OK, I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m passionate about cricket and therefore feel I must say what I feel.
I’m appalled at the playing of the race card in recent discussions and debates about the last England-Pakistan Test.
- Umpires can and do make bad decisions. They’re human, and often have to make the calls without any technological aid.
- Players can and do make bad decisions. They’re human, and sometimes their gamesmanship overwhelms their sporting instincts.
One of the finest things I can ever see in sport is to watch a batsman walk before an umpire gives him out, because he knows he’s out. I have seen this a number of times in Test cricket and every time I see it, my heart fills with glee.
Cricket is essentially a gentleman’s game, one of the last few remaining, and we must do whatever we can to retain that.
Sport and politics make unnatural bedfellows.
Darrell Hair had a right to do what he did. At worst he can be accused of a lack of courtesy, in not warning the Pakistan captain prior to taking his decision. This may have defused the situation. But it does not make Darrell Hair wrong, or a racist.
Inzaman had a right to do what he did. Just because we’ve never had a case of a Test Match being forfeited, we cannot criticise him for his action. [An aside: Have we had a batsman “timed out” in a Test Match yet? I can’t remember an occasion. Must check]. At worst he can be accused of a lack of care about the history and ethos of the game, given that it hasn’t happened before. This does not make Inzamam a bad cricketer all of a sudden.
We all learn from challenges to rules; sometimes the challenges are saddening, but the world learns from them. We learnt from the Bodyline tour;Â the D’Oliviera incident; the Kerry Packer breakaways; the Ewan Chatfield incident; the Gatting-In-Your-Face-Shakoor-Rana sessions; and we will learn from this one as well. Rules for games like cricket are their own form of complex adaptive system, and will evolve. They will improve.
But not by making this a race incident. I support both the English and Indian cricket teams, watching them whenever and wherever I can. [Before you ask, just like the Scot at Twickenham, when it comes to India versus England, I fail the Tebbit Test gloriously].
I have been known to “watch” cricket on teletext, when a match is not transmitted live via radio or television. I love cricket. And I have felt hard done by as a spectator when umpiring decisions went against the team I supported. Darrell Hair was himself responsible for some of them, particularly in an Australia-India series some years ago. But on balance Mr Hair has been an exemplary umpire, even if I haven’t always agreed with his decisions, especially with my benefits of replays and comments and hindsight, and even some supporter bias.
But I never thought he called it wrong because of race.
Let’s keep it that way.