Cricket: Differences multiplying across the great divide: This week's Allan Lamb libel case has merely underlined the gulf between England and Pakistan, writes Martin Johnson, Cricket Correspondent

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The Independent Online
BALL-TAMPERING is scarcely new to professional cricket. One former English Test player showed me 20 years ago how to raise the seam with a thumbnail that could have opened a can of baked beans. Neither, in this era of verbal abuse and bowling at people's heads rather than the stumps, should it be a particularly serious issue - but it has been made into one by two things.

Firstly, the black and white cricketing countries can rarely have an argument about anything without accusations of racism entering the plot. Take, for example, the two major fractures in cricketing relations this century - the Bodyline controversy in 1933, and the Faisalabad incident in 1987.

In the first instance, when

Australia cabled the MCC accusing Douglas Jardine's tourists of 'unsportsmanlike' conduct, the MCC got extremely pompous and demanded, as a condition of the tour continuing, that the Australians withdraw the word 'unsportsmanlike'.

In the second, Mike Gatting, the England captain who had had a public row with a Pakistani umpire, was cabled from a panic- stricken Lord's with an instruction to issue a written apology. Traditionally, England and Australia fall out, and then have a few beers. England and Pakistan, on the other hand, have cultural differences based almost entirely on mutual suspicion.

In the summer of 1992, England's cricketers convinced themselves that Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were an irresistible force only because they were doctoring a moveable object, while Pakistan were unshakeable in their belief that every decision that went against them was some sort of plot.

Neither is it easy for the English press to circumnavigate the culture divide, and convince our visitors that not every fast, inswinging cliche is an underhand delivery. One of my own references to their captain, Javed Miandad, apparently attracted the interest of his lawyers in the mistaken belief that to describe him as a 'streetfighter' was not so much a complimentary comment about his battling qualities when the chips were down, as an inference that he went around duffing up people on pavements.

The other reason for this affair assuming nonsensically over-inflated importance is the curious belief of both the Test and County Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council that they are both private clubs, with the public having little or no right to any insight as to how they conduct their business. A C Smith, the TCCB's chief executive, is famous for the following statement. 'No comment . . . but don't quote me.'

Whether or not Sarfraz Nawaz gave Allan Lamb the secrets of ball- doctoring while they were team- mates at Northampton, is not known. What is known, however, is that the two umpires who inspected the ball during the one-day international at Lord's in 1992, decided that it had been interfered with

illegally.

The TCCB media relations manager, who was present when the Pakistanis were informed of the umpires' decision, confirmed it, and the England captain, Graham Gooch, was told by one of the umpires that the ball had been changed under the law governing unfair play.

However, both the ICC and TCCB eventually bottled the issue for fear of further undermining the fragile peace that exists in what they laughably refer to as the 'family' of cricket. As always, the 'sit tight and say nothing' approach has merely made things worse. As far as Pakistan are concerned, cricket in England is run by arrogant racists. As far as England are concerned, Pakistan cheat. Today, the two countries are as far apart as ever.

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