Cricket: ICC stalls over ball statement

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The Independent Online
THE International Cricket Council, apparently working on the motto 'better never than late', yesterday declined again to clarify whether or not the Pakistani ball controversy involved unfair play. They may, they said, have something to say today, but the odds on the interested parties still being alive when they finally do clear it up are getting longer by the day.

The ICC yesterday issued a statement at around midday saying that there would be no statement before five o'clock, before, at five o'clock, issuing another one saying that they were not making one until today. Perhaps.

So far, the only comment that has been heard from an ICC official since this business blew up five days ago came from its secretary, Lt-Col John Stephenson, who said yesterday: 'I'm meeting our legal people again. We've got a hiccup which has to be sorted out.'

Quite what the exact nature of this legal problem is, no one really knows. The fact of the matter is that the ICC is not required to make any sort of judgement, whether the verdict is guilty or not guilty, merely to state whether the umpires during the Texaco Trophy match at Lord's changed the ball because they suspected illegal tampering, or whether it had merely gone out of shape. They know the answer, and they also know that an official unattributable source told the press at the time that the umpires took their action under Law 42 (unfair play).

As things stand, the deafening silence emanating from the ICC offices at Lord's is doing no one any favours, least of all Pakistan, who are currently being tried by hearsay and innuendo. Tampering with cricket balls has been going on for a century or more, by cricketers of every country, but this particular issue has been blown out of all proportion by the ICC's staggering inertia.

While Pakistan continue to maintain their innocence, Allan Lamb, the England cricketer who made allegations of ball-tampering in a newspaper article on Wednesday, yesterday issued a statement from his home ground in Northampton claiming that he had not been paid for what he described as 'blowing the whistle'.

If so, this would be an unusual departure from normal practice for articles of this nature, but if it is true, Lamb may still not escape further punishment from the Test and County Cricket Board, over and above the fine and suspension imposed by his county.

Lamb, apparently, has no thoughts of leaving Northamptonshire over this issue, and has also stated that he would be happy to play under a different captain should he be relieved of the job at the end of this season.

Northamptonshire's chief executive, Steve Coverdale, said yesterday that any change of captain would be entirely divorced from Lamb's breaches of discipline - which has the ominous ring of a vote of confidence from a football club chairman.

Micky Stewart, the outgoing national team manager, will remain on the England Cricket Committee and assist in the selection of this winter's tour party to India. His new post, as yet undefined, will be concerned with identifying and developing talent at all age levels. 'The last thing I want to happen is for the senior game to think we've pensioned off Micky,' Ted Dexter, the chairman of the England committee, said yesterday.

Girl with the golden bat,

Devon's delight

Scoreboard, page 36