When I was a kid we would play cricket with rubbish bins and a tennis ball in the middle of our street. All the neighbourhood’s urchins would gather after school and play in the spirit of good sportskidship; all, that is, except Nicky, who, if the game turned against him, would grab the ball and go hide in his bedroom cupboard until he got his way.
Now international cricket has its own Nicky: Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq. Overnight, Big Inzy forfeited the final Test match against England after refusing to come out of the dressing room for the final session of play on day four.
In the 56th over, umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove summarily docked Pakistan of five runs and replaced the ball after apparently finding indications of ball-tampering (see a minute-by-minute rundown of the action here). Inzamam questioned the decision but was sent back to his position by Hair, and the match continued without incident until the tea break.
During the break, Inzamam evidently decided to make a protest by keeping his team in the sheds after the resumption of play, so when the umpires and English batsmen Ian Bell and Paul Collingwood found themselves in the middle without a fielding side, the game was all but over. Rule 21.3 (b) states that if you refuse to play, you forfeit, so Hair and Doctrove took off the bails and at that moment, the match ended. Inzamam’s attempt to extort a change of mind from the umpires had backfired disastrously.
There are two fateful decisions which need to be explained. First, on what basis did the umpires make the call that ball-tampering had occurred? No television evidence has been found to support them, as there was in 1994 when Michael Atherton was caught with his finger in the seam. Second, what fool put Inzamam-ul-Haq in charge of a national cricket side? Nicky never got his way: we may have been poor, but we could afford another tennis ball. Someone needs to tell Inzy that something better than the bedroom cupboard is required of a national captain.