Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Stupidity ...

... and Darrell Hair is not the only man guilty of it. He was just the first one, last Sunday, to set Stupid-Ball rolling (a Hair-ball, perhaps).

As a mere 784 different columnists and TV analysts have pointed out, there were 26 cameras covering that match and not one of them captured any footage that might suggest that the fielding team had tampered with the ball. Yet Doctrove suspected that the ball had been tampered with. Talked to Big Brother Darrell. And cricket had a bad hair day.

Consider Darrell’s options. He has a walkie-talkie which he can use to communicate with two other umpires AND the match referee. Does he call for back-up? For a second opinion? We don’t know, since they won’t say, but the evidence of the cameras suggests that he did not. Stupidity 1, Common Sense 0.

Does he talk to Inzamam and show him the ball’s surface, or ask him what caused the wear that might be considered suspicious. He does not. (This we know).

Does he walk over to the boundary, ringed with ad hoardings and concrete gutters, to check whether those might have scuffed the ball? He does not. Stupidity keeps scoring.

No, our man takes his decision alone and awards 5 runs to the Brits on grounds of ball-tampering. Mind you, he had not till that point seen fit to inform the captain of the fielding team that he considered them to be cheats and was taking action accordingly. It was only when Inzy shambled over and asked, that he was told what was going on. Stupidity, by this time, is so far ahead of the field that one would have thought it didn’t need any further help.

But wait. It gets better. Or worse, depending on how you look at it.

Our large sloth-bear of a Paki captain is rather like a road-roller on a downhill slope. It takes some time to build up speed, but after that it takes a lot of stopping. Inzy boiled until the tea-break, then fumed and decided to protest. Protest? I suspect the Pak team decided that enough was enough and they didn’t want to play any more. Rather like Gavaskar on that day in Melbourne in 1981, except that Pakistan didn’t have a Durrani on the spot to sort things out. By the time sanity – or conventional wisdom – returned, the umpires had been out to the middle, the fielding team had not turned up, the bails had been removed and the match had been forfeited.

I don’t see anything wrong with that. It’s the rules, stupid. The rule-book does not say that the umpires have to come and cajole you to play. The Pak team took a decision. The team management should either have sent them out on the field immediately after tea, so that they did not forfeit the match, or they should have stuck by their guns and refused to take the field at all. By reversing their decision (which is what seems to have happened, Inzy’s story of “registering a protest through delay” is not very credible, nobody can be that stupid), they have lost some of the moral high ground. Pity. One would have expected better of the great Zed.

Oh, it gets even messier. Shahid Afridi – not exactly Mensa material even on a cricket field – goes on camera with revelations of how ball-tampering happens and how he believes that reverse swing is not possible without some tampering. Ye gods and little fishes!

But actually really truly deeply, the original stupidity can be traced to the ICC. This is a man who is regarded as racist or at the very least unfair to teams “of colour”. Was there no other umpire they could have appointed for this series? Or did they just want to prove that it’s their bailiwick and they can do what they damn well please? They may find themselves proven wrong. If Pakistan pull out alleging racism, India cannot afford to be seen siding with the likes of Speed and Hair. Things could get a lot worse before they start getting better.

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And oh, since we were talking about pig-headedness … The good news is that just about anybody can be a performing artist. Given sufficient strength in the trapezoids, erector spinnae and glutes, this is a surefire way to bring home the bacon. But wait, what if the single paying customer falls sick?

Perhaps they could offer to perform at the Oval for the fifth-day spectators.

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Anonymous said...

So far it seems like the only reason for changing the ball was that Pakistan bowlers were obtaining prodigous reverse swing. Therefore the ball must have been tampered with !

As I ask in my blog, why was there were no needle of suspicion when when Simon Jones was reverse swinging merrily last year (and with some whispers emerging later about English players using minty saliva to polish the ball)?

Agree with you that Pakistan having chosen not to come out after tea should suffer the consequences of forfeiture.

Tabula Rasa said...

it's all part of the larger plan to peddle cricket-as-entertainment. watch for darrell on oprah. and jerry springer. with inzi.

Inkblot said...

so the pakis wanted a day off in London to visit kith and kin and Hair was tired of their faces. ICC officials were taking a nap on a summer afternoon and back home, the dictator needed an excuse to pick a fight with the white colonisers' many reasons do we need? no heat, no hair or is it the other way round? :P

udayan said...

This must be the only case in history, where ball tampering was alleged without any dismissals to show for it!

Agree with you, idiocy all around. Hair has always been too sanctimonious for his own good. Inzy is a buffoon. The great "Zed" also has no major cricketing brain, it would seem.

Cyberswami said...

mr. prufrock, i think you will find that afridi has been misquoted, perhaps even sensationalised. i watched the repeat of the 'exclusive' interview on timesnow, i think it was, and he neither used the word tampering, nor any direct translation thereof.

he said 'hum ball ko banaate hain', by which he was referring to (and explicitly stated so) the deliberate shining of one side of the ball and the even more deliberate neglect of the other side. he neither said anything about purposely scuffing the surface, nor lifting the seam, which are the two forms of ball tampering.

anyway, that's not the point, really. i just hope india knows what best to do, because since even bangladesh has sided with pakistan, our support can mean a lot, especially with the champions trophy coming up. you know, a 'hair today gone tomorrow' kind of thing.

30in2005 said...

What do you suggest Pakistan should have done?

And I wonder how India would have reacted in this situation?

Oh why must cricket be so complicated?

Deep said...

This controversy has brought back some much-needed spark in cricket...i mean the last gripping test match series was quite some time back. But it was very unfortunate for the Pakis i think - they had a rough tour and deserved to cap the series off with what looked like a thoroughly deserved victory.
And I think Darrell Hair is stupid and hot-headed but he was not wrong, and its not fair to call him a racist just because he has a past. Inzy should have handled it with more maturity, and most importantly, what was the match ref Mike Procter doing all along? Similar impasses have happened before and there was someone to save the day each time - you mentioned Durrani but a bigger fiasco was the '80 Windies vs NZ stand-off where the Board and WI team manager kept their cool and asked the players to continue when they pressed for replacement of one umpire.
Check out Tony Cozier's article on cricinfo for more on that.

I think Woolmer is right - ICC needs to re-look at the ball-tampering rule; with Waqar Younis as a bowling coach one would expect the Pakis to learn the 'art' of reverse swing to mastery, but I would be very surprised if they find any serious un-acceptable form of ball-tampering happened at the Oval.

Salil said...

This shall be settled in a pie v. paratha eating contest, methinks.

Had similar feelings on my blog - a lot of parties are to blame, with nobody resorting to rational thinking and common sense, and a lot of bullheadedness and egotism causing chaos.

Although I think it's a bit harsh to call Hair a racist. He's made some harsh decisions against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the past, and been known for his over officious behaviour when subcontinental teams are concerned - but it's worth noting that the man behaves like a prick even with other teams. South Africa haven't been very fond of him, and I don't think New Zealand are too thrilled with his umpiring either. Think that it's simply a case of poor man management and decision making skills with a big ego to match, rather than outright racism.