Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Anatomy of a crime: Part II

Anatomy of a crime is a drama in two parts. It examines the events taking place at The Oval cricket ground in London on 20 August 2006. It is the fourth and penultimate day of the last test match in the series, and when the second session commences after lunch, Pakistan are in a dominant position and look likely to win the match. Then, things begin to happen.

Part II: Forfeiture

Incident: Play gets underway after the Tea interval. Or rather, it doesn't. The England batsmen and the Umpires go out on the field of play, but the Pakistan team refuse to come out. What happens subsequently is very unclear, and different journalists have reported it differently based on the conclusion they wish to present.

We know that the Umpires visit the Pakistani team in their dressing room to see what their intentions are. There, Inzamam and Darrell Hair exchange words. The Umpires go back out and remove the bails. Meanwhile, the Match Referee continues to speak to the Pakistan team, and they ultimately decide to go out and continue the game. However, when they go back out, the Umpires refuse to come out. The day's play comes to a close without anyone knowing what is happening. Later that night, a statement is issued to the effect that the Umpires decided that Pakistan have forfeited the game.

Analysis: The relevant legislation here is Law 21 (the result). Law 21.3 states:

3. Umpires awarding a match
(a) A match shall be lost by a side which
either (i) concedes defeat
or (ii) in the opinion of the umpires refuses to play
and the umpires shall award the match to the other side.
(b) If an umpire considers that an action by any player or players might constitute a refusal by either side to play then the umpires together shall ascertain the cause of the action. If they then decide together that this action does constitute a refusal to play by one side, they shall so inform the captain of that side. If the captain persists in the action the umpires shall award the match in accordance with (a)(ii) above.

Law 21.3(a) allows the Umpires to declare a winner when one team refuses to play. Law 21.3(b) imposes the procedure that must be followed by the umpires before they can declare a winner under Law 21.3(a).

The Pakistan team's refusal to come out at the end of the Tea interval appeared an obvious refusal to play. I have heard the ingenious suggestion that they were not refusing to play as such, just making a temporary protest. Taking this logic to its natural conclusion, a team could refuse to play any time this century and argue they were only delaying the game, not refusing to play it. I therefore lean towards the view that there was a refusal to play here.

In this case, the umpires should have together ascertained the cause of the action. It seems reasonably clear that Inzy did in fact express his displeasure about the ball-tampering decision earlier, and the umpires could have ascertained this to be the cause of the refusal to play.

They are then required by Law 21.3(b) to inform Inzamam that his action constitutes a refusal to play, and only if he persists will the match be rewarded. Was Inzamam told that the team would forfeit the game if they refused to play? Woolmer and Inzamam's recollections of the incident indicate nothing either way, the Umpires have made no comments, and therefore we do not know. Shahryar Khan of the PCB tried to suggest later that evening that Pakistan did not intend to refuse to play, or forfeit the game - they were only making a temporary protest. In that case, they should certainly have heeded the Umpires warning of a potential forfeit, provided this was made to them.

Therefore, if such a warning was given, the Umpires had correctly applied the letter of the law, and Pakistan forfeited the game at that point in time. If no such warning was given, the Umpires would be breaking the Law in awarding the game to England, there would have been no forfeiture.

It should, therefore, be very interesting to learn what was said in the dressing room between the Umpires and Inzamam.

Post Script: Inzamam has subsequently been charged by the ICC for bringing the game into disrepute, and faces a ban of up to 8 games. No action has been taken against the umpires.