Martin John­son : Gat­ting was forces to apol­o­gise. Shakoor Rana was an ego­tis­ti­cal crook!

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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.

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