In the history of international test cricket, this has never happened. The final test match between England and Pakistan at the Oval was considered forfieted and the game awarded to England – who were fighting to save the game anyways.

There are lots of reports all over the Internet – and I wont talk about it here. You can read a wonderful analysis of the day’s incredible events here and here.

Gist of the story – Umpire Darryl Hair from Australia changes the ball in the middle of the game because of ball tampering. Post Tea – when the umpire walks back in, the Pakistani team refuses to take the field – the umpires remove the bails and walk out. The Pakis after fuming for sometime, now decide to take the field, only to discover the umpires have now decided not to show up. Per the laws of the game, after a lot of hullaboo ( and some booing of the Paki team), the test match is awarded to England.

Now, apparently, none of the Sky TV footage covering the game caught any incriminating evidence of ball-tampering. Also per Inzy, Hair never talked to him about why he was changing the ball – Pakistan construed this as an allegation of cheating and hence decided to protest.

What’s actually funny is that none of the warring parties – the Pakistani cricket team on one hand and Darryl Hair on the other – have an exactly clean background. Pakistan’s shenanigans on and off the field is very well documented – be it the ball tampering charges against Waqar and Wasim in the mid 90’s, to match fixing, the Sharjah debacle, Javed Miandad running after Dennis Lillie, the dubious quality of PCB umpires in the 80’s and 90’s – the list can go on.

On the other hand, Mr. Hair is not exactly an angel incarnate either. Reading his record makes one wonder if he is entire impartial or has some deep seated racial bias against the South Asians – the guy was infamous for no-balling Muralitharan for chucking. And he has had a history against Pakistan.

Now, Osman Samiuddin raises some good questions – apparently Shaharyar Khan (the PCB head honcho) said the protest of not walking out to play was supposed to last a “few minutes”. Osman writes that Pakistan came out to play after a full 50 minutes. Besides, if Pakistan really wanted to continue playing, the same should have been communicated to Hair when he went to the Pakistani dressing room to find out if they intended to come out and play. Apparently nothing to that effect was communicated.

What it tells me is the this – the Pakistani team and its officials had no clue what to do. There was no strategy. Essentially, it was a case of inflamed officials running around like chickens with their heads cut off, trying to formulate an “appopriateĀ  response” to the “affront” to the image of Pakistan -and in the process, forfieted the test match.

Who loses? The spectators yes. But most importantly the game. And the spirit that sports as an activity promises to promote. It will be hard not to look at the game at the Oval as a fitting metaphor of the times we live in. A cricket team from the Islamic republic of Pakistan is, atleast according to them, grossly unfairly accused (and frankly, I have to see evidence pointing to the contrary) by a white umpire, with a track record of percieved bias by a number of countries – all from South Asia. And a match, which they should have legitimately won, is awarded to the other team.

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