It just wasn't cricket. My part in the war over Gatting's finger

Micky Stewart stood at the centre of his sport for a generation and a new book, which we serialise over two days, chronicles his life as player and England manager. Here it offers fresh insight into the row with which he is always associated

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The Independent Online

England beat Pakistan 3-0 in the one-day matches. The last of these was at Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan, and the plan was for the two teams to fly together from there to Lahore, where the first Test would start three days later. Yet, long before they were due to depart, Micky found himself in the vicinity of the Pakistani dressing room, where there seemed to be a great deal of hubbub and hurry.

"What's all the commotion?" he asked one of the players.

"We've been summoned to a meeting in Lahore," came the reply. "We've got to leave right away."

An explanation for this reached Micky later in Lahore. In strict confidence he was told that General Zia had ordered the whole team and its manager to appear before him. They had all been lined up in front of the president, who delivered an uncompromising message. Cricket was vital for the nation's self-esteem. They had lost the World Cup. They had lost the three one-dayers. The nation was depressed, and there were elections coming up. Under no circumstances were they also to lose the Test series. Micky's informant spelled out plainly the meaning: "You must expect anything to happen from now on."

Micky shared the conversation with the tour manager, Peter Lush, and the captain, Mike Gatting, but insisted that the rest of the players not be told. In a team meeting on the eve of the Lahore Test Mike Gatting warned everybody not under any circumstances to get het up about the umpiring.

On the first day England were bowled out for 175, with Abdul Qadir taking nine wickets. In his blue notebook Micky recorded a few observations:

Slow turner. Qadir got it to bounce.

Struggle to pick Qadir.

We must look to be positive against Qadir.

Five batsmen sawn off out of 10 wickets to fall.

Main culprit – Shakeel Khan!! (4 LBWs – 3 outside line).

It was little better in the England second innings. Chris Broad, given out caught at the wicket by Shakeel, stood at the crease for a seeming age after the umpire's finger had gone up. Graham Gooch had to usher him away. Then Gooch himself suffered the same fate.

In all, Micky reckoned in a letter home to Sheila:

NINE of the 20 wickets to fall were umpired out. FIVE out of 10 in the first innings and FOUR out of 10 in the second.

More sinisterly, the letter went on:

I have had two phone calls from former Pakistan players saying that they have definite proof that the umpires were "fixed"!!

The game was lost, there were public recriminations about the umpiring, and the tourists moved on for a quiet three days at Sahiwal, where they played a Punjab Chief Minister's XI and stayed in dormitories in the Montgomery Biscuit Factory. For English cricketers accustomed to life in luxury hotels, this was as basic as it got. "I asked Bill Athey to organise some entertain-ment. Over the three days we must have played about 10 hours of Give Us A Clue."

And so to Faisalabad. The Second Test. The one after which nothing was quite the same again – for Mike Gatting or for Micky. The umpires for the match were Shakoor Rana, Pakistan's most senior official, and Khizar Hayat. Were England by now in a state of paranoia about the decision-making, or were the odds being unfairly stacked against them? Micky's notebook entries suggest the latter:

1st Day

Gooch & Broad played spinners very well.

Gooch sawn off – Bat-pad catch offside (middle of pad – bat behind pad) — Shakoor Rana<</i>/p>

Athey given out by Khizar Hayat. Same as Gooch – bat nowhere near ball.

Robinson given out by Shakoor Rana. Caught at wicket – above wrist – difficult decision?

2nd Day

Foster sawn off by Khizar Hayat. Bat-pad off-side.

French sawn off by Shakoor Rana. Stumped – back in ground some time.

This time, though, the damage was not so great, as Broad made 116, Gatting 79, and they reached a total of 292. Then on the second afternoon, according to Micky, "we bowled Javed, took four catches, and Pakistan came in with the score on 58 for 3."

At one point, while all this was going on, Micky recorded an ominous entry in his notebook:

Shakoor loves centre stage.

Centre stage is indeed what Shakoor took as the day drew to a close.

"I didn't actually see the incident," Micky says. "I was making sure the 12th man had got all the drinks ready."

Pakistan, on 106 for 5, were in trouble, with England trying to press home their advantage by squeezing in an extra over before close of play. Midway through what they hoped would be the penultimate over Mike Gatting, fielding at square leg, asked David Capel at long leg to come in closer to stop the single. As Eddie Hemmings ran in to bowl the next ball, Gatting made a further signal, indicating to Capel that he had come too far. Shakoor Rana, standing at square leg, interpreted this as moving the fielder surreptitiously behind the batsman's back and called "dead ball", thus kyboshing England's hopes of bowling a further over. Some say that shortly beforehand he had been looking closely at his watch.

Within moments a blazing row had developed between Shakoor Rana and the England captain, with pictures flying around the world of an angry-faced Mike Gatting standing close to the umpire and jabbing a finger towards his chest. Micky's notebook elaborates:

Gatt & Shakoor flare up – Last over

Shakoor calls Gatt "fucking cheating bastard"

Gatt responds!!

As Wisden put it, "The language employed throughout the discourse was basic."

It was not immediately apparent that a full-scale crisis was developing. The first point at which Peter Lush realised things were getting serious was when, back in the hotel, he took a phone call from Ted Corbett of the Star: "Are you aware," Corbett asked, "that the Pakistanis aren't going to be playing in the morning?"

A compromise of sorts, involving an exchange of apologies, was brokered, but it was scuppered, partly by the intervention of Javed Miandad, a street-fighter whom the England camp suspected of trying to delay the resumption because his team, one up in the series, was in a bad position in the match.

Late in the afternoon of this third day that wasn't, Micky wrote a long letter home to Sheila, explaining what was going on:

The lines between Lord's and here have been red hot since last night. The reaction of the "establishment" was one of horror that the Captain could be involved in such an incident but Lushy and I soon made them aware of all the facts. I am sure that there are still some at Lord's who think that we should swallow our pride as Englishmen and show a stiff upper lip but in the longer term I am sure that our stand will serve the game better as far as future tours to Pakistan are concerned.

We have lost 30 wickets in the series of which no less than 14 have been victims of umpires' "errors". In addition two blatant bat-pad catches have not been given out when we have been in the field. Errors total = 16. 1 error has been made against Pakistan!! It all sounds very petty doesn't it but I have never seen anything like it before in all the time I have known the game.

I am now back at the hotel… Lushy has gone hotfoot to Lahore to resolve the matter with their Board once he knew that their Board's Secretary had left an hour before him without having the courtesy to tell us beforehand! I have to stay in my room here to take all the calls that may come in from all over. It's like being in a cell.

There he was, five thousand miles from home, sitting in a hotel room, in the thick of an international crisis that involved the British High Commission as well as the government of Pakistan. All over a game of cricket.

On the next day, the official rest day, feelings were running as high as ever, with the England players voting at a meeting to go home. Then later John Emburey, among the most vocal, was worrying about the consequences of the decision.

"You've got to look wider than what's happened here," was Micky's message to the players. "The best way to solve this is to get out there and finish the game."

"Micky had a difficult line to steer," Mike Gatting says. "He knew what he'd seen and been told. It was difficult for him to be constructive when it came to team meetings because the last thing he wanted was for all the players to know what had been said. He couldn't say anything. It would have caused a huge, huge rift."

Micky's notebook entry provides a summary of his day:

MJS [Micky Stewart himself] by phone all morning. Meeting after meeting when Lushy returns.

Instruction received from Lord's for Gatt to apologise if no other solution can be reached.

MJS talks to players at 11pm. Feeling very strong about Gatt's apology. Players will not take field. Full meeting with players. Goochy, Dill, Billy all have their say. UNANIMOUS that players won't take field if Gatt's is only apology. It looks like a STRIKE!!

Embers in my room 1.15am. Worried about young players. Gatt to see all players individually at 7.30am to get them into field no matter what. Bed 2.30am!! Very sorry for Gatt.

The match was finally resumed, without the extra day that England would have needed to force a victory, and it petered out as a draw.

Postcript: Pakistan won that series 1-0. England came home, gave their players a bonus and did not return for 13 years.

Micky Stewart: An Olympic snapshot...

When the Great Britain football side was announced for the 1956 Olympic Games, Micky's name was on the list, along with his fellow Corinthian-Casuals Jackie Laybourne and Gerry Alexander.

It was a requirement of the games that the players be amateurs, which strictly most of the Great Britain squad, apart from the three Casuals, were not. Certainly none of those who played for Hungary and Yugoslavia in the Helsinki final four years earlier was. They were full-time sportsmen masquerading as members of their countries' armed forces.

"I was ready to get measured up for the uniform," Micky recalls. "The white panama and the blazer. Then in July Surrey were playing down at Hastings, and when we came off the field at lunchtime there was a message for me. I had to ring Stanley Rous, secretary of the FA."

Rous told him: "I've got sad news. The Olympic Committee won't accept you as a member of our side as you're a professional cricketer."

The Olympic decision still rankles with Micky. "There was all this shamateurism in the amateur game but I'd never taken a penny to play football. Yet I was the one who couldn't go."

Micky Stewart: A Surrey snapshot...

The demanding but eccentric Brian Castor was Surrey's secretary in Micky's early days on the playing staff. In most weeks there were three or four Club and Ground games, held around the clubs in the county, but there were so many players on the staff, over 30 if you included the amateurs, that people had to take it in turns to play.

"The first time I dropped out I had to score. It was against Wimbledon. I had to go to The Oval to pick up the scorebook, the flag and the expenses to be paid to the amateurs. Then I had to get down to Wimbledon Cricket Club, all on public transport. I got home about half-past nine in the evening, and I'd no sooner sat down than the doorbell rang. My mother went to the door, and there was a telegram: 'FLAG STILL UP POLE AT WIMBLEDON. GET IT. CASTOR'."

Tomorrow's extract: Win in the Windies

'Micky Stewart and the Changing Face of Cricket' by Stephen Chalke is available post-free for £18 from Fairfield Books (tel: 01225 335 813;