Pakistan v India, 2nd ODI, Rawalpindi February 11, 2006

Flirting with controversy

Zaheer Khan tries to pick up the ball but it got deflected off Shoaib Mailk's boot © AFP

Just as the dust was settling over the storm created by Inzamam-ul-Haq's dismissal at Peshawar, there was nearly further controversy early in the second game at Rawalpindi. Shoaib Malik steadied Pakistan's wobbly ship with a punchy 95 but when on 47, he almost entered dangerous territory.

At Peshawar, Inzamam had blocked the ball from going on to hit the stumps while still outside the crease. He then claimed that he hadn't known the law, and his allegation that the Indians had been "unsporting" in their appeal created a minor storm. Several former cricketers reacted to his comments, all of which forced the Indian team to issue a statement saying that the matter was probably better off put to rest.

The fifth ball of the 18th over, though, brought with it a sense of déjà vu. Younis Khan pushed a Zaheer Khan delivery to the off side and thought about taking a single, forcing Malik, at the non-striker's end, to charge down the pitch. But he was soon caught in a tangle with Zaheer, trying to field the ball, and could have found it difficult to get back to the crease had Zaheer picked up and thrown down the stumps.

Malik, though, deflected the ball away with his boots (whether willfully or not we may never know) and got back into the crease without a problem. There was just a brief hint of a protest from the fielders, and Yuvraj Singh was even on the verge of appealing, but Rahul Dravid, who had read out the statement two days back and asked everyone to let the Inzamam issue pass, intervened and urged everyone to get on with the game.

"To be honest I haven't seen the replays," Dravid said after the game. "From my fielding position, it didn't appear as if he had deliberately kicked the ball or obstructed the fielder. So I didn't think there was any need to appeal."

The laws states that a batsman is out 'if he wilfully obstructs or distracts the opposing side by word or action. It shall be regarded as obstruction if either batsman wilfully, and without the consent of the fielding side, strikes the ball with his bat or person, other than a hand not holding the bat, after the ball has touched a fielder'. Even after watching replays, though, it was difficult to conclusively say if Shoaib kicked the ball deliberately or not. Unlike Inzamam's case, which was pretty straightforward, this would have been a greyer area for the umpires and it might have been interesting to see their verdict.

That wasn't the only offbeat incident in the first 30 overs of the Pakistan innings. At approximately 10:30am local time, after the 13th over had been bowled, one could feel minor tremors around the ground. More drama was to follow in the 28th as Ajit Agarkar, fielding at third man, complained to the umpires about a small black object being thrown in his direction. None of these, though, caused any major interruption with a packed house enjoying a good contest between bat and ball.

"We are confident of the security arrangements," said Dravid when asked about the third incident of missile throwing on the tour. "It's only a few people who spoil the fun. They are a minority who don't respect the players but I'm pretty confident and happy about the arrangements. There is no issue."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo