stacked against Pakistan in England and within the ICC, some points need to be reiterated.
• First, the Hair charge is simply without any basis given the presence of 26 cameras at the Oval none of which caught even the slightest hint of tampering.
• Two, Inzamam was right to protest and the strength and dignity of the protest should be sustained with no compromise with the ICC or over the ODIs. How much abuse will we continue to take? For once let us stand behind our countrymen in their hour of trial.
• Three, if the Pakistani action was going to result in forfeiture as a result of the umpires' decision, then why were the PCB officers so ignorant of the rules? The less said about Zaheer Abbas the better, but are the PCB chairman and coach also not well-versed in the cricketing rules?
• Five, Pakistani cricket needs professional management. It does not deserve to be abandoned to retirees from the Foreign Office or disgruntled cricketers with their own agendas. A PCB that does not have the courage or inclination to defend our boys in their time of need should be disbanded.
• Six, the ICC should be replaced with a more viable body in tune with modern times. In any event the national cricketing boards should be the final arbiters. Perhaps the ICC needs to be reminded that it is the cricketers who bring in the paycheck and other goodies to them so they need to ensure the players' welfare not that of the umpires of ICC officials -- who by the way have ensconced themselves in Dubai now despite the fact that the UAE hardly has any cricket history.
Finally, the PCB needs to sue Hair and Doctrove as well as the ICC. Pakistan cannot be taken for a patsy to be abused at will. At the end of the day, if national cricket boards choose to ignore the ICC, what can the ICC do in real terms? Colonialism is dead -- let us rid ourselves of its vestiges and its apologists.
(The writer is director general of the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad. Courtesy The News)


Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.