Pakistan v England, 2nd Test, Faisalabad, 2nd day November 21, 2005

An affront to cricket

Inzamam-ul-Haq's dismissal at Faisalabad should be put down to plain ignorance with of lack of knowledge of cricket's laws from the men appointed to implement it

Inzamam-ul-Haq: done in by the ignorance of those running the game © Getty Images
The scorecard will record the dismissal of Inzamam-ul-Haq in the first innings of the Faisalabad Test as a run out. The truth is it should be put down to ignorance. Every cricketer learns to take wrong decisions on the chin and move on, but this stroke of injustice will no doubt rankle Inzaman much more because he was done in, not by a judgment the umpire had to make in a split second, but because of lack of knowledge of cricket's laws from the men appointed to implement it. It was appalling. And an affont to cricket.

Inzamam was declared run out after Steve Harmison, the bowler, knocked down the stumps at the striker's end when it was clear that Inzamam was not attempting a run. Such throws are not uncommon, not the least from aggressive fast bowlers intent on keeping the batsmen in their territory. He was within the rights to appeal too. But to anybody who saw it, either live or on television, it was patently clear that Inzamam moved away to avoid the ball hitting him. And this is what the law says:

"...a batsman is not out Run out if (a) he has been within his ground and has subsequently left it to avoid injury, when the wicket is put down"

It is natural to lay the blame at the doors of Nadeem Ghauri, the third umpire, who pressed the red light after surveying the evidence. He had enough time and access to enough replays to consider his decision. That he should have limited himself to the line call - Inzamam's right foot had left the ground for a moment and it was in the air when the ball hit the leg stump - and not look at the broader picture could be down to two things. He was trying to stay with his perceived jurisdiction (of delivering only the line decision), or worse, he simply didn't know the rule. That half of the professional commentators, all of them former international cricketers, were not aware of the law either - Ian Botham paraded his ignorance spectacularly - merely makes the matter more shocking, but it's no excuse.

But the field umpires cannot escape culpability. Simon Taufel and Darrell Hair are respected and experienced umpires from the ICC's elite panel. Taufel was in perfect position at the bowler's end to see Inzamam take evasive action and Hair called for the replay from square leg. Both had enough time to consult, and if needed, use the walkie-talkie for further confirmation. In the end, they all abetted in the execution of an illegal decision. Shouldn't they be hauled in before the match referee and asked to explain their action? If this was an act of collective ignorance, cricket lovers have a right to know.

That Pakistan themselves were beneficiaries in a similar situation in a Test at Kolkata in 1999, would hardly be of any comfort to Inzamam. The victim in that case was Sachin Tendulkar, who had grounded his bat after completing a run, but a collision with Shoaib Akhtar, the bowler, who was moving to collect the throw from Nadeem Khan, lifted his bat off the ground. The throw hit the stumps, Pakistanis appealed and Tendulkar was given out, a decision that led to a mini riot.

A more flagrant incident took place in Sri Lanka's first Test in their tour of New Zealand at Napier in 1995. Dulip Samaraweera, the Sri Lankan opener, attempted a run after tapping the ball in front of him but got back to the crease. Ken Rutherford, the New Zealand captain rifled in a throw and Samaraweera jumped up to avoid being hit. The ball hit the stumps and Samaraweera was declared out by the third umpire.

On the evidence of Inzamam's dismissal, it can be safely assumed that the lessons of history have not been absorbed.

Sambit Bal is the editor of Cricinfo