Two separate incidents have been widely covered by almost every channel of news there ever was .. and involving four of the major test playing nations . If Cricket is entertainment , this is the dose of reality show controversy that entertainment thrives on.
South Africa pull out from Sri Lanka
Lankan press has widely criticized South African decision to pull out from the three nation Unitech Cup on security considerations. While this is not a new phenomenon .. one can’t help but feel sorry for the touring team and the Lankans at the same time. Africans, because they are being trashed on every blog, every channel and every newspaper, over a decision that concerns their physical security. How can you play in conditions when there are bombs exploding near your stay hotel and the target of the bombs being more high profile than you are. They are from an alien land, a place where violence , though not unheard of, is still not on the same level to be equated to terrorism. I did not like the idea of Lankan press making judgments on the cricketing skills and mental strength of these players by using phrases like “chickened out” and “scared to play Lankans”. LG Team Rankings @ cricinfo tells me that presently SA are the second best One day unit, next only to the Aussies. These are the same Africans who had beaten Aussies at their own game, sledging .. and had come out victorious against the toughest cricketing opponents in the most tiring situations. They are the same Africans, who gave us the best One day chase of all time. Given a daunting task of scoring 434 in 50 overs, most of the teams would have gave up the chase even before they had begun it. The point of all these historical statistics is that there is no point doubting the mental and cricketing strength of these South Africans. Yes, in the present series, they had lost the Test series fairly badly .. but Lankans are a tough side to beat at home. Poor SA.
Lankans are to be felt sorry for too, because they were on a roll. They must have been looking forward to having a thrilling one day series (if Rain Gods permitted). Given their present form, they might not mind even a World’s best XI competing against them. Lankans have gelled together wonderfully as a team and with the ever-consistent Jayawardhane on the peak of his form, and wily Murli picking up wickets as and when he wants to .. It would like US attacking a third world country .. play with it for two days and demolish it on day three and four. To be deprived of valuable ranking points and confidence building victories at this point can be very demoralizing.
The only people who have come out without a patch of dirt after all this mud-slinging are the Indians. We Indians are so much used to exploding bombs in our own courtyards that a bomb exploding in our neighbor’s territory hardly makes a difference to us. After the violence that Indians have seen in wars and terrorist attacks and riots, a minor bomb exploding in Lanka did little to dent the confidence of the team. Who cares for life taking bombs, we have our own willow-wielding bomb on his come back tourney, we call him Sachin.
Hair in Pak’s coffee cup
Indian news channels have taken upon the task of telling us about how Pakistan misbehaved with the on-field umpire and how they have brought the game into disrepute. A Channel has gone to the extreme of naming their 9:00 PM prime time show “Cheat Pakistan”. While the same words / feelings might be echoing in many minds, I would like to take an exact opposite stance. For the uninitiated, here is what happened at Oval ..
Umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove changed the ball in the 56th over of England’s second innings on the fourth day and punished Pakistan with a five-run penalty as a result. Pakistan protested after the tea break by refusing to come out, a decision which eventually led the umpires to forfeit the match in England’s favor.
England won the series 3-0 and it couldn’t have been worse for English supporters for the victory to have come this way.
To me, it was a Pakistan win for the taking and having forfeited the game at that juncture shows the belief the team has in Inzi and the belief Inzi has on his boys. I know, as Indians, we love to trash Pakis at every given opportunity. But the pakistan side deserves credit for standing together as a team in the hour of crisis. This was a team that did not like being labeled “cheats” and considered it a matter of national pride. As a captain, who knows that his boys did not do anything wrong, Inzi was perfectly well within his rights to register his protest. “It’s about respect” .. answered Inzi to the questions about his decision on the day.
Just goes to show, what it means to him to be labeled “a cheat” and as someone who has “brought the game into disrepute”.
Darell Hair’s role in all this controversy is even more controversial. As someone, who has had a history of spates against players, ICC could have done better than to appoint him for this important fixture. But , as ICC ruefully explains, it only has a handful of elite panel umpires who have to be shuttled across all over the world for matches and they are not in a situation to be able to pick amongst available. It’s more a question of “who is free” for them.
Apparently at some point during the unfolding of this drama, Hair had walked up to the Pakistan dressing room and had asked them if they would be taking field. To which Inzi asked him why was the ball changed. Hair answered that he was not there to answer Inzi’s questions. More importantly, after the umpires had walked off, pakistanis walked back on to the field expressing their desire to continue the game. Even the English players were ready to come back to continue the play. At this point, it is learnt, Hair refused to come out saying that the decision was already made. I can very well imagine Hair sitting on a four legged chair with his bear mug in one hand and a cigar in the other and shouting his decisions.
Give me one reason, Why should a cricket lover not hate this guy.
To me , it was a case of one strong headed umpire and one weak hearted umpire officiating in a high profile game of Cricket involving some of the biggest names in Cricket. The other umpire, by the way, was Doctrove. The reason why I call him weak hearted, is because it seemed to me that he was just taking orders from Hair. He is the same guy, by the way, who had no decision in the Mahendra singh Dhoni catch incident .. and the same guy who went missing from the Square leg in the middle of the over for god knows what.
I wanted to give an unbiased opinion on this incident, but somehow I can’t stop myself from hating Hair. To me, he will always be the guy who called Murli a chucker.