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Costly umpiring errors in Sharjah

To err is human. To err with the help of technology smacks of gross incompetence. There is not the slightest doubt in my mind that Inzamam's catch of Aravinda de Silva was not a clean one and the ball had dropped on the ground before being scooped up. I will not say that there was any chicanery involved but there was sufficient doubt, hence the ceaseless replays, for the batsman to have been given not out. Aravinda was taking control and he was threatening to take the game away from Pakistan. It is entirely possible that Pakistan would have got him out but we will never know and I did not rejoice at Pakistan's win for I felt that Sri Lanka had been badly done by. The only silver lining was that the third umpire was a New Zealander and not someone from the sub-continent. As in the case of Javed Akhtar, his nationality would have prominently been mentioned. As far as the Kaluwitharna decision is concerned, it too looked dicey and I am already on record of what I think of David Shepherd, that he is past it and he had made some costly errors in the World Cup. He may be a lovable figure but he is no longer the world's "best umpire" as is bandied about by some television experts, a sentimental judgement rather than a factual one.

I think the case of Shabbir Ahmed was badly handled, both by the PCB and the ICC. It would appear that the match-referee for the Toronto tournament Peter van der Merwe had some doubts about Shabbir's bowling action. Although he was technically right to report it to the ICC's advisory panel on illegal deliveries, he could have informally drawn the attention of the Pakistan manager about his doubts. He chose, instead, to be bureaucratic. The PCB too should have been alerted that Shabbir's bowling action may create some problems. It is not unknown for a team's management to sound out umpires and match-referees, off the record, if they have any lingering suspicions. I did so myself though I had no official capacity during Pakistan's match against Australia in Rawalpindi when it looked like the match-referee, ironically Peter van der Merwe, might take action against the then Pakistan captain Aamir Sohail. I had had a quiet word with him and stressed that something that was spur of the moment did not constitute dissent, that after all, we can't abolish human nature. He saw the point. There are always informal channels open. Now an issue has been made and I really feel sorry for the young fast bowler who has become a victim because of ineptness on the part of the PCB.

Nor has the Pakistan selection committee exactly distinguished itself. The team for Australia may be the right one but there seems to be no logic behind the selection. Aamir Sohail was taken to both Toronto and Sharjah. Ghulam Ali was taken to neither. How could he have been preferred to someone with Aamir Sohail's experience? Aamir Sohail may not be the ideal team-man but then he should not have been selected for Toronto and Sharjah! Then there is the case of Hasan Raza. He is young batsman who, at present, is better suited to the longer version of the game than to one-day cricket. Yet he was picked for Sharjah but dropped for Australia. Ijaz Ahmed is the right choice for Australia but was the right choice too for Toronto and Sharjah. Mushtaq Ahmed was in Pakistan's World Cup squad but did not play a single match, was not in the Toronto and Sharjah squad but finds himself in Australia. Again, he might be the right choice but he can hardly be considered match-fit being hopelessly out of practice. We have made a fair investment in Shahid Afridi. Given a chance in a test match against India, he scored a brilliant hundred. He showed he had the skills and the temperament, apart from which he is a very fine fielder, probably the best that Pakistan has. Mohammed Akram was preferred over Waqar Younus for a tour that cried out for experience and it is almost cruel for one of the selectors to have said that Waqar Yunus still had a lot of cricket left in him. Then why wasn't he selected in the first place? He is now in the team by default.

Pakistan's strength is in its bowling but Pakistan will need runs on the board and against McGrath and Fleming on those hard, bouncy wickets, frankly I don't see Wasti and Ghulam Ali lasting too long. If they do I would be absolutely delighted. Pakistan's batting appears to be brittle and will rely on Saeed Anwar, Inzamamul Haq and Yusuf Youhana. Yusuf Youhana appears to be a class act but it remains to be see how he will cope with Australian wickets particularly Brisbane and Perth. I am glad that Mohammad Wasim is in the team. But he too is desperately short of match-practice at the highest level.

He has been messed about with. When he first played test cricket against New Zealand at Lahore, he scored a hundred on debut and I had felt that Pakistan had a star in the making. He played copy-book cricket and would have been an established batsman by now. Instead, he will, for all intents and purposes be starting all over again. We must accept our shortcomings but this does not mean that it will not be a tremendous series. But if Pakistan needed a batting coach, it is on this tour. I don't think Pybus will be much help when it comes to adjusting to Australian wickets. It would not have been a bad idea if Zaheer Abbas had been inducted, if Javed Miandad, for one reason or the other, was not acceptable. We are all waiting for Shoaib Akhtar to bowl in Australia. But I'm not sure whether our batsmen are looking forward to bat, particularly at Perth