The farce with Bermuda’s pitches

I could hardly believe my eyes reading this story today, which I then put up on Cricinfo. Brief introduction to events: Bermuda groundsmen have immense problems laying pitches. The soil is useless, due to the mass of clay in the island – so much so that batting on one of their pitches is rather like facing Devon Malcolm, without his specs, on a piece of corrugated iron. A sorry state of affairs.

But it gets worse, or better depending on your cynicism. Andy Atkinson, the ICC’s portly pitch expert, advised Bermuda to import foreign soil. This was the only solution, he said, as the natural soil was only good “for growing carrots”. A damning verdict if ever I’ve heard it. But the blind fools in their government are refusing to import this evil, alien soil due to the devastating, ungodly acts of catatrsophe which would occur as a result. I’m sorry but I really can’t take these people seriously.

“The United Bermuda Party disagrees in the strongest possible terms with Sports Minister Randy Horton’s plan to change long-standing regulations against the importation of soil,” he said on Sunday. “Most Bermudians understand the dangers of introducing alien species to this country. The cedar blight that hit our shores in the late 1940s was caused by an imported scale insect that dramatically and speedily altered the look of the island, killing off forests of our national tree.”

Now then. Before any tree-huggers attack me with seeds and fertilizer for sounding like such an urbanite, I’m sure the problems they had in the 40s were serious. But Atkinson isn’t advocating distributing the soil around the entire island, carpet-bombing the region with a blanket of new mud; this soil doesn’t have a life of its own. It’s going to be planted in a small area in the middle of a cricket ground. No islands will be damaged in the making of this pitch.

It just sums up Bermuda quite honestly. They were the most hopeless and hapless of sides in the World Cup, almost sharing that particularly plastic trophy with England, and yet are lavished with cash by their government. Millions of it, pouring into their coffers. In fact, those bally nice chaps in the government even paid for the Bermudans to watch the World Cup final, all expenses etc. It’s a wonder the ICC let them back in.

All this, and they don’t even have a pitch of schoolboy standard to play on. And they wonder why they struggle to compete…

What troubles you about the ICC’s running of the game?

I was chatting to someone tonight about the ICC and their hopelessness. He, a cricket supporter of some 30+ years, told me that the ICC have ruined the game he once loved. I’m not quite there yet, but I have certainly fallen out of love with it and, moreover, I am worried for its future. Cricket is less about the players, less about the theatre on the field, and much, much more about money. The ICC’s greed is the game’s principle problem and it shows no sign of abating whatsoever.

What saddens me most is their stance that everything they do is for the greater good of the sport. And those who disagree are not only wrong, but idiotic (and need silencing). This is a billion-dollar organisation who hand out peanuts to the likes of Ireland and Kenya, and millions ($9m this year) to Zimbabwe. A company who steadfastly deny accusations of ambush marketing, yet continue to ban non-ICC-affiliated merchandise, drinks and so on from the grounds. Salesmen (peanuts, drinks, gimmicks – whatever) in the Caribbean are being charged obscene amounts for entry into the grounds and can hardly break even. When did all this happen, and who the hell is going to stop it? Using this farcical World Cup as a perfect example, surely it would have been in the ICC’s interest to make it a success, and not for its accountants but for enhancing their own image. Instead, they have ruined a tournament; ignored a prime opportunity to regenerate interest in one of cricket’s oldest, most passionate territories; left a vast public questioning their every move – and will leave with egg on their faces.

What troubles you about the ICC? Are you as enchanted with this sport as you once were as a kid? Are you (perish the thought) in support of what they do? Do you even care? I’d be fascinated to hear your opinion.

The Shoaib and Asif farce

I’ve been out of action for a few days drinking my bodyweight and trying to ignore the fact I’m now closer to 30 than 20. Not to mention a flurry of “you’re halfway to 50 you old bastard” texts.

What better way to cure my groggy mind than to understand the Shoaib and Asif affair?

    They test positive for Nando Bannedo
    They are banned
    The ban is overturned. Lots of people go mentalist at the decision
    Somehow, they “avoid” a PCB dope test (last week). That was clever
    They both pick up a couple of injuries. Smoke and mirrors
    Off to the airport. The team all sing reggae in the bus, Inzamam on the steel drums
    Oh but hang on, the injuries are too bad, too serious. GET OFF THE BUS NOW

“The truth is both of them are injured and they may take even months to make a full recovery,” Nasim Ashraf said, with fingers, arms and legs firmly crossed. “The board’s medical panel will soon check them out but the chances of them recovering quickly from their injuries is very bleak.”

Complete and utter farce. But they’re not banned, they’re injured. Just in case you forget.

Should ball tampering be legalised?

So, should ball tampering be legalised? Read these two differing opinions.

For: Andrew Miller, Cricinfo

Against: Steve James, Daily Telegraph

Vote below (click here if you’re reading from a feed) then leave your comments. Is this a dark art which needs to be kept as such, or should it be opened up (within reason; no razor blades or bottle tops…)?

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Should Darrell Hair resign?

On the one hand he has done everything to the letter of the law, and indeed upheld the laws and regulations of the game in his role as umpire. On the other, should he perhaps have given Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, notice of his fears about the ball being tampered with before docking runs?

Let’s face it: he should not have umpired in this series. If an official courts such controversy, and isn’t trusted by one particular team, the ICC should be reactive enough to accomodate. After all, Hair is no stranger to these incidents. Throughout this series, and certainly based on the feedback we have received on Cricinfo, fans do not like him; in fact they detest him, in some quarters. Imran Khan was even moved to call him a fundamentalist umpire.

What next, then? Should he stand his ground, be supported by the ICC and resume his duties? Or retire now with his reputation hanging by a thread? (click here to vote if you’re reading via a feed / RSS). Leave your comments below and vote.

Voting closed (see results)

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Inzamam-ul-Haq charged with ball tampering

The ICC has charged Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq with ball tampering, and with bringing the game into disrepute.

Both Inzamam’s charges will be considered during a hearing to be conducted by the ICC chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle. Madugalle has been appointed to chair the hearing because Mike Proctor, the match referee at The Oval, was involved in the incidents that took place on Sunday afternoon and is likely to be asked to present evidence to the hearing.

Inzamam has been charged, as captain, with a breach of level 2.10 of the ICC code which relates to changing the condition of the ball in breach of Law 42.3 of the Laws of Cricket.

Inzamam has also been charged with a breach of C2 at level 3 of the code which relates to conduct that brings the player or the game into disrepute. This charge was brought by Doctrove and Hair, along with Peter Hartley and Trevor Jesty, the third and fourth umpires, following a meeting on Monday morning.

Unless there is some photographic evidence that we do not yet know about, the ball tampering charge is likely to descend to a messy farce, with just the umpire’s word versus that of Inzamam.

The ‘bringing game into disrepute’ charge, I think, will be an open and shut case. The nightmare scenario is that if Inzamam is found innocent of ball tampering, and guilty of bringing the game into disrepute.

Pakistan will then feel that they were found innocent, and punished for it.  The fact is, they are going to be punished for their ‘post tea sit in’. However, sides have been taken, and the facts are going to get lost in the noise and shouting.

Whatever the outcome, it certainly is not going to be very edifying for cricket.

Imran Khan: Hair should be sued

Duncan wrote in to say he had an exclusive interview with Imran Khan who feels Pakistan should sue Darrell Hair:

“Pakistan have been unhappy with Hair’s umpiring before: it’s his manner, as if he wants to stamp his authority on the game. These kind of umpires do so much damage to the game.

“If he thought the ball had been tampered with, Hair should have given Inzamam a warning – instead of immediately jumping in and suggesting that ball tampering had occurred.

“Inzamam made a big mistake: he should have taken a stand on the spot when the ball was changed. Not coming out after tea was the wrong kind of protest. The captain’s job is to focus on winning the game. The manner of the protest has lost Pakistan valuable time in a game they looked like winning.

It’s all kicking off, and it’s all pretty depressing too. Thanks to Scott for the flurry of posts. Cricinfo has the mess in full of course.

More questions than answers in the morning after

Are you all set for an exciting final day’s play today? It is a pity that in all the noise, there’s been very little said at all about the cricket itself, because England played some magnificent cricket until tea, with Kevin Pieterson to the fore once again. It would have been interesting to see what might have happened if England had been able to force Pakistan to chase 150 on the fifth day with plenty of help for Monty Panesar.

Well, if ‘ifs and buts’ were berries and nuts, we’d have Christmas every day. Of course the big story is the Great Oval Farce of 2006.

A couple of bored or overexcited journalists have called it the biggest crisis since Kerry Packer, which is just a bit over the top; there was the general match-fixing crisis and the Hanse Cronje affair, after all. What this farce is, when it comes down to it, is just a massive dummy spit that has been badly managed.

There’s been a lot of ill-informed commentary about this affair all over the internet already. However, you can not blame the commentariat for that; we still do not know all the facts about what has gone on. The failure of just about everyone involved to come out with timely information has simply added a layer of frustration to the whole mess.

We still do not know about what has happened with the state of the ball, and in talking to the BBC this morning, Malcolm Speed was pretty delphic with his remarks.

“The ball tampering charge, that will be dealt with, and there is power there for the match referee to fine or ban the player there. Similarly, if other charges are laid, the player could face fines or, if he is found guilty, he could face a fine or a ban.”

So it is quite possible that the umpires had someone specific in mind. I will await with interest the ‘charge sheet’ that is brought in the wake of all this, because if there is no particular individual charged with ball-tampering, then I have to say that the umpires have been way out of order.

It also appears that Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq may be charged with bringing the game into disrepute, by staging that ‘sit in’ after tea. Now bear in mind that he’s already been penalised by means of the forfeit, I think the ICC should tread carefully there. I basically agree with Aggers that the whole idea was pretty infantile, but having the game forfeited is actually a pretty severe penalty already.

I have to wonder about the Pakistani management though; how well was Inzamam advised? I do not blame him for not being aware of the ins and outs of cricket regulations; I think it is perfectly possible that he was not aware that in staging his protest, he ran the risk of forfeit.

And there is nothing wrong with that- a cricketer has enough on his plate without becoming the equivilent of a cricket lawyer. Inzamam is busy enough as it is avoiding training drills and actually playing the game. The role of being aware of every contingency is the role of the team manager. He is the fellow who should have got things moving.

Here is the timeline, once again:

4.40pm – Although play is officially due to resume, Hair and Doctrove wait in the middle, England batsmen Ian Bell and Collingwood remain on the dressing-room balcony while Pakistan do not re-emerge.

4.44pm – The match officials leave the field of play.

4.50pm – England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive David Collier is seen addressing England coach Duncan Fletcher.

4.55pm – The England fifth-wicket pair and umpires Hair and Doctrove return to the middle but Pakistan again are absent.

Now, to me, it seems that at 4.55pm, Pakistan should have emerged- they had staged their sit-in, made their point, and should have got on with the game. Clearly the players feelings were running high, and when that happens, people do not think as clearly as they ought, and it is at that point that the Pakistani hierarchy should have insisted to their players that they resume.

Because we don’t clearly know what happened, we can only guess that sometime in the next few minutes after 4.55pm, the umpires decided on declaring the game forfeit. However, if they did so, they were plainly in the wrong in clearly explaining this to the teams and the relevant ground authority.

England seem to have understood clearly enough- when Pakistan walked onto the field at 5.23 pm, they stayed confined to barracks. After all, they had been awarded the game. So if England knew it was all over, why did Inzamam lead his men on the field? Either they did know, and were trying to force the umpires to reverse their decision, or they did not know, in which case the umpires and Mike Proctor were incompetent in explaining the situation to Pakistan.

However, if the game had been forfeited, why was the ground authority not told? Play was ‘officially called off’ at 6.13pm, so from that we can infer that the game was still live at 5.23pm when Inzamam led his team back on the field.

In which case, why did England and the umpires not appear at that time as well?

Are you confused yet?

This is what happens when people aren’t kept clearly informed.

Where do we go from here?

The ICC needs to have a full inquiry into the mess, and to release its findings of what actually happened to the public. Beyond that, it is clear that dispute resolution procedures need to be improved. Also, the ICC needs to reform the way that it appoints umpires to fixtures. It is pretty clear that some teams have problems with Darrell Hair, and while it is a pity, it is also the case that cricket teams are entitled to play the game with confidence in the officials who are standing.

It is worth remembering after all that the whole point of having neutral umpires in the first place was to give both teams confidence in the integrity of the match officials.

Oval Test awarded to England

Update: the fourth Test has been awarded to England. More on this when news filters through.


Hot off the presses: Test match is ‘abandoned’.

So that implies a draw, not an England victory. This matters not a jot to the players, but it matters mightily to those people who bet on the outcome.

There is a precedent for this.

In 2001 the final Test between South Africa and India, at Centurion Park, was stripped of its Test status after India refused to play with Mike Denness as match referee when he brought charges against six Indian players, including a claim that Sachin Tendulkar had tampered with the ball. Denness, and the neutal umpire George Sharp, flew home and the ICC refused to call it a Test.

Sad, but that is probably the way to go.

UPDATE – It now seems that the game has been awarded to England. We finally have a statement,  which reads:

“After lengthy negotiations which resulted in agreement between the teams, the match referee and both the ECB and PCB to resume the fourth Test tomorrow, it was concluded that with regret there will be no play on the fifth day.

“The fourth Test has therefore been forfeited with the match being awarded to England.

“In accordance with the laws of cricket, it was noted that the umpires had correctly deemed that Pakistan had forfeited the match and awarded the test to England.”

Still no confirmation about the status of the Oval Test

There has still been no confirmation about whether or not the Fourth Test has been forfeited or not. Readers with tickets to day five are advised to check on the Surrey CCC website.

ECB Vice Chairman Mike Soper has once again hinted that he doesn’t think there will be play tomorrow. Meanwhile we learn that ICC HQ was thinking they were going to have tomorrow off.

It’s just been noted that the ICC office will be closed tomorrow. As the press release has it: “The day has been declared a holiday in Dubai to mark the Ascension of the Prophet (PBUH). The office will be open as normal on Sunday 20 August (8.30am – 5pm) and, after the day off, it will reopen at 8.30am on Tuesday 22 August.” Could this situation get much more farcical? Probably not…

ICC President Percy Sonn and CEO Malcolm Speed certainly will not be having a day off, I guess.

My own guess, and it is only a guess, is that we will have play tomorrow, as ICC puts pressure to avoid a Test ending via a forfeit, which would be unprecedented.

Aggers has put his column up. He has some sympathy for Pakistan’s plight, he doesn’t think that a ‘sit-in’ was the appropriate way to protest. He does not address the ‘forfeit’ issue, which is fair enough. There’s enough for everyone to get their heads around as it is.