Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cricket's Rules and Common Sense

Common sense is not so common these days and when rules made for common good at a certain time or to counter a certain problem are applied in a different context with no regard to common sense, the outcome could lead to more troubles.

I am referring to the ball-tempering incident in the 3rd test between England and Pakistan. One of the onfield umpires for this test appointed by the International Cricket Council, ICC is Australian Darrel Hair. Mr. Hair is an experienced umpire, but made some controversial decisions in the past including one against Pakistan team in a test against England played in Pakistan last year. The Pakistan team wasn't happy then and had expressed reservation about Mr. Hair to ICC.

ICC wanted Pakistan to give their reservation about Hair in writing. Pakistan hadn't done so and ICC conveniently appointed Hair to umpire the series in England, knowing very well that Pakistan felt strongly against him. During the third test in England, Hair changed the ball implying ball-tempering by Pakistan. Although there was no proof Pakistan cheated, the umpire applied the rule and penalised Pakistan.

Pakistan played on until tea. Pakistan's captain Inzamam-ul-Haq wanted to lodge a protest. He would have no shortage of advisors and his failure to lead his team back to the field was foolish. Hair applied the rule, England was awarded the match by Pakistan's forfeiture.

The problems have not ended there. Inzamam is to face a deciplinary hearing. Inzamam feels that he has been accused of ball-tempering unfairly and it affects his team and the honour of his country. If Inzamam is not cleared of ball-tempering, the Pakistan team may not play the 5ODIs. Meantime, Hair is holding his ground that he is right. However, he is willing to accept the outcome of the hearing.

The rigid application of the law above common sense has resulted in a messy outcome that may have far reaching consequences, let alone the pounds and pence, a price that may run into millions. After a period of relative harmony, the wrong outcome of the hearing could be disastrous for international cricket. This certainly is not the genteel game that it was meant to be.

A breakaway by Pakistan from the ICC remains possible, but only if the governing body is unable to demonstrate statemanship to settle this problem quickly. In the interest of sports and racial harmony, one would hope that it would not come down to this level.

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