Tuesday, August 22, 2006 

Ball Tampering Controversy: Tragedy or Farce???

Once more, the gentleman’s game is surrounded by controversy. An umpire, Darrell Hair with a history of accusations of racial bias, accuses a team, Pakistan, with a history of ball tampering of doing the same. The captain walks off with his team, which forces the umpires to award the match to England. ICC, too didn’t take too high a view of the Pakistani team’s actions, and has initiated action against the Pakistani captain. Inzamam returned the favour, accusing Darrell Hair, and the ICC of racial bias.

The Pakistani media, as expected has lashed out at both Darrell Hair and the ICC. But given the fact that senior Pakistani bowlers have admitted to regularly tampering the ball, is it possible to give them the benefit of doubt? Such things get ingrained in the sporting cultures of countries. It is not the first time the Pakistanis have been accused of ball tampering. These allegations have come from non white players as well. But then, the proof of ball tampering available is only as credible as the proof against Darrell Hair’s racial bias. There are only historical actions and perceptions in either case.

Not that Darrell Hair, or the ICC for that matter, is free from racial bias. Darrell Hair’s actions seem to personify the anti-Asian bias, with Hair having gotten into the hair of players from all Asian cricketing countries. Muralitharan, Harbhajan, Shabbir and Danish have all been accused of chucking. The evidence of ball tampering seemed grossly inadequate, and no camera captured any footage of ball tampering. Yet, he accuses the team of ball tampering and deducts 5 runs, at a point of time where the match was very exciting.

Inzamam’s reactions too, were immature, leading his team off the field. What did he expect the umpires to do? Wait for an eternity, for the Pakistanis to make up their minds whether the want to play or not? Pakistanis could have continued playing, lodging a formal protest with the ICC later.

ICC has not been a saint either. Cricket was deemed to be the white man’s game, and that the power has shifted from England to Asia, hasn’t gone down too well with some of the whites. There have been racial comments about poor standards of umpiring of Asian umpires, but one can only look at the controversies created by the so-called ‘elite panel’ of umpires, to understand their standards. Steve Bucknor has regularly taken controversial decisions, many a times having match altering impacts. One of the reasons that Sachin hasn’t been able to perform has been poor umpiring, some umpires just seem to be too eager to give him out.

And now the latest twist: Pakistan wants BCCI to use its muscle to help it. After all, Asians should stand together, they argue. But what has the PCB done to seek such favours? The PCB comments over Gavaskar’s favoritism in the appointment of Shrinath as Match referee, haven’t exactly endeared them to the BCCI. Indians have always helped Pakistanis, with Dalmiya changing ICC rules so that Shoaib could play in Australia despite the chucking allegations. But PCB has never been willing to share a reciprocal relationship. Ehsan Mani’s comments over not have a major ICC event in India don’t exactly encourage co-operation with Pakistan. Why then, does PCB expect help in cleaning up its mess?

The above events were unfortunate, and avoidable. But the immaturity from either side has turned the situation into a farce, with off-the-field events making more news than on-field events. Just hoping that the air clears, and we can get back to focusing on the game.