March 10, 2002

Sri Lankans create controversy over removal of covers

Sri Lanka's over enthusiasm Saturday evening left the match officials on a tricky wicket as they battled to avoid the controversy dominate the proceedings of a rain-curtailed day.

The Sri Lankan players, anticipating victory and anxious to see the match restart, unvoluntarily helped the groundstaff to remove the covers. At one stage, the visitors took lone possession of a giant cover and sped towards the boundaries.

Their act, never seen in the history of Test cricket, resulted in water seeping on the grass and just outside the square.

The rules of the game clearly state that the players cannot even assemble around the square, what to talk about taking over groundsmen's work.

Ironically, everything happened under the nose of match referee Justice Ahmed Ebrahim and umpires Daryl Harper and Athar Zaidi.

Pakistan manager Yawar Saeed and skipper Waqar Younis looked at the proceedings in horror but didn't indulge themselves in debate and offered no comments.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) general manager operations and former Test fast bowler Zakir Khan was also unaware of the playing conditions and rules of the game when asked if there was provision in the laws of the game for the players to do such a thing. He was also unsure if the ground had been handed over to the umpires. However, Justice Ebrahem, while talking exclusively to Dawn, clarified that the ground had been under the control of the umpires from day one though he admitted that whatever happened was unusual.

He, nevertheless, played down the controversy and described the incident as an excellent attempt to keep the spirit of the game above everything.

"Both the Pakistan captain and the manager were in the middle and they expressed no objection to the offer of assistance by the Sri Lankan players. I think Yawar Saeed and Waqar Younis should be commended for their approach in this regard," he said.

He said if Waqar and Yawar lodged a protest, he would see where they go from there. Asked if Sri Lankan players action was within the laws of the game, Justice Ebrahem said: "No. I don't think you had a situation where it could have been dealt with the norms of the game. If assistance is to be offered and no objection is to be raised, we as playing control team can grant permission and granted permission as in this case."

Sri Lankan coach Dave Whatmore was diplomatic when asked for his comments on the pitch cover removing incident." Don't you think it was a nice helping hand?"

Australian umpire Daryl Harper said he didn't see anything wrong. "Didn't it look good?"