This morning, on the International Cricket Council website, you can see a photograph of something so unusual you might have to look twice to recognise what it is.
It’s a picture of Pakistan cricket captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, smiling. The normally dour Inzy is in a car leaving his hearing into allegations of ball-tampering and disreputable behaviour at The Oval in August, and the reason for his euphoria is that the ICC has just handed him, his team, the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Pakistan public the greatest possible victory.
Late last night Australian time, Inzamam (and, by extension, his team) was found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute for refusing to take the field as a protest against Darrell Hair’s judgement that someone in the fielding side had been lifting the seam. The game was eventually forfeited to England.
However, Inzy WASN’T found guilty of ball-tampering. Senior ICC referee Ranjan Madugalle imposed a ban on Inzamam of four one-day international matches, which PCB official Abbas Zaidi described as “excellent news”. Inzamam himself has described the penalty as “lenient” and vowed not to appeal.
Why so happy over a ban? Because in acquitting Inzy of ball-tampering, the ICC has made his decision to sulk in the sheds back at The Oval look respectable, if not heroic. “If we didn’t [protest] then it wouldn’t have gotten this far even and now it has been proved we are not guilty of ball tampering,” said Inzy, and it’s hard to argue with that. Instead, he can be crucified for his protest, a four-game martyr for Pakistan’s honour.
The heat is now on Darrell Hair – being wrong about a nick to slips is one thing, but he accused Pakistan of cheating – and on the ICC, which will now have to deal with more challenges to umpiring assignments and decisions than ever.
Hair says he plans to continue umpiring but overnight the ICC removed him from the umpiring panel for the looming Champions Trophy competition in India, “for safety and security concerns”. And so the fall-out begins.