48 hours: Defiant Inzi's done cricket a great service

By Richard Boock

It's time to accept that Pakistan captain Inzamam ul-Haq was not only right in refusing to continue at the Oval last month, but that he's also done cricket a great service.

Exonerated on the ball-tampering charge, Inzamam was suspended for four ODIs as a result of the fourth test sit-in but remains defiant, reasoning at the weekend that he was right to steer the course he did.

This might not sit well with the "umpires are always right" brigade but if you consider the evidence in Inzi's favour during last week's Code of Conduct hearings, it's becoming increasingly difficult to disagree.

After all, chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle did find, following a bevy of expert testimonies from all parties, that there had been no breach of the ball-tampering law and that the Pakistan skipper had been wrongly accused.

He also went on the record as saying that he was mystified why the umpires hadn't taken a more moderate line on the issue, given the seriousness of a ball tampering charge - "it is an allegation of cheating".

Translated? It means umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove applied the law recklessly, in fact so recklessly it persuaded Pakistan to consider a response that would accurately reflect the extent of their concern.

Inzamam claimed at the weekend that his stopwork decision - which allowed England to win the series 3-0 - helped concentrate minds on the issue and forced the cricketing world to examine the charge more closely.

"If we had just carried on with the game, the world would not have sat up and taken notice of how we had been accused of something we were not guilty of," he told internet site Bigstarcricket.com

"We felt we had to stand up and protest. Ultimately, I understand the ICC's decision to ban me. I did what I felt was right - and so did they.

"Although I regret the public were deprived of watching cricket, I don't regret making the decision to stay off the field - because there are certain things more important than winning and losing, or the rule book."

There are those who continue to waffle about the game being weakened by Inzamam's actions; about the umpires being hung out to dry, about them being stripped of their credibility, but from this viewpoint just the opposite has happened.

For a start, world cricket has identified an elite umpire who, through his bloody-mindedness and lack of tact, can be considered more an enemy of the game than a servant of it.

It's now a matter of record that Hair brings more problems to the table than he solves and last week's Code of Conduct hearings have gone a long way towards emphasising that.

The game is better off for the information.

Inzamam's actions are also forcing the ICC to reconsider its laws regarding umpiring protocols, particularly in regard to accusations of ball-tampering and the decisions involving forfeitures.

That too can only be good news.

There's also a suggestion that Hair's fall from grace might persuade other, similarly gung-ho type umpires who might have been thinking of taking the same action in similar circumstances, to think again. Hope springs eternal.

But more than anything else, Inzamam showed that despite all the opposition and outrage, there is still a place in sport for protest.

It might not be allowed in law but decent protests seldom are.

The Springbok protesters of 1981 weren't exactly on first name terms with the Red Squad, and neither can I remember the South Island farmers who released the RCD virus being good mates with DoC.

As Inzamam suggests, sometimes causes are worth fighting for, whether the law is with you or not.

High Point

The return of: decent footie in the NPC, a fit Leon MacDonald (well, for about an hour, anyway), veteran Silver Ferns Tania Dalton and Julie Seymour, daylight saving, and England batting great Geoff Boycott (at least, in a verbal sense).

Low Point

The loss of: Leon MacDonald (every time he takes the field), Kiwis Sonny Bill Williams and Matt Utai, a degree of competence within our rugby referees' panel, and an entire hour lost early yesterday morning.

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