Not cricket

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.

That’s cricket.

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;  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.

6 thoughts on “Not cricket”

  1. I would be interested in any examples of this being made into a race issue – haven’t seen many myself. There are a few articles saying that some unidentified third party claims that Hair has an animus for Asian teams or players but it’s never substantiated nor are any actual quotes given.

    The Dean Jones incident, yes. Ian Botham all those years ago, undoubtedly.
    I remember numerous remarks from my childhood about West Indian supporters “ruining” the atmosphere of a Test match by singing and beating beer cans together (Trevor Bailey and Fred Trueman among the most guilty here, but it extended as far as the Agnew era I’m sure).

    The worst anybody can come up with for this incident is a vague second-hand accusation that Hair might be motivated by racial factors. It seems unlikely that this will be seen as anything other than a footnote to the incident in years to come.

  2. As a cricket fan now living in Germany, the cricinfo ticker is a saviour.
    I dont know what to make of the Hair incident, especially given the latest business with the ICC.
    Pakistan may have brought the game into disrepute (to quote the rules), but I fear that Mr Hair has done lasting and significant damage to the addage “the umpire is always right”
    the term boycott returns to cricket, but not as a batsman…

    At least nobody got headbutted.

  3. Does today’s decision to revert the official result to Darrel Hair’s original decision now complete his rehabilitation? I still think he was too ready to no-ball Muttiah Muralitharan, but that’s not really germane now.

    More interesting is what this says about the ICC. What informed its earlier disgraceful decision to award Pakistan the draw? What has now caused them to reverse this decision on the very day they moved the 2009 Champions Trophy away from Pakistan? I await somebody more familiar with the politics of the subcontinent to enlighten me.

  4. I think not. I believe the ICC’s decision to award a draw was itself flawed, so I welcome this reversion to the original decision.

    That does not exonerate Hair or condone his behaviour.

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