Tests: Pakistan 1 England 0, ODIs: Pakistan 0 England 3

England in Pakistan, 1987-88

Martin Johnson

England's sixth tour to Pakistan was ill-conceived from the outset, coming immediately after the World Cup, when both public and player interest were never going to be high, and following so closely on the five-Test series in England in the summer of 1987. The Pakistanis' visit to England had not been without acrimony, but not even the most hardened pessimist would have forecast that England's tour several months later would lead to some of the most shameful scenes witnessed in any sport, never mind one traditionally associated with fair play, courtesy, high moral values.

At one point, amidst allegations and counter-allegations of cheating, verbal abuse, crisis telephone calls to and from the Test and County Cricket Board at Lord's and a threat of strike action by the visiting players, it looked as if the tour might be abandoned in mid-series. However, after the England captain, Mike Gatting, had been ordered to write an unconditional apology to umpire Shakoor Rana, to which his team-mates reacted by producing an outspoken, contract-breaching statement, protesting at the Board's instruction, the Second Test in Faisalabad was eventually completed. So, too, was the tour, which will go down as one of the more squalid in international cricket's history. Just about the only worthy memory of it was the bowling of the leg-spinner, Abdul Qadir, who in becoming only the fourth player to take 30 or more wickets in a three-Test series condemned England to their eighth defeat in eleven series and their third defeat in their last three series against Pakistan.

The seeds of discontent had been blowing in the wind ever since the first meeting between the two countries in Pakistan, on E. R. Dexter's 1961-62 tour. England won the first Test of that series. But they had not won another there, and a succession of visiting teams had returned home thinking that they had not been allowed to. At best they had come to regard the home umpires as incompetent; at worst, cheats. On Pakistan's 1982 tour to England, however, resentment went the other way. In a tight, three-Test series, the teams were level at one apiece before the deciding game at Headingley. There, umpire David Constant gave a decision which had a significant bearing on England squeezing home by three wickets. Afterwards Imran Khan, the Pakistan captain, was critical of the umpiring and blamed it for Pakistan's defeat.

Pakistan, who had been campaigning for neutral umpires since 1980, were further incensed before the start of their 1987 tour of England when the TCCB overruled their objections to umpires Constant and Ken Palmer. Both men stood in two Tests, and at Lord's and again at The Oval, umpire Constant was involved in incidents which aroused controversy. Pakistan's outwardly genial but outspoken manager, Haseeb Ahsan, described Constant as a "disgraceful person" - and when England embarked on their own tour, it was felt by some that Haseeb would orchestrate swift retribution. It was an unhealthy attitude, but one made understandable by suspicions that the pressure on Pakistan to win the Test series, after a nation-numbing defeat in the World Cup semi-finals, and again in the following one-day international series, almost guaranteed some use of shady tactics. In addition, following the retirement of Imran Khan, the captaincy had passed to Javed Miandad, a volatile character and one viewed with grave misgivings by the England players.

It was in this disagreeable climate that the First Test began in Lahore, and there the long-smouldering bonfire at last caught alight. England's refusal to entertain Pakistan's objections to umpires Constant and Palmer rebounded on them when their own protest about the appointment of the controversial Shakeel Khan was ignored. The English players claimed afterwards that no fewer than nine incorrect decisions had been given in favour of Pakistan's bowlers, while during the match their disgust and disillusion had boiled over in an extraordinary incident involving Chris Broad. Given out, caught at the wicket, by Shakeel, Broad refused to accept the decision, and almost a minute elapsed before he was at last persuaded by his partner, Graham Gooch, to depart the crease.

Pakistan demanded that Broad be sent home as punishment, but the tour manager, Peter Lush, took the view that a stern reprimand would suffice. This was a mistake. Regardless of the provocation to which Mr Lush undoubtedly considered Broad and all the team had been subjected, a heavy fine should have been imposed for such a flagrant breach of discipline. Nor was this the right time for the manager to criticise openly the umpiring, as he did, and call for neutral umpires in Test matches. His statement more or less gave Gatting carte-blanche to inflame the row publicly after the match, which Pakistan won easily by an innings. Qadir had figures of nine for 56 in the first innings and four for 45 in the second. Gatting, not to put too fine a point on it, accused the umpires of cheating when he said: "We knew roughly what to expect but never imagined it would be quite so blatant. They were desperate to win a Test match, but if I was them I would'n t be very happy about the way they did it."

And so, in embittered mood - and with many of the players privately considering that Broad had done cricket a service by highlighting what they saw as years of injustice to visiting teams - the touring party moved on to the Montgomery Biscuit Factory at Sahiwal, where there was a three-day match against the Punjab Chief Minister's XI. Absent, however, were the manager and captain. They, along with Gooch and Neil Foster, remained in Lahore for three days before the team travelled to Faisalabad for Second Test.

There, despite the England management's complaint that their request to be informed of the umpiring appointments in private and in advance had not been met in Lahore, they again learnt only through the local press of the two officials for the match. And they were less than delighted to discover that Shakoor Rana was one of them. The umpire's reputation for upsetting visiting teams, notably when the New Zealand captain, J. V. Coney, led his team off the field in protest during the Karachi Test in 1948-85, was already know to them.

On the second day of the Faisalabad Test match, there had already been one unsavoury incident, following Shakoor's rejection of a bat-pad appeal from Bill Athey, when, three deliveries from the end of play, an extraordinary sequence of events was set in motion by a furious on-the-field row between Gatting and the umpire. Shakoor accused Gatting of sharp practice in allegedly moving a fielder without informing the batsman (which Gatting denied). Within seconds the two were locked in a toe-to-toe, finger-wagging exchange - scenes that were to arouse mixed reactions from TV viewers in Britain. Shakoor accused the England captain of heaping abuse on him; Gatting claimed that he was sworn at first and also called a cheat.

It was not until the following morning that the full magnitude of the row became clear. Shakoor refused to take the field until he received an apology from Gatting, and Gatting declined to apologise unless the umpire reciprocated. The third day's play was lost while officials of both camps strove for an acceptable solution. At one stage a settlement looked forthcoming, but Shakoor (prompted, it is thought, by the Pakistan captain, Javed Miandad) dug his heels in again after initially agreeing to joint apology.

Negotiations continued through the night and into the rest day, with Shakoor confined to a hotel room. But Mr Lush's exhaustive attempts to resolve the impasses were frequently frustrated by the elusiveness of Pakistani officials. On the afternoon of the abortive third day, Ijaz Butt, secretary of the BCCP, left Faisalabad for Lahore; when Mr Lush undertook the two-and-a-half-hour drive there himself, in the hope of discussing the situation with the BCCP president, Lt-General Safdar Butt, he was told that the general was out to dinner. He was thus forced to stay overnight in Lahore so that he could meet the two Butts next day, along with Haseeb, who was both a BCCP member and chairman of Pakistan's selectors.

Throughout, the England Management were in contact with Lord's. By coincidence, the TCCB's Winter Meeting was being held on the day that was the rest day in Faisalabad, and it was there that the private decision was taken to instruct Gatting to apologise if no compromise could be reached. Both the manager and the captain were furious at the order, but they had little option but to comply. Consequently, on the morning of the fourth day Gatting handed the umpire the following, hand-written note. "Dear Shakoor Rana, I apologise for the bad language used during the 2nd day of the Test match at Faisalabad (sic). Mike Gatting, 11th Dec 1987."

In London, the TCCB issued a statement which read:

"It was unanimously agreed that the current Test match in Faisalabad should restart today after the rest day. The Board manager in Pakistan, Peter Lush, was advised of this decision immediately and asked to take whatever action was necessary to implement it. In reaching their decision the members of the Board recognised the extremely difficult circumstances of the tour and the inevitable frustration for the players arising from those circumstances, but they believe it to be in the long-term interests of the game as a whole for the match to be completed. The Board will be issuing a statement on the tour when it is finished, but in the meantime the chairman and chief executive will be going to Karachi for the final test next week."

In Faisalabad, Mr Lush issued a statement which read:

"The Test and County Cricket Board has instructed me as manager of the England team to do everything possible to ensure that this Test match continues today and that we honour our obligations to complete the tour of Pakistan. We have tried to resolve amicably the difference between Mike Gatting and umpire Shakoor Rana following their heated exchange of words which took place on the second day. We all hoped this could have been achieved in private and with a handshake. Umpire Shakoor Rana has stated he would continue to officiate in this match if he received a written apology from Mike Gatting. The umpire has made it clear he will not apologise for the remarks he made to the England captain. In the wider interests of the game Mike Gatting has been instructed by the Board to write an apology to Shakoor Rana, and this he has now done."

The players themselves had already agreed to refuse to play on if their captain received such an instruction, but when it came, they eventually decided to continue under protest. This they made public in the form of a fiercely worded statement voicing their unequivocal support for the captain and their disgust with the Board.

"The England players deplore the fact that it was not possible to effect a compromise solution between Mike Gatting and umpire Shakoor Rana. We would have expected the governing bodies of both countries to use their influence and authority to resolve the problem."

What is beyond dispute is that the umpire was the first to use foul and abusive language to the England captain. This was clearly heard by England players close to the incident. Mike Gatting was ready to apologise two days ago for his response, provided the umpire would do the same.

We also wish to register a unanimous protest that the TCCB should consider it necessary to issue instructions through our manager, Peter Lush, to order the captain to make an unconditional apology to the umpire. By doing so, the captain, in the wider interests of the game, felt he was forced to act against his own free will.

An earlier statement from the TCCB said that the problem had been left in the hands of the England management to resolve as they though fit. The instructions issued to the manager last night left him virtually no room for manoeuvre.

The TCCB exerted pressure on Mike Gatting and on the rest of us and we are unanimous in the view that the same wider interests of the game referred by our Board had been completely ignored by the BCCP, who did not exert similar pressure on the umpire.

"The incident was sad for cricket but the solution forced upon us is even sadder."

There was suspicion in the England camp that the TCCB had bowed to both political and financial pressures, regardless of their wider interest claims. This the Board denied, although it was later conceded although it was later conceded that a senior Foreign Office official had voiced government concern, and also that a substantial slice of the tour guarantee money had yet to be paid by Pakistan. Such was the strength of feeling conveyed back to Lord's that when Mr A. C. Smith, the Board's chief executive, and its chairman, Mr Raman Subba Row, flew out to Karachi, they were in a conciliatory rather than a punitive mood.

Gatting, who had been contemplating resignation, was placated by Mr Subba Row's announcement of the Board's full backing for him, plus the concession that the Board was at fault - not only for not appreciating the full extent of the team's problems, but also in not sending representatives to Lahore when the first hint of serious unrest surfaced. Furthermore, Mr Subba Row accepted the players' claim that Shakoor had initiated the swearing episode and also had called the England captain a cheat. This, said the Board chairman, had been totally unjustified. However, he was less successful in his attempts to secure a belated apology from the umpire, although after the tour it was learnt that Gatting had received a letter from Shakoor Rana. It was not made public by the England captain at the time (during the Third Test) because it was an expression of regret rather than an apology.

It was odd, none the less, that Gatting declined to mention at the time that he had received a communication, however unsatisfactory he personally felt it to be. Even odder, though, was the decision to try to keep secret the award of £1,000 to each player by way of a hardship bonus When, as it inevitably did, it came into the open, the Board was badly placed to fend off allegations that the money had been awarded either by way of a bribe to save the tour or as conscience money for its poor handling of the affair. Mr Subba Row was later reprimanded for acting unilaterally, and it is highly unlikely that the Board would have agreed to the payment. Whatever England's grievances, they had received extra financial reward for having performed poorly, both as cricketers and as ambassadors for their country.

Even allowing for the umpiring, England's batsmen made little of Qadir who said afterwards that he had never bowled better than in the First Test. Emburey's unorthodox methods proved more successful than other more conventional ones, he topped the Test averages, scoring only 18 runs fewer than Gooch. In Karachi, Capel confirmed his growing reputation as a batsman, but his bowling was disappointing on unresponsive pitches. Nor was he handled well by his captain. England's seven main bowlers took fewer wickets between them (29) than Qadir on his own. All in all, the disgraceful events at Lahore and Faisalabad tended to deflect from the fact that the team performed poorly. Sadder still was the thought that cricket may never again recapture its reputation as bastion for old-style values.

Match reports for

2nd Match: England v West Indies at Gujranwala, Oct 9, 1987
Report | Scorecard

5th Match: Pakistan v England at Rawalpindi, Oct 12-13, 1987
Report | Scorecard

10th Match: England v Sri Lanka at Peshawar, Oct 17, 1987
Report | Scorecard

13th Match: Pakistan v England at Karachi, Oct 20, 1987
Report | Scorecard

1st ODI: Pakistan v England at Lahore, Nov 18, 1987
Report | Scorecard

2nd ODI: Pakistan v England at Karachi, Nov 20, 1987
Report | Scorecard

3rd ODI: Pakistan v England at Peshawar, Nov 22, 1987
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1st Test: Pakistan v England at Lahore, Nov 25-28, 1987
Report | Scorecard

2nd Test: Pakistan v England at Faisalabad, Dec 7-12, 1987
Report | Scorecard

3rd Test: Pakistan v England at Karachi, Dec 16-21, 1987
Report | Scorecard

© John Wisden & Co