November 11, 2000

Umpire's decision sparks off controversy

Peshawar, Nov 10: The controversy that kept the Englishmen away from touring Pakistan for 13 years sparked off again on Friday when paceman Andrew Caddick abused local umpire Sajjad Asghar shortly before stumps on the penultimate day of the four-day match against the NWFP Governor's XI at the Shahi Bagh Stadium.

Sajjad Asghar, a 46-year-old retired banker, told newsmen that Caddick used foul language for Pakistan. "He abused my country which I cannot tolerate."

England's previous tour to Pakistan in 1987 was marred by Shakoor Rana and Mike Gatting's finger wagging row in the last over of the second day's play in the second Test at Faisalabad. Entire third day's play was lost as Shakoor Rana refused to start the match until Gatting submitted an unconditional apology.

Sajjad said after Caddick used further abusive language, he reported the matter to England captain Nasser Hussain. "But his reply was shocking. He said `you walk off and do your job. I will control my players'."

The incident happened 21 minutes before stumps when Sajjad Asghar turned down a vociferous caught behind appeal from Andrew Caddick against Akhtar Sarfaraz. Although the sound of the ball hitting something before going into the gloves of Alec Stewart was heard in the open air press box, Sajjad signalled that the ball had brushed the front pad of the left-handed batsman.

The New Zealand-born pacer, who turns 32 in 11 days time, stood at the bowling crease arguing with the umpire. He later walked off to his bowling mark but passed remarks at the National Bank batsman on his follow through on the next delivery.

It was at that stage when Sajjad intervened and warned Caddick "not to sledge" the batsman. "But he came back at me," Sajjad added.

"I told him that he can abuse me but not my country," Sajjad alleged.

Sajjad said he would report the matter to the match referee, Farrukh Zaman, who told this correspondent that he had no authority to take any action against the accused player. "I don't have the authority to take any disciplinary action against any player.

"If the umpire reports the incident in writing, I will forward it to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and wait for their advice," Zaman said.

Sajjad, when contacted about 30 minutes after his outburst before the English and local media, said he would not report the incident in writing. "I will inform the match referee verbally. There is no need for an official complain because the bowler has apologized to me."

But a PCB spokesman said Sajjad will have to complete the formalities and report in writing as to what actually happened in the centre. "He will be asked to submit his report in writing by Saturday morning.

"When we get the report, we will forward it to the International Cricket Council (ICC) for further action against the England bowler," the PCB spokesman said.

England captain Nasser Hussain, after Sajjad's word against Caddick spread like fire, met the match referee for a couple of minutes. Farrukh admitted that Hussain came to him but said no discussion took place as he (match referee) was not aware of the actual facts until then.

Nevertheless, England coach Duncan Fletcher, defended Caddick before a hostile English press saying incident like that happens in the heat of the moment.

"It is not a big issue. It happens in the heat of the moment and is forgotten very soon," he said, admitting that Caddick sledged the batsman. "Yes, he did sledge the batsman but it happens everywhere in the world. England vs Australia, Australia vs England, Australia vs South Africa."

While Caddick's behaviour certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth after having enjoyed a little over three weeks of exciting cricket. But the truth is that the tourists have been on the receiving end against some cruel umpiring decisions.

Alec Stewart was declared caught behind by Riazuddin in the first oneday international at Karachi and then Nasser Hussain was adjudged leg before by Mian Aslam off Wasim Akram in the decisive one-day international at Rawalpindi when the ball had clearly pitched at least six inches outside the leg stump. Hussain was also unhappy with a leg before decision in this match though it is difficult to say how much he justified in his bitterness because of the angle where the media box is located.