Neale picks a way through the pitfalls

Respect becomes the new buzzword as England's tour to rebuild the bridges is put in diplomatic hands

Remember the name. It has been barely mentioned so far on England's tour of Pakistan and its owner has had a profile lower than the water levels in Karachi. Since the city's hydrants were down to their last two inches on Friday and trucks from the General Public Water Tanker Service were doing their best to form an orderly queue for a few teaspoonfuls of liquid gold, it can be safely said that Phil Neale has not been around much. Yet.

Remember the name. It has been barely mentioned so far on England's tour of Pakistan and its owner has had a profile lower than the water levels in Karachi. Since the city's hydrants were down to their last two inches on Friday and trucks from the General Public Water Tanker Service were doing their best to form an orderly queue for a few teaspoonfuls of liquid gold, it can be safely said that Phil Neale has not been around much. Yet.

If this is still so when the team set out for home after three one-day matches and three Test matches in mid-December, England's operations manager will have had not only an unruffled tour but a unique one. Precedent suggests that for all the abundant goodwill shown and reciprocated in the first week Neale may well confront a thicker forest of notebooks and a brighter glare of cameras than he ever experienced in his days as a middle-order batsman for Worcestershire and a left-back for Lincoln City.

England tours to Pakistan have usually been like that. This is only the seventh, and men like Les Ames, A C Smith and Peter Lush, predecessors of Neale, had their diplomatic skills tested to the limits. If it wasn't civil unrest and riots off the field it was suspicion and whingeing about the umpiring on it. England were not always right and neither were their managers.

Neale, whose placidity would be uncommon even if he had not spent 10 years and 327 matches as a defender in the lower divisions of the Football League in between scoring nearly 17,000 first-class runs and ably leading Worcestershire to six trophies, is sanguine going on serene. "I have found that if you're just civil with people and show respect - and everybody I've come across wants England here - it can make a difference. If you don't go looking for problems then quite often they're not there.

"The biggest word is respect, for culture, for religious beliefs, for some things we might find strange. Don't laugh at what we might consider to be people's idiosyncrasies but just accept that that's the way they are, their customs. Everybody is desperate for it go well and we have to behave in the right sort of way and accept local hospitality."

All this should be grist to the mill of touring teams everywhere, but Neale is aware of its particular importance here. Thirteen years ago, the tour was split asunder by a storm about umpiring. Its climax, a finger-wagging, chest-prodding argument between England's captain, Mike Gatting, and the Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana created a schism which is only now being healed.

England's journey truly begins only on Tuesday with the first of the one-dayers, which will also witness the international inauguration of the floodlights at the National Stadium. It will be a full house - the black market was already in evidence yesterday - and every observer from the match referee down will be watching for the slightest sign of match-fixing. Sadly, that is the way of it now.

On their last, ill-fated tour, England won 3-0 in a desultory series played immediately after the World Cup. If they do so this time there will be cause for genuine revelry, accompanied, among the sceptical, by some eyebrow-raising.

If respect is the biggest word in Neale's canon at present, then preparation is not far behind. The suspicion is that 10 days on these superb batting pitches after a gap of 13 years may not be enough in the playing sense. But England can prepare for the umpiring and will do so.

"Umpiring everywhere has been helped by the advent of one official from a neutral country for all Test matches and a match referee for all international matches," said Neale. "But there are still different interpretations around the world and this will probably crop up in the briefing between umpires and captains at the start of the series.

"It is mostly standardised now but in different countries there are slightly different intepretations of the lbw law, for instance. When we were in India on an A tour, the umpires were generous towards batsmen on the front foot and generous towards bowlers on the back foot. That's their way of doing things and either you react to it and say that's not fair or make some minor adjustments to fit in. Take the sweep, for instance - that can be given out in some places, others just ignore it. That's the benefit of practice matches. Prepare for these things."

Neale, still enjoyably active in England's nets, not least as chief thrower down to Alec Stewart who superstitiously insists on his services, has been to Pakistan before, as coach to the Under-19 side in 1996-97. That was one of several exploratory visits since the ructions to see if full relations could be repaired. It went like a dream. The squad spent Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve at the home of Wasim Akram's father.

As for the umpiring, so long contentious in English eyes: "Shakoor Rana stood in quite a lot of our games. He was extremely courteous and had the best rapport with the players of anybody. Everybody has to start with a clean bill of health."

Recent tours to Pakistan by other countries have gone smoothly, but this is England. There is a mild risk of civil unrest and the team have an armed guard when they leave the hotel. But it will not be like the tour of 1968-69, when every match was disturbed and England went heroically on in the charge of their wise manager, Ames. A C Smith, in 1983-84, failed gallantly to cover himself in glory in dealing with an England side tired from a beating in New Zealand, and Lush last time was thrown into an unknown world. It was a mess all round.

This is a different country with different ways. There are splits in the Pakistani team which could easily burgeon. "It's over our heads," said this tour's manager. "I wouldn't want us to be seen as not thinking deeply about the tour and not giving it every consideration possible. But there are some things you can't effect and you've just got to let them pass you by." The name is Neale, Phil Neale.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower