The ICC’s chief executive, Malcolm Speed, has reportedly warned Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq that he could face further charges if he continues to make public comments about the controversial Fourth Test between England and Inzy’s team, that ended two weeks ago in a forfeit after umpire Darrell Hair accused the Pakistan team of ball tampering and they subsequently refused to take the field.

Sport is always better when it has a lashing of comedy. This would be the same Malcolm Speed whose organisation moved the hearing for the Code of Conduct charges Inzamam already faces to late September (still at a date to be officially announced), so a potential suspension wouldn’t see Pakistan’s English tour disintegrate completely. Even if he is found guilty and deserves a ban.

And this would be the same Malcolm Speed who has done everything in his power over the fortnight since the Test ended to bring into disrepute the reputation of veteran umpire Hair, including releasing confidential emails from the umpire asking for a payout to retire quietly — emails that, according to Hair, followed discussions to that effect.

Yes, Malcolm, you certainly wouldn’t want anybody stirring up the flames on this one, would you?

“Over the course of the last two weeks there has been a stream of unnecessary and inappropriate public comment from the PCB, much of which could be seen as prejudicial to the pending Code of Conduct hearing,” Speed said, as reported by The Guardian. “The acute international diplomatic and political sensitivity of this issue has persuaded me not to lay a charge to date. But despite the exceptional circumstances, I will not hesitate to lay a charge should further inappropriate public comments be made ahead of the hearing.”

Inzamam faces charges of ball tampering and of bringing the game into disrepute for his role in Test cricket’s first ever forfeit result. The fact that, thanks to Speed, Hair’s position has moved to money-hungry opportunist instead of fearless umpire who called it as he saw it on the field (or inflexible, arrogant prick who had no actual evidence, depending on where you stand) means a conviction becomes murkier by the day.

The whole thing is going to get worse before it gets better. The case has become a touchstone for a perceived racial split between cricket’s First World powers, including England and Australia, and the sport’s Asian and other non-white nations.

Peter Fray

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