Monday, October 02, 2006

It is just not Cricket

We appear to have a clash of cultures, leading to much bloodshed around the world. Such clashes involve not just the bombing of civilian targets by Islamic terrorists, but inevitably spill over to sporting events.

Not everyone follows the sport of Cricket, but it would seem that Islamic attitudes are having a significant impact here also.

Let me briefly explain the background, for those not familiar with the events at the Oval cricket ground on August 20th 2006.

At the time of the ball tampering allegations, the England team were batting, and the Pakistan team were fielding.

The two umpires were Darrell Hare (Australian) and Billy Doctrove (West Indian).

Ball tampering involves deliberately scratching the ball, which results in the ball moving in a way that is hard for a batsman to anticipate. Clearly, tampering with the ball is to the considerable advantage of the fielding team, in this case Pakistan.

It is unfortunately the case that Pakistan have over the years developed a reputation for ball tampering.

Darrell Hare is a typical, down to earth Australian, who brooks no nonsense on the Cricket pitch. He has had a very long career, at the pinnacle of international umpiring. He is a stickler for applying the rules of Cricket rigorously, without fear or favour. The world of Cricket owes him a great debt of gratitude for his work to raise the standards of the game. We can see from these recent events that such high standards are now doomed.

Of course, such an upholding of honesty and integrity will not endear an umpire to the players, particularly those players who seek to bend the rules. However, umpiring is not a popularity contest.

We can see that Islam is inherently dishonest, simply by this quote from the Hadiths:

"Whenever I tell you a narration from Allah's Apostle, by Allah, I would rather fall down from the sky than ascribe a false statement to him, but if I tell you something between me and you (not a Hadith) then it was indeed a trick (i.e., I may say things just to cheat my enemy). " Hadith Volume 9, Book 84, Number 64

Of course, it is unfair to say that just because Islam is inherently dishonest, that every individual Muslim will also be dishonest. However, having some understanding of cultural backgrounds can help us to make sense of events. It is also true to say that not everyone who comes from a Christian background is necessarily honest, even though such a background is indeed inherently honest.

So what of the events at the Oval cricket ground?


1. The umpires had cause to suspect that the ball was behaving unpredictably.

2. Both umpires carefully examined the ball, and both of them concluded that it had been tampered with by the Pakistan team. Note that it is necessary for both umpires to be unanimous in the case of ball tampering.

3. A five run penalty was awarded against the Pakistan team, the ball was changed, and play resumed.

4. The game paused for tea, as usual.

5. Heated discussions then ensued within the Pakistan team, during the tea break.

6. The umpires and the batsmen returned to the pitch at the end of tea time.

7. The Pakistan team did not appear. They were twice asked to come out, but refused to do so on both occasions, in protest at the umpires' decision.

8. After waiting for eleven minutes, the umpires removed the bails from the stumps, indicating that the game was over, and that Pakistan had forfeited the game by refusing to play.

Play for the following day did not then occur of course, resulting in a considerable financial loss, as the tickets had to be refunded.

Two charges were then brought against the Pakistan team, and in particular, the captan Inzaman-ul-Haq:

Firstly, the charge of ball tampering, which they were disputing.
Secondly, the charge of bringing the game into disrepute, by failing to resume play after tea.

For the players, the first charge is more significant, since it calls into question their honesty. For the game of Cricket generally, the second is far more significant.

There was then a two day hearing, some weeks later, by the ICC, to consider these two charges. The results are:

On the first charge of ball tampering, on the balance of probabilities, and taking evidence from expert witnesses, the verdict is "not proven".

On the second charge of bringing the game into disrepute, the verdict is "guilty".

The Pakistan captain was then penalised with the minimum punishment possible.

Obviously, it is hard to comment on whether tampering did in fact occur, not being an expert in these matters, and having no opportunity to examine the ball myself.

Nevertheless, nobody comes out of this sorry affair terribly well.

It looks probable that the long and distinguished career of Darrell Hare may be over.

My main concern is that the role of umpires has been significantly undermined. It is unlikely that they will now have the courage to uphold the rules as rigorously, and Cricket is likely to slide into anarchy, as umpires seek to keep the Pakistan team mollified. Other teams are then likely to cause difficulties, if they see Pakistan being given unfair advantages.

The ICC has also lost the trust of its umpires, by making public a private communication from Darrell Hare. It would seem that he has been set up to be a fall guy. Far better to lose one umpire, than for another game to collapse in disarray, with all the financial loss of refunding tickets.

It may be that the ICC hopes that the affair is now over, but is it?

One wonders how the expert witnesses were selected, and in particular retired player Geoffrey Boycott. How independant was he as a witness? He writes a column in "The Daily Telegraph" newspaper.

A day after the ill-fated game, he wrote:
"It is not the first time that such allegations have been made against Pakistan. There were similar claims after a one-day international at Lord's in 1992 and Imran Khan, the great figure of Pakistan cricket, admitted in his autobiography that he had used a bottle top to tamper with the ball.
You have to remember that the Pakistan players are deeply religious and pray five times a day, so an allegation of cheating hurts them."

After the two day hearing, he wrote:
"After all this, there is a danger that whenever Pakistan make the ball reverse-swing, people will automatically think they must have been doing something to the ball. We all know there is a history there. Bowlers like Wasim Akram and Imran Khan have admitted that they used tampering techniques in the past.
Last year, though, England beat Australia with reverse-swing, used superbly by Andrew Flintoff and Simon Jones. That was treated as fair play simply on the basis that they were white men. But it would be unfortunate if people went around assuming that Pakistanis cheat and white men don't."

It is a clear sign that someone has a weak argument when they imply that someone else is racist. It clearly has no bearing in the case of the ball tampering charge on this occasion, since the West Indian umpire was in unanimous agreement with Darrell Hare. This is clearly a nonsensical argument anyway, since, as far as I know, nobody is implying that other non-white teams (India or West Indies for example) have been ball tampering.

The other nonsense of course is to assume that just because someone is deeply religious, does not mean that they are thereby prevented from cheating. One also has to ask: What is the nature of that religion? As we have seen from the quote from the Hadiths, it is perfectly fine within Islam to cheat one's enemies. It would be interesting to know whether Geoffrey Boycott, or anyone else who makes such apologies for Islam, have actually read the Quran or Hadiths. Does Geoffrey Boycott know whether Wasim Akram and Imran Khan are deeply religious? His logic would imply that they are not.

It is a sorry sight to see the world of Cricket descending into anarchy. It is also a sad day when "The Daily Telegraph" newspaper prints such columns. As the leading quality newspaper in Britain, it is disturbing to see that its standards have slipped so far.

Nevertheless, in Britain we have a long tradition of freedom of speech, and freedom of expression. So even though I have some doubts about the way in which Geoffrey Boycott has castigated Darrell Hare, I support his rights to do so, in terms of his freedom of speech.

As Geoffrey Boycott was called as an expert witness in this case, however, it is perfectly valid to ask whether he approached that role with an open mind, or whether he had already decided in his own mind what the outcome should be. The quote from his earlier column in the newspaper would tend to imply the latter.

One wonders how the ICC selects its expert witnesses.

One wonders also whether there will be a legal dispute regarding which party is liable to pay damages for the financial loss resulting from refunding ticket sales. In which case, these issues will need to be fully examined in a proper court of law.

It is unfortunate that the action off the pitch is more enthralling than the action on the pitch.

Humanity needs peace not Islam.


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