The events following Darrell Hair, the Australian Umpire’s decision to penalise the Pakistani team for ball tampering have put the game of cricket on international political map.
It was the day cricket spun out of control. In an unprecedented decision, Pakistan were deemed to have forfeited the fourth Test against England at the Oval after being accused of cheating by match officials.
In scenes never before seen on a cricket pitch, Pakistan’s players staged a protest by failing to emerge from their dressing room at the end of the tea interval, two-and-a-quarter hours after the umpires had deemed them guilty of illegally tampering with a cricket ball.
After a peace deal was negotiated, events descended further into farce when the umpires, Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, themselves refused to return to the field. This led to play for the day being abandoned.
So powerful is the impact of cricket, in particular the news of a Muslim team playing in a Western country, that even the President of Pakistan has joined this unprecedented saga in the world of sports. In a phone call made to the national team’s management, Pervez Musharraf discussed the decision of the umpire with the captain and the manager.
Former Pakistan skipper Rameez Raja also believes current captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was right to keep his team off the field in the chaos-hit fourth Test against England at The Oval. “It was an ugly situation which painted Pakistan as cheats and Inzamam will not take that,” said Rameez.
I am full aware of the emotional value of cricket in Pakistan. I can also empathise with the Pakistani team’s hurt feelings at being labelled cheats, tricky considering a few scandalous events in the past (for instance Imran Khan’s admittance to ball tampering in the 80′s and the ban on Shahid Afridi during England’s tour of Pakistan in 2005-06 for scuffing the pitch).
Yet I still cannot understand the reason behind the foolish display of lack of sportsmanship. Pakistan spoils their cricket stars like over-protective mothers. However, when emotions run so high, there is time to infuse some sense, in particular when they can endanger political sensibility.
I am against the decision to return late to the ground. I believe that the Australian umpire’s attitude was objectionable and his behaviour would have infuriated anyone in the team’s place.
However, it was sad to see Pakistani cricket players acting like a bunch of school boys upset with a strict teacher. Even more worrying is the fact that the whole country seems to be supporting it, not to mention the cushion given by the political and sports analysts who are calling this episode an unjust act in the “present scenario” of anti-Muslim feeling.
It is exactly this kind of victim mentality which can lead to very negative results. Are we reaching a point where we would even call a game conflict a result of Islamophobia?
Umpires, historically have always been controversial figures. It is almost impossible to keep bias away when one is judge to an emotional and touching scenario. It was for this reason alone that veteran like Imran Khan worked hard in the eighties to introduce neutral umpires in the game of the cricket. The prejudice of the Western teams against the strong teams from the South Asia like Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka is not a Muslim V non-Muslim phenomenon, it is a brown versus white colonial phenomenon. In particular, the antagonism between Pakistani and English cricket teams is not something new.
There could have been a number of more prudent ways to file a complaint against the umpire or to show unhappiness. The team could have come back in the ground with much more determination to play well and beat the other team despite the umpire’s controversial decision. There was no reason why a formal complaint could not be filed after the game was finished?
Or the team could have come back with black bands on their arms. They could have run in the ground to express their anger, or maybe they could have just given the silent treatment. Any reaction but the sour display of refusing to follow the rules which made them look like badly behaved children.
Pakistani team’s actions of the day resulted in disappointing millions of their supporters. Their anger was at Australian umpire, why then were the British fans penalised by their actions? By dragging anti Pakistan and anti Islam feeling into a simple game of cricket, we are also degrading the dire extent of problems faced by people threatened by anti terror laws or affected by stop and search.
Teams do not lose matches due to Islamophobia. They lose only for two reasons….bad game or bad luck. Seems like that fateful day in Oval, the Pakistani team faced both.
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Filed in: Pakistan,Race politics,Sports