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August 21, 2006
Speaking to the media at the Marriott Hotel in North West London, Shahrayar described the incidents that led to the forfeiture of yesterday's fourth Test at The Oval as "a grievous blow to the spirit of cricket," adding that the team was "deeply indignant" at the manner in which the ball-tampering issue arose.
"Darrell Hair has trained his guns on the team," said Shahrayar. "It is a slur on the players and a slur to Pakistan itself. The team has had problems with him before, and have lost confidence in him as an umpire. They are deeply offended by his attitude. Ask the Sri Lankans, ask the Indians about the same man."
The ICC, however, has told Cricinfo that they will not be dictated to by their member nations when it comes to appointing umpires for specific series, citing the problems recently encountered in Italian football when certain referees are assigned to certain games.
"We are not dictating to the ICC," insisted Shahrayar. "When we have previously raised this issue, they have said that they have very few umpires, and that it is not always possible to suit every country. If every country were to say, "I don't want A, B, C, I want X, Y, Z, that would be wrong.
"But I think our case is somewhat different. It is not the fact that Darrell Hair is a bad umpire, Darrell Hair is a good umpire. Our team has a problem with his attitude on the field. That attitude has upset our team more than once. If the ICC is sensitive to countries and to boards, it will take due cogniscence. We have not raised this issue about any other umpire. Billy Doctrove, we welcome."
Shahrayar reiterated that Hair was the single bone of contention for the Pakistanis, adding that the spirit between the two teams had not been remotely affected by the issue, and that both sides had been ready and willing to take the field in yesterday's final session, and get the game back underway.
"Cricket is a bridge of peace," he added. "In these days of tension outside the cricket ground, what a wonderful sight it is to see cricket between a Muslim country and Muslim people, and England, the majority Christians. Why destroy this bridge of peace? Why go on and on with intransigence, saying 'No, no, no, we will not resume [the match] I find that very difficult."
Hair however was doing nothing more than following the letter of the law, and in that respect the Pakistanis have been hoisted by their own petard, after refusing to take the field after tea in protest. "I don't regret the protest at all," insisted Shahrayar. "It was entirely justified."
Even so, there seemed to be some confusion about the events of the afternoon, with Shahrayar claiming that the ball - 56 overs old - had been damaged by a spate of sixes from Kevin Pietersen that had bounced off the concrete. In fact, Pietersen only started hitting sixes after the ball had been changed.
For all his positive noises, Shahrayar stopped short of offering a full assurance that the remainder of the tour would go ahead as planned. "I don't want to answer hypothetical questions," he stated. "Our decision is that we should play the five one-day matches, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
Everything rests on Inzamam-ul-Haq's Code of Conduct hearing, which takes place on Friday. He faces a ban of up to eight one-day internationals after being charged with a Level 3 Code of Conduct offence for bringing the game into disrepute. However, as Inzamam told Cricinfo this morning, it is the lesser charge of ball-tampering, a Level 2 offence, on which this entire issue hinges.
Consequently, the PCB have taken a somewhat contradictory stance on the Level 3 offence, insisting that they will challenge the forfeiture, but will not be seeking to alter the result of the match. "The England team were willing to play," commented Abbas Zaidi, the PCB's director of board operations. "That is a great tribute to the spirit between the teams."