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 here calls the worst crisis to hit international cricket in more than 50 years.
The fuss started when Chris Broad, a 30-year-old England batsman, committed the deadliest sin in the book: He defied an umpire’s ruling.
A Difference of Opinion
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 that he had to leave the field and make way for the next batsman.
Broad, insisting that 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 English 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.
Crushing Pakistani Victory
Broad’s dismissal was one of many that looked controversial, and the early December match ended in a crushing Pakistani victory.
But the English charged that Pakistan groundskeepers 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.”
Sinking to New Depths
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.”
Called Worst Crisis in Years
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.