England’s Stiff Upper Lip Trembles Over Cricket Row With Pakistan
LONDON (AP) _ The decorum that is supposed to govern the genteel game of cricket has been badly strained by unseemly events during a recent match between England and Pakistan.
Stiff upper lips are aquiver with accusations of cheating, inept umpiring and general bad sportsmanship in what the Sunday Times calls the worst crisis to hit international cricket in more than 50 years.
The fuss started Friday when Chris Broad, a 30-year-old England batsman, committed the deadliest sin in the book: He defied an umpire’s ruling.
The umpire believed Broad’s bat had touched the ball before it flew into the hands of a Pakistani fielder and ″gave him out,″ meaning he had to leave the field and make way for the next batsman.
Broad, insisting he never touched the ball, stood his ground for almost a minute before a fellow player persuaded him to walk.
Broad’s action reflected the mounting anger among the England players over a string of decisions against them by Pakistani umpire Shakeel Khan during their five-day international match in Lahore, Pakistan.
In cricket, one side bats and the other bowls. The bowling side has to get the batsmen out one by one. When a team is all out, the roles are reversed. In the end, the side that has accumulated the most runs is the winner.
Broad’s dismissal was one of many that looked controversial, and the match ended Saturday in a crushing Pakistani victory.
But the English charged that Pakistan groundsmen had doctored the field to suit Pakistani ace Abdul Qadir’s wily spin bowling, and that Qadir then capitalized on the alleged bias of umpire Khan, a 35-year-old Pakistani.
England’s sentiments were quickly demonstrated by manager Peter Lush who, instead of giving Broad the normal heavy fine, excused his behavior as ″a culmination of the circumstances″ that built up.
However, Lush acknowledged that what Broad did was simply not cricket. ″The code of conduct of the game is very simple,″ he said. ″When the umpire gives you out, you walk.″
As Mike Selvey, a former England international, noted wistfully in the London newspaper The Guardian: ″Time was when even a glare at the umpire would have been stamped on by your own captain, never mind the authorities. Now we have reached the depths to which Broad and Qadir have sunk.″
England captain Mike Gatting came close to accusing the Pakistanis of cheating when he called the play ″blatant″ and said: ″You cannot play the game unless you do so on even terms.″
Some London newspapers were more blunt. ″YOU’RE JUST A BUNCH OF CHEATS,″ howled the Sun, branding umpire Khan ″a fully paid up member of Pakistan’s dirty tricks department.″
The Sunday Times’ Robin Marlar called it ″intolerable, because whether or not the umpires were cheating, that is the way it appeared.″
Marlar called it the worst crisis since 1932 when England, desperate to break a long spell of Australian superiority, stooped to the ungentlemanly tactic of bowling at breakneck speed regardless of the injuries inflicted on the Aussie batsmen.
However, many English commentators sided with the Pakistanis, noting that England’s batsmen were simply flummoxed by Qadir’s brilliant bowling. The Times’ veteran commentator John Woodcock felt that Khan was simply impetuous, noting that he had also given questionable rulings against Pakistani batsmen.
The Pakistanis say the solution is to have neutral umpires, instead of using nationals of the host country.
″When England play in Pakistan they don’t like our umpires. We have serious misgivings when we go there,″ says former Pakistan manager Omer Kureishi. ″It’s the same the world over and umpires from neutral countries would end all this.″