Cricket: Pakistan pique forces ICC to drop Graveney

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The Independent Online
THE International Cricket Council yesterday caved in to Pakistani pressure to have Tom Graveney replaced as match referee for their forthcoming series in the West Indies. Fond though the ICC is of peddling the myth that its subjects are one big happy family, the reality is that scarcely a day goes by without them throwing the crockery at one another.

Graveney, the 65-year-old former England batsman, raised Pakistani hackles during the Mike Gatting-Shakoor Rana dust-up in Faisalabad in 1987, when he was quoted as saying: 'They (Pakistan) have been cheating us for 37 years'. For Graveney then to be given powers of imposing fines and suspensions against Pakistan, provides further evidence for the suspicion that ICC's decision makers are recent arrivals from Mars.

The decision to drop Graveney came from his former England Test colleague, now ICC chairman, Colin Cowdrey, although the actual dirty work of making the announcement fell, as it usually does, to the secretary, Lt-Col John Stephenson. 'I'm afraid Tom pressed the self-destruction button himself by making those comments,' Stephenson said. 'It is a great shame but he must be asked to stand down.

'It is quite clear that the stature of ICC referees is growing but they must have the absolute backing of both countries involved in a series. Clearly, Tom does not have that backing from Pakistan.'

Graveney insisted that he would be an impartial referee, despite those comments in 1987, and his consolation prize is that the ICC will now bend over backwards to find him an alternative posting some time in the future.

'There will be many other countries who will give Tom support and we will find him another job,' said Stephenson, who is expected to announce a replacement within the next fortnight.

The Colonel's comments are unusually forthright by ICC standards; its remarks are more customarily delivered along a prisoner-of-war's 'name, rank and serial number only' guidelines, and may be a sign of his own frustration at having to clear up his masters' messes.

Last summer, for example, Cowdrey was away in India when the ICC hid behind its lawyers over the Pakistani ball-scuffing allegations, and an increasingly harassed Lt-Col Stephenson was eventually instructed to declare the matter closed without comment under Pakistan's remarkable threat to take their own ruling international body to court.

Perhaps it would have been better had the ICC invited Pakistan to go ahead and sue, and confirmed the version of the Test and County Cricket Board official who was present at the time of the ball change incident which sparked the row. He disclosed that the umpires had proceeded under the law governing unfair play.

It is also a common misconception that Pakistan are currently suing the world and his dog over the ball-tampering allegations. In fact, the writs issued by the tourists were against two national newspapers, for comments of an allegedly derogatory nature, unrelated to the business with the ball.

This latest climbdown in the face of Pakistani pressure appears to further the case for those who think that if the ICC continues to haul up the white flag, it might as well make it its official emblem. However, it was a witless decision to appoint Graveney in the light of his well-publicised comments, and Pakistan's understandable objection would have placed him under intolerable pressure in the Caribbean.

Graveney's appointment had, in any event, raised one or two eyebrows even before the discordant noises began rumbling in from Lahore, simply because he is regarded as too placid a character (too 'nice', even) to take charge of a series that is potentially hyper-explosive.

When the sides last met in the Caribbean, Pakistan's incandescence at what they viewed as a series of home town umpiring decisions conspiring to rob them of the series, boiled over into Abdul Qadir thumping a spectator in the Barbados Test. On the day Pakistan flew home, in fact, Qadir was due to make an appearance in Bridgetown Magistrates Court, but after a private meeting between the parties involved, the assault charges were dropped.

Phil Neale, the former Worcestershire captain, is to replace Mike Procter as Northamptonshire's director of cricket, thus ending a 17-year sojourn at New Road. Neale, 38, has agreed a three-year contract and will take up his duties on 1 March, the emphasis as much on youth development as first-team matters. The post was left vacant at the end of last season when Procter became South Africa's team manager.