Cheats of PakistanMartin Chandler |
There was much optimism in the hearts of England’s cricketing fraternity after Mike Gatting’s side returned from Australia in 1987 having, contrary to most expectations, won the series 2-1, and rather more comfortably than that scoreline suggests. It was to be a disappointing summer however as Imran Khan led Pakistan to their first ever series victory in England.
England were unhappy for a variety of reasons, not just the defeat, although they could not really complain about the scoreline. Imran had enjoyed a personal triumph in the third Test at Headingley as his ten wicket haul set up an innings victory. The other four matches had all been drawn, two spoiled by the weather. In the fourth Test England had a desperate last innings run chase in which they ended up five short of victory with three wickets in hand, but that was balanced out by the Pakistan first innings of 708 that slammed the door in England’s face at the Oval in the final Test.
There were some accusations of cheating along the way, and indeed Pakistani wicketkeeper Salim Yousuf undoubtedly claimed a catch that wasn’t as Pakistan eased to victory at Headingley, but he was dealt with sternly by his captain. Less convincing were the complaints about time-wasting in the Old Trafford Test. It was true that there was one hour in which only eleven overs were bowled, but to be fair to Pakistan their talismanic skipper was off the field at the time, and it is difficult to attribute a sinister motive when the match was going nowhere anyway. Their was also a row of sorts when, during the first ODI at the Oval, Ramiz Raja planted his foot over the rope whilst fielding a shot from Chris Broad. The two runs Broad was denied made no difference to the result but, given that the England opener was out for 99, were not without relevance. The third ODI also saw the press accuse Pakistan of cheating when two of their bowlers left the field with injuries after completing their quota of overs – the injuries were genuine.
On the other side of the coin Pakistan made clear their displeasure when their request that umpire David Constant not be appointed to stand in any of the internationals was disregarded. He had incurred their wrath on their previous visit in 1982 when he made a dreadful mistake in giving Sikander Bakht out, caught at short leg, when television replays showed that the tailender’s bat got nowhere near the ball. The decision might well have changed the result of the Test, so Pakistan’s fury was understandable, and whilst I have no doubt at all there was nothing sinister in Constant’s error, the Pakistan demand should have been acceded to, particularly as a similar request from India the previous summer had been respected.
Wasim Akram was only 20 when the 1987 tour began, although already a veteran of 15 Tests. Wisden’s comment on the young all-rounder was that he finished the tour with most wickets and justified all one had heard about him. From an easy, economical run-up and a wheeling action, he could let slip a genuinely fast ball, especially if it was a bouncer, and possessed impressive control of pace and movement.
There was therefore some residual ill-feeling between the sides when England set off for their 1987/88 tour of Pakistan. There were concerns expressed to the Pakistan Board about the umpires who were to be appointed. Unfortunately, but understandably given recent history, the Board said a polite “no”. There followed a deeply unsatifactory series for England which they again lost, and which culminated in the Furore at Faisalabd
By 1992 the great ambassador Imran was gone, and the straight talking Intikhab Alam was the manager of a side led by the combative Javed Miandad. With, including The Mother-in-Law of all Tours, three consecutive series defeats for England in the immediate past, it seemed likely that the Tests were going to be confrontational, and so it proved to be.
England’s biggest problem was that Pakistan had an exceptionally good team. The batting was led by Miandad, whatever one may think of him a man who has to be acknowledged as being as good as anyone of his generation. There was another world class batsman as well. Salim Malik’s reputation has been irretrievably tarnished by his role in the greatest match-fixing scandal of them all, but once that hideous aura has been scraped away memories remain of a stylish and richly talented cricketer.
But the tourists main strength was always going to be their bowling, and there was nothing at all to take England by surprise. We knew about Akram from the previous tour and his successes after that with Lancashire. Before the season even began his county colleague and Test opponent Mike Atherton wrote; On song, his bowling has no peer in modern cricket. He has startling pace. That pace is generated from a very quick approach and mainly through a rapid arm rotation, from which batsman find it difficult to read the length, too often seeking solace on the back foot, when safety insists on pushing forward. Moreover, he has near perfect control of all elements of a fast bowler’s repertoire, in particular a radar-like control of the bumper and yorker. The fact that he can swing the ball both ways from over and around the wicket and is a left armer, gives you a remarkable bowler. Certainly on a flat wicket against a set batsmen, he would be the bowler you would call on to produce an unsettling effect.
As for Waqar Younis he was younger, and had not played Test cricket in England before, but his was a remarkable talent. He was just 20, having made his Test debut on the eve of his 18th birthday. He had made an enormous impression at Surrey and, the previous season, had recorded some remarkable figures, with 151 wickets in all forms of the game, 113 of those coming at 14.65 in the County Championship. In its 1992 edition Wisden observed It is doubtful whether anyone has bowled faster or straighter in an English season than Waqar Younis did for Surrey in 1991. Contrary to modern practice among quick bowlers, the bouncer had a minimal place in his armoury; stumps were hit and pads thumped regularly to earn the young Pakistani a rich harvest.
In the same publication in which Atherton wrote about Wasim Surrey batsman David Ward also contributed a piece about Waqar; Seasoned batsmen were allowing the wider of the crease delivery to pass without offering a shot, when they then heard the deadly sound. They would glance around to find their off stump cartwheeling towards a cheering slip cordon. Off they would tramp to the pavilion, not quite sure what had happened. To be honest, we hadn’t a clue how he did it either!
There were two other precocious young bowling talents at Javed’s disposal. Much was expected of Aaqib Javed, another quick bowler who had made his Test debut at 16, and who was not yet 20. Aaqib did not make the impact that Wasim and Waqar did in 1992, and indeed his entire career failed to live up to the expectations that his early ODIs had raised, but he played a full part in ratcheting up the tension in 1992. Finally there was a 21 year old Mushtaq Ahmed, an elderly 19 on debut against Australia a couple of years previously, and the successor to the man who had reintroduced wrist spin to the game, Abdul Qadir. Shane Warne’s ball of the century to Mike Gatting in 1993 is rightly lionised to this day, although it does mean that the role of Mushie’s contribution to this series in restoring interest in the leggie’s art is always overlooked.
The action started with the first two ODIs, part of a five game re-match of the World Cup final won comfortably by Pakistan just eight weeks previously. Much to Javed’s disappointment England won both games easily, although Pakistan were missing Waqar for both and Wasim for one. When Javed was lbw to Botham in the second match he was livid at Ian Botham sending him on his way with a swear word or two, so there was little love lost between the senior players.
The most sinister thing the first Test produced was the understandable anger amongst the crowd when only two deliveries were bowled on the second day. That meant that they, unlike those who had bought tickets for the completely blank first day, got no refund. When the game finally got going both sides got in some batting practice and the mighty Waqar managed just 1-96. Wasim was still unfit.
The second Test at Lord’s, over in four days, was as exciting as the Edgbaston encounter had been tedious. Pakistan took a first innings lead of 38 and after their bowlers had bowled England out for just 175 a victory target of 138 looked a mere formality. Tha game then took a complete about turn and at 95-8 Pakistan looked dead and buried, but then Waqar joined Wasim, and the two great bowlers took their side home with the bat.
The third Test at Old Trafford lost a day’s play to the rain, and Pakistan batted England out of the match when cricket did begin, Aamer Sohail leading the way with a fine 205. Tempers frayed towards the end of the England reply when umpire Roy Palmer warned Aaqib for bowling too many short-pitched deliveries at Devon Malcolm, a very powerful striker of a cricket ball, but whose dodgy eyesight and even worse technique demanded a straight one. At the end of the over in question, in which bowler and captain had alread both complained, Aaqib didn’t like the way that Palmer handed back his sweater and sunhat, and proceeded to throw the sweater at the ground whereupon he aimed a kick at it. Aaqib was fined, and Javed and manager Intikhab Alam, who had jumped into the row, were reprimanded. The press were less than happy; Thanks to the foul behaviour of Aaqib, Javed and Intikhab, Pakistan have assumed South Africa’s role as the pariahs of cricket wrote Simon Heffer in, off all places, The Sunday Telegraph.
England drew level in the fourth Test at Headingley. They probably still would have if Ken Palmer (Roy’s older brother) had made the right decision and adjudged Graham Gooch out in the fifth over of England’s second innings when he failed by around two feet to beat a throw from Waqar. Pakistan claimed otherwise, and although the victory target was just 99, had Waqar bowled as he had in the first innings when England slumped from 270-1 to 320 all out then they just might have triumphed. But it wouldn’t have affected the series result, as at Waqar’s adopted home at the Oval Pakistan hammered England by 10 wickets. Nine Englishmen were bowled and three more lbw. The top order struggled and the lower order was simply blown away.
The tour was now winding down and Pakistan, understandably, took their collective eye off the ball in the remaining three ODIs and lost that series 4-1. But that didn’t alter one jot the fact that Pakistan had clearly demonstrated that they were the better side in the Test series.
The 79th and last Test of Alan Lamb’s career was Pakistan’s thrilling win at Lord’s. The South African was then free from the need to toe the party line. In the Daily Mirror of 26 August, to coincide with the start of the final match of the tour, a festival game at Scarborough, he launched a stinging attack on Wasim and Waqar. The headline declared they were the Cheats of Pakistan, and that they gouged the damaged ball with their nails, then smeared the surface with their sweat to fool the umpire. An editorial on the same day ranted The Pakistan team should be drummed out of England in disgrace. The paper’s cricket correspondent, Colin Price, continued to describe the story as the great Pakistan ball-doctoring scandal, even though no evidence, other than Lamb’s accusation, was put forward.
On the same day as the Mirror broke the Lamb story its arch rival from the other end of the political spectrum, The Sun, quoted Bob Willis as saying It’s just the way the Pakistanis are brought up to play their cricket. It’s the nature of the beast. Everything is confrontational. They don’t say sorry willingly and don’t often accept they are in the wrong …….. it’s not part of their character. The next day it showed an unusual solidarity with its left wing rival, referring to the Pakistanis as a bunch of ball-gouging cheats.
The jingoism with which the tabloids set about their task was reprehensible enough but, as Chris Searle found at the time when compiling a fine essay which appears in an anthology of his work, The Pitch of Life, the broadsheets were at it as well. In the Guardian Michael Henderson took the words of John Arlott; Cricket reflects the personality and spirit of those who play it, and by extension, illuminates the national character, and added all summer long the Pakistanis have been wilful, capricious and hot-headed. Politically Arlott was just about as Liberal and humanitarian in his views as it is possible to get. Had he lived another eight months and seen the context in which Henderson had put his words he would have been mortified.
One might have expected better of the Guardian, less so the Daily Mail, where Ian Wooldridge wrote, also on 26 August,the volatile Pakistani cricketers have provoked an affair which hangs like an ugly thundercloud over a team, a nation, and a game of presumed integrity.
The Pakistanis were understandably affronted by the accusations, and irritated by the fact that none of their English teammates, such as Atherton and Ward, seemed prepared to come to their defence. But they still bore themselves with dignity, Wasim summing up his feelings with the comment they taught us cricket, but now that we are winning England are bad losers.
But it wasn’t quite a witch hunt. An article appeared in the Independent on Sunday from Simon Hughes, explaining some of the things all bowlers got up to, and admitting that the secret of this whole issue is to avoid discovery. Imran explained the principles behind reverse swing in the Daily Telegraph on 31 August. In the Guardian, ironically enough on the same day as Henderson’s words, Mike Selvey opined there is nothing sinister in all this….. Sarfraz Nawaz in the 1970s devised a method of lending bias to the ball by using sweat and spittle to soak one side. The process was refined by Imran Khan and now is now perfected by Wasim and Waqar. The whole saga begs the observation as to what it is that links Selvey, Imran and Hughes on the one hand, and Price, Wooldridge and Henderson on the other.
Without doubt the most appropriate observation, then and now, came from the man who was the Match Referee in the first two Tests of the series, former Australian batsman Bob Cowper; During those games I personally examined the balls after each session of play. None had been tampered with. I have no explanation as to why Pakistan’s fast bowlers can consistently get an old ball to swing so much. They just do., before signing off with a wink and the aside maybe it’s just because they are very good bowlers indeed, something which anyone with any real knowledge of the game knew then, and which everyone who follows the game is aware of now. Indeed perhaps now the word innovative should be added as well, given that an “ability to reverse” seems to be a necessary ingredient of the cricketing CV of any opening bowler who aspires to greatness.