| A Pakistani reads a newspaper featuring a cartoon of Hair as a chick laying an egg of ‘ball tampering’. (AFP)
Aug. 22: It’s not official, but if captain Inzamam-ul Haq isn’t absolved of the damning ball-tampering charge, then it’s almost certain that the Pakistan cricket team will return home without playing England in a Twenty20 match and five ODIs.
They forfeited the last Test, in dramatic circumstances, two days ago.
“It’s a question of our pride and we believe nothing illegal was done at The Oval on Sunday afternoon. We also learn there’s no footage to indict any player…. The International Cricket Council (ICC) has to accept Darrell Hair made a mistake,” a senior member of the Pakistan squad told The Telegraph this evening.
Speaking from the team bus, on the drive from the heart of London to Uxbridge, he added: “Today, our priority is to get our name cleared. If the ball-tampering charge is upheld, then kuch bhi ho sakta hai… It can then get out of hand. We weren’t cheating and definitely won’t remain in England with that stigma.”
The senior member, however, indicated that the squad was reconciled to Inzamam being punished for bringing the game into disrepute.
“We realise that not having taken the field immediately after tea is going to invite consequences. Being penalised for taking a stand, though, is acceptable. A strong statement was, at least, made,” he pointed out.
If guilty of ball tampering, Inzamam faces a fine of between 50 and 100 per cent of his match fee and/or a one-Test or two-ODI ban.
Where the other charge is concerned, he may be banned for between two and four Tests or between four and eight ODIs.
The disciplinary hearing is scheduled for Friday and Inzamam could have a legal eagle by his side.
Despite being at the centre of cricket’s most blinding storm since the match-fixing scandal of April 2000, the Pakistanis appear relaxed.
Indeed, as the team bus was trying to beat the rush-hour traffic, they were watching a DVD of the Aamir Khan-Kajol starrer, Fanaa.
(According to an agency report, manager Zaheer Abbas has suggested the team could, in a “show of solidarity” with the captain, skip Thursday’s limited-overs match against Middlesex. However, that’s unlikely as most would see it as an indirect means of putting pressure on the ICC which, in any case, hasn’t emerged with flying colours.)
It’s perhaps the first time that a disciplinary hearing will be conducted by a match referee who wasn’t on duty.
As of now, that job has fallen on former Sri Lankan captain, Ranjan Madugalle, who is the ICC’s chief referee.
Till late on Tuesday, though, his appointment was “provisional” as he had not confirmed availability.
Madugalle is addressing “personal issues” and, so, it’s not clear whether he’s actually going to board a Colombo-London flight in the next couple of days.
One-time South African allrounder Mike Procter, who was officiating at The Oval, has been kept out of the chair as he can’t produce evidence (as is likely) and also sit in judgment.
“Nobody should have a problem with our arrangement. Procter can’t wear two hats at the same time,” is how an ICC official put it from Dubai.
Meanwhile, one learns, the “absence” of a bell (usually a fixture in most cricket centres) played a part in the finish without precedent at The Oval.
According to another source in the Pakistan squad, nobody was aware that Hair and Billy Doctrove had gone back to the field a second time (after tea) till they began returning to the umpires’ room — their last official movement, really.
“Hair came to our dressing room, from a side entrance, and spoke to Inzy. The captain wanted proof of wrongdoing, but the umpire said he would only talk to the match referee. He left without saying he was going back to the field.
“In fact, even the fourth umpire (Trevor Jesty) didn’t convey anything. There was no communication and the absence of a bell made it worse.
“Had somebody informed us that the umpires were heading out again, we would have ended our team meeting and followed.… By then, it had already been decided we would resume.
“As our dressing room was closed, we were in effect cut off. Even if nobody conveyed anything, a bell would surely have been heard by somebody. Now, it’s all history,” he said.
It’s not mandatory for the host to provide for the “ringing of a bell”, coinciding with the umpires stepping out of the shadows.