The Oval imbroglio August 26, 2006

Situation could've been handled better - Dar

Bad light: 'It depends on your personality how you handle it. It could've been handled better by another umpire' © Getty Images

Aleem Dar, one of two Pakistani umpires on the ICC's Elite Panel, has said that Pakistan's decision to protest and stay off the field on the fourth day of the fourth Test at the Oval last week, was wrong and may harm the game in the long-term.

Pakistan refused to take the field after Darrell Hair penalized them for ball tampering, a decision which ultimately led to the Test being forfeited. But Dar told Cricinfo: "There are other ways of protesting and the avenue they chose I believe was the wrong one. Strictly according to the law, the decision is correct."

Opinion on Pakistan's decision to protest and refusal to come out after tea has been mixed. The protest galvanized much of the nation; it was seen by many as a protection of their honour. But some ex-players, such as Imran Khan, Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram have struck discordant notes; the latter two agree with Dar in that it shouldn't have happened at all.

"The problem is that if one country attempts it, then others will follow and that cannot be good for the game in the long-run," Dar said.

Dar also argued that the spotlight has unfairly focused on Hair, after the Test became the first in the history of the game to be forfeited. "It is not about one umpire. It can't be about just one. Both umpires and even those off the field are involved. Those decisions on ball tampering and the forfeit were not taken by Hair alone."

Amid scenes like this Aleem Dar has been the voice of reason © Getty Images

Much fury in Pakistan has been vented at the lack of evidence with regards to the charge of ball tampering, the incident at the very root of the hullabaloo. That is to miss the point, as Dar points out. "There doesn't seem to be video evidence but we must remember that no evidence is required. It could be that Pakistan is right and they didn't do anything but as an umpire that is your decision."

The lack of video evidence suggests that the state of the ball, already 56 overs old when it was changed, will become crucial when the hearings are eventually held for Inzamam-ul-Haq. There is uncertainty whether evidence of tampering can be proved just by inspecting the ball; Aaqib Javed is adamant that you can but others are not so sure.

Dar, diplomatically, hedged his bets. "You can tell sometimes that tampering has occurred, depending on the level of it. On a new ball obviously it is easy to say if something has been applied to it. On an older ball it becomes more difficult but not impossible. As I say, it depends on other things. But the umpires can check at any time they want."

Dar was understandably reluctant to talk of Hair's attitude and the subsequent revelation that he had offered to resign in return for a US$500,000 pay-off. He did suggest, however, that the whole situation - from the ball tampering penalty to the eventual forfeit - might have been handled differently by other umpires. "It's important to remember the decisions themselves weren't wrong. But it depends on your personality how you handle it. The situation could've been handled better."

Dar is regarded by many to be the second best umpire in the world behind the Australian Simon Taufel. But if the last week has posed any sort of dilemma at all for him - torn between his profession and his country - then he's not letting on.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo