Would we ever see Inzi walk off briskly?

Mahmood Ahmad

June 28, 2001

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Inzamam has been fined half his match fee and slapped a two-match ban after showing dissent against Peter Willey's decision in the NatWest Series final. This means the Pakistani vice-captain would sit and watch the first two matches of the up coming Pakistan-New Zealand ODI series from the pavilion.

It's not the first time that this veteran of 74 tests and 248 ODIs has allegedly shown dissent on an umpiring decision. Hence, match referee Brian Hasting's words were: "This penalty follows similar incidents involving Inzamam in April 1998 and May 2000. He was also warned about the same offence after the first Test here against England".

Inzamam-ul-Haq
Inzamam on a long linger at the crease after being given out lbw to Warne
Photo © CricInfo
To be equitable though, it's not the first time umpires, let alone Willey, have made controversial decisions. The majority of people I've talked to, maintain, the way Inzamam stretched forward to that Shane Warne delivery, at least a yard or more outside the front crease, it was extremely doubtful the ball would have gone on to hit the stumps. No doubt, Inzamam was rapped very low on the front pad, yet it had to travel 6 feet or more before hitting (or missing) the stumps. Take a look at the side angle picture. There was enough doubt in it and that should've gone in the batsman's favour, instead of the other way round. Also note that almost every umpire in international cricket declines the vast majority of 'front-foot' decisions for 'benefit of doubt' law going in the batsman's favour. I have elaborated this not to quibble about one decision but to make a case for equal treatment.

Cricket players are mortals and when they make mistakes, are punished in return by being sent back to the pavilion or suffer other penalties of the cricket laws. Likewise, umpires are human and do make mistakes but are not penalised. True, one hears vibes (unconfirmed) that some of them are punished 'behind-the scenes' by not being allowed to officiate many more matches. To me, it seems this 'hidden punishment' is applied more to sub-continental umpires, for as far as I know no non-Asian umpire has yet been accorded such punishment?

In reply, some might argue it was a fair decision by Willey. Ok, so be it, I accept. But what about so many of those headlined decisions, including the overlooked no-balls, during the recently concluded 2-Test series between England and Pakistan?

On TV one saw, instead of slapping similar bans on the umpires or even a public admonishment that a player receives, the authorities conferred them medallions. What stark injustice! Those doing all the hard work on the field for spectator and the sport's benefit are slammed with bans and what not, when they do something against the rules of the game. And those who help cause these hard workers break the law by dissenting decisions by 'human error' are honoured with medallions.

I don't as much as disagree with referee Hastings verdict. A player must be punished, if his action or behaviour places the game into disrepute or blatantly stands up against the authorities that are supposed to be the upholders of cricket laws.

But the point is: fairness should not be compromised at any cost. If a player is punished on showing dissent, then others indulging in similar activities should not be let off the hook. Justice should be fair and square. One cannot be made to feel wrongly or unfairly penalised while others doing the same are left free.

Jason Gillespie
Jason Gillespie
Photo © AFP
Now the question is: where was referee Hastings when Jason Gillespie showed his dissent against umpire Mallender's decisions on a couple of wides? Let's see what transpired at Trent Bridge before the fateful final at Lord's.

After conceding two wides, both on the off, Gillespie pitched the third one closer to off-stump and it was not called. He then immediately turned towards the umpire and taunted him to go ahead with his signalling. To me and to the TV commentators, he seemed to be saying, "C'mon ump, so signal this one too...!"

Yet not only the concerned umpire and the referee but also the print media remained mum about the incident. Could I dare say, had it been a Pakistani bowler in Gillespie's place another censure would've been round the corner? I apologise, as this sounds bad but am only trying to make my point clear.

Compared to Gillespie, Inzi's reaction to what he thought was a bad decision was nothing but sheer disbelief and he did not even open his mouth. I'm sure he would have wanted to say, "Willey sahib, I've stretched so far forward and anymore would split me in half...you've given me out!" But in truth, he did nothing except stay there for the photographers, not utter a word of dissatisfaction or signal anything to the umpire and then, albeit at snail's pace, drag himself off.

So was 'something' emanating from Inzi's stroll, and perceived only by the umpire and referee, that became the reason for his punishment? And did a very different 'something' emanate from Gillespie's obtrusive wide-arm gesture, so that no penalty was worth imposing on the Aussie speedster?

I feel all this boils down to one thing: the solution to the problems of injustice and unfairness is the use of technology. When we admit that umpires are human and thus prone to errors, why let them keep making mistakes and, as a result, cause players to show dissent.

Also, if technology takes over, biases (like my silly comment about a Pakistani bowler more likely to be penalised), accusations of prejudice and calls for neutral or 'elite' umpire panels will soon become a thing of the past. We would all go back to watch and enjoy this game once again. We would even see Inzi walking off briskly!

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