England vs Pakistan abandoned – who is to blame?

As the Test match between England and Pakistan is abandoned amid acrimony, Guardian sports columnist Mike Selvey displays some spectacularly poor judgement as he raises the finger of blame straight at the two umpires:

That an international match of such profile can be terminated simply because two officials have had their integrity questioned – for that is what we are talking about here – is a disgrace to the game.

The reaching of such a sorry state of affairs is the fault neither of England nor Pakistan.

I don’t know if Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove were correct when the awarded a 5 run penalty against Pakistan for ball tampering. But, if Pakistan really felt hard done by, they should have appealed the 5-run penalty to the match referee. It’s a relatively trivial amount of runs in the context of the game, and the decision could have comfortably been overturned at the end of the days play, had it been judged that the umpires’ decision was incorrect. This incident did, after all, only take place on the fourth day of five.

(To my American readers – yes, cricket games really do go on that long. And, yes, they are often drawn at the end of those five days).

But I am certain that they did the right thing in awarding the game to England when the Pakistan team refused to come out of their dressing room to resume the game.

Simply refusing to play the game is not the way to address any dispute. Imgaine if, in the World Cup final, France had refused to continue playing after Zidane was sent off. The press would have – rightly – had a field day, and France would have been thrown out of the tournament.

The ICC must back the umpires and their decision to the hilt. Anything less would damage the integrity of the game, by sending a message that Umpires decisions are not final, and that throwing temper tantrums is the only way to get ahead in the byzantine world of international cricket.

Update: Woohoo!  I’ve been quoted by the BBC!

If you’ve come from the Test Match Special site, welcome.  Feel free to take a look around.  A good place to start is the homepage, or you could check out my two other posts on the forfeited match – For the love of the game and Cricket umpires make terrorists.