Shoaib Akhtar was suspended from international cricket yesterday for his latest bout of misbehaviour. The ban, for one Test and two one-day internationals, was further evidence that the International Cricket Council are determined to eradicate dissent, usually allied to ripe language and unseemly gestures.
The latest round in the crusade took the edge off a day of three Test matches in which the bat again thoroughly dominated the ball. The cause of that can be laid at the door of flat pitches and bowlers who are not wily enough to circumvent them.
While some players may argue that the ICC objective also threatens to shed the game of its characters, it is clear that no love is being lost between Pakistan and their visitors, South Africa. The tourists' captain, Graeme Smith, and the all-rounder Andrew Hall have already been suspended after incidents in the one-day series.
Shoaib landed himself in trouble for directing a volley of abuse at the South Africa spinner Paul Adams. The volatile fast bowler was summoned to appear before the referee, Clive Lloyd, who is usually lenient in these matters. Lloyd was so upset that he said: "I am very disappointed in the behaviour of both teams during this series and I would urge the coaches, captains and managers to get their players together and remind them of the importance of playing the game in a professional manner. Cricket is a noble game based on honesty, integrity and fair play, and if the players can't comprehend this they should not be playing the game."
Strong words, perhaps, but they were greeted by Pakistan with the announcement that they would appeal against Shoaib's suspension. Similarly, South Africa appealed, unsuccessfully, against Hall's ban.
Cricketers feel they are suffering from the intrusion of television cameras and microphones, which highlight all misdemeanours. Last week, Steve Waugh, Australia's captain, said: "If you do something not 100 per cent in the eyes of everyone you're considered a rebel. But then on the other side of that they say there's no characters left in the game any more." Shoaib is certainly a character.
The progress of play in the match in Lahore was relatively sedate. Taufeeq Umar scored his fourth Test century after a hesitant start as Pakistan's raw side tried to establish parity. Only 66 runs came in the second session. Umar, who was dismissed by Adams, scored 11 from 242 balls.
Two other centuries were rather more assertive. Ricky Ponting, the Australian captain presumptive, was in scintillating form against Zimbabwe. His hundred, consisting of an array of breathtakingly timed pulls, took 113 balls.
India's Virender Sehwag was characteristically audacious in scoring the fifth century of the Second Test against New Zealand. The fourth had been completed earlier by Craig McMillan as the Kiwis reached 630 for six.Reuse content