INSIDE: THIRTY YEARSON FAISALABAD FROM
Martin Johnson : Gatting was forces to apologise. Shakoor Rana was an egotistical crook!
It was all Mike Selvey’s fault. Faisalabad that is. It would never have happened if the Guardian’s cricket correspondent hadn’t broken the first rule of touring and announced, with the finishing post in sight, that it was “all downhill from now on, lads”.
A couple of days later, an umpire was on strike, an England captain was refusing to apologise, a Pakistani captain was running round pouring petrol on the bonfire, and the touring English cricket hacks were bashing away on oldfashioned typewriters wondering whether Shakoor Rana versus Mike Gatting had overtaken Bodyline as cricket’s greatest ever crisis. Cheers, Selve.
In fairness to him, the reason for the optimism was down to the supposition that so much fertiliser had already struck the fan that, with just two Tests to go, what else could conceivably go wrong? Answer, as we look back on the 30th anniversary of cricket’s equivalent of the OK Corral, just about everything.
We’d already been in the subcontinent for two months, for the World Cup, three ODIs, and one Test of a threematch series in Pakistan, and it’s fair to say that relations between the two sides were on the lukewarm side of cordial. Pakistan’s semi-final defeat in the World Cup prompted former fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz to burst into print accusing the two umpires in that game – Dickie Bird and David Shepherd – of “bribery and corruption”, and after Pakistan’s victory in the first Test in Lahore, England abandoned what until then had been hints, nudges and insinuations, and came right out with it: Pakistan’s umpires, they said (no neutral officials in those days), were nothing but a bunch of cheats.
Gatting himself – roughly half a day after issuing a “no dissent whatever happens” commitment ahead of the series, shook his head so violently when he was given out lbw it nearly fell off, Micky Stewart, the team manager, strode onto the field at lunchtime on the opening day to give both umpires the kind of stare heavyweight boxers adopt when the ref calls them together just before the bell for the opening round, and Chris Broad concluded that the decision to give him out caught behind was so fraudulent that he wasn’t leaving, thank you very much. Eventually, just as the options appeared to have boiled down to a stick of gelignite and a forklift truck, Graham Gooch persuaded his opening partner to go.
England’s sense of grievance, though, not only ran deeply enough to let Broad off the hook with nothing more than a reprimand, but resulted in an extraordinary statement after a game in which they were wiped out by Abdul Qadir’s leg-spin from tour manager Peter Lush. “We want our players to enjoy a tour of Pakistan,” he said, “but they won’t want to come again if they feel they’re competing on unequal terms. Things will have to change... because we cannot go on like this.”
Gatting then chimed in with, “we knew roughly what to expect, but never imagined it would be quite so blatant”, to which Pakistan retaliated by handing over the names of the two umpires for the second Test in Faisalabad. One of whom was a man who had so upset even the mildmannered New Zealanders that they’d walked off the field in Karachi on their 1984-85 tour. Shakoor Rana.
There’s no need to go over again the events leading up to the GattingShakoor confrontation when the umpire accused the England captain of sneakily moving a fielder during the bowler’s run-up, but the infamous finger
Shakoor Rana was an egotistical crook whose only service to cricket was to advance the introduction of neutral umpires by at least ten years
jabbing scene was almost never caught on camera. There were only three photographers from England on the tour, and one of them had gone home after Lahore, perhaps on the Selve theory that nothing much more could happen. Another had packed all his gear away because the light was fading, which left Graham Morris. Whose other famous cricket picture, about four years later, would be David Gower and John Morris impersonating Biggles and the Red Baron on Australia’s Gold Coast.
Day three of the Faisalabad Test, as we all know, never happened. All the available evidence suggests that he hadn’t planned on refusing to take the field until Gatting apologised, but once the Pakistani captain Javed Miandad had got hold of him, he suddenly decided to play the burning martyr. Mind you, he happily posed for photos in his hotel room, knee deep in congratulatory telegrams, and milking it for all he could.
Gatting himself had offered to apologise only if the umpire did likewise, given that it was the England captain who had received the first volley of abuse from Shakoor. Which several of his team-mates attested to in a signed affidavit handed to Lush.
Lush, meantime, had dashed off to Lahore to try and get an audience with the secretary of the home cricket board Salman Butt (which he had to leave until the following morning when he got a “sorry, I’m out to dinner” note). General Zia got involved, as did the British Embassy, and the other umpire, Khizer Hayat, helpfully popped up on the telly to say (of Gatting): “People have been murdered here for less.”
The day after the strike was the official rest day, and the impasse went on until the morning of the scheduled day four when Gatting suddenly apologised. It was not his finest handwriting, nor was it enscribed on Basildon Bond gold leaf paper, but on something that looked as though it had been chewed by one of the local dogs. The spelling wasn’t too hot either – deliberately so. “Dear Shakoor Rana, I apologise for my behaviour in Fisalabad.”
It turned out the Test & County Cricket Board had caved in, and ordered Lush to order Gatting to say sorry. The players were mutinous, issuing a statement registering, “a unanimous protest”. Gatting was furious too: “We have been forced to back down by our Board when we are totally in the right. Our own Board has taken away our self-respect.”
At the end of it all, the Board’s two representatives, AC Smith and Raman Subba Row, flew out to Pakistan to announce that they were awarding the team a “hardship bonus”. Utter tosh. Everyone knew it was conscience money. Shakoor Rana was an unscrupulous, egotistical crook, whose one and only service to the game was to advance the implementation of neutral umpires by at least ten years.