Is this the beginning of the end of cricket?

MARK BRADSHAW writes: What’s cricket finally coming to? Having survived bodyline, apartheid, Packer and matchfixing, is it getting to the ‘end game’? 

Should Inzy and Hair settle their score with a gloves-off boxing bout? Let’s see the events as it happened.

1) Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove notice something ‘funny’ happening to the ball sometime before tea on the fourth day of the Test between Pakistan and England. Pakistan, playing for ‘pride’ has a good chance to pull one back and England is fighting with their backs to the wall.

2) When Kevin Pieterson got out at 96, the ball is with the umpires. There are still, few overs to go before ‘Tea’. It’s then Hair notices the ball, which has slightly different colour in some area with seam looking gouged, consults square leg umpire Billy Doctrove and signals pavilion for a new set of balls. He selects a new ball and also signals the scorers for addition of 5 runs. He doesn’t consult Inzi at all during all this time.

3) Inzi, slightly slow, walks up to umpires when they were selecting the ball, but Hair mumbles something and is going ahead with the process. Either there is a communication breakdown or whatever, game proceeds without any problem! 

4) It’s after the tea break when umpires are already there, Pakistan doesn’t take the field registering their protest, an ill-advised move, no doubt. Both umpires and the not out batsmen wait for the fielders. Hair, talks to the batsmen and whips the bails (Good stumping, that!) signifying the match is over. 

5) Only then, fearing the worst, Inzi troops out with his men to be told the match is over. 

6) David Gower and Michael Holding keep the audience informed as to what could be happening and Pakistan Board chief Shaharyar Khan pleads with Holding that even when both teams are ready to play, Hair says, the match is over. Finito.

7) ICC’s Malcolm Speed says, it supports the umpires and hints at disciplinary action against Inzi after match referee Ranjan Madugalle is free. 

Subsequent events:

1) Inzy says, if he is penalized, Pakistan won’t play one dayers.

2) Hair wants to quit and wants US$ 500,000 as parting fees. Right now cricket is in its biggest crisis. Australians, as usual with their Prime Minister, jumps to Hair’s support so also Musharaff and their Parliament. Now it’s no more cricket. 

Following questions arise: 

a) Was Hair ‘hasty’ in penalizing Pakistan? Did umpires take unilateral decision without first warning  and consulting him give him a chance to explain, but jumped the gun and held them guilty of cheating?

b) Should Inzy and team walked to the ground as per rules to play and left it to Zaheer Abbas and coach Bob Woolmer sort it out with match Referee. They could have still given an official letter of protest and threatened to pull out if this was not sorted out before commencement of play next day. The players did what they were not supposed to do, i.e. abstain from playing and officials did not do what was expected of them, to take care of team’s interest.

c) Should Hair & co. have agreed for continuation of the match, keeping the interest of the paying public, and also the disciplinary action against Inzi going so that the crisis could have been averted?

d) Was ICC found wanting in their efforts to douse the fire and save the game and uphold the interests of paying public. Did they act like pussycats, when it mattered most? 

Unfortunately, the crisis is turning gradually in terms of race with Sri Lanka jumping in to the fray vis-vis Murali incidents. India is wisely keeping itself out of this, but will be dragged in to this, if some settlement doesn’t happen quickly. 

How will this tamasha end?