Speed of the essence for Pakistan in tour row
by AFP

Ground:Kennington Oval, Kennington
Scorecard:England v Pakistan
Event:Pakistan in British Isles 2006

DateLine: 24th August 2006


International Cricket Council (ICC) chief executive Malcolm Speed was said to be flying in to London from the governing body's Dubai headquarters to help broker a deal that could keep Pakistan's tour of England on track after the fall-out from last week's ball-tampering controversy at The Oval.


"We have an indication from our lawyers that they have information Malcolm Speed is likely to be coming," said Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Shaharyar Khan at the team's London hotel on Wednesday after meetings ended with the future of the upcoming one-day series against England still uncertain.


Officials from both boards met before Pakistan's players, who earlier in the day had taken part in a closed training session at Lord's, held a meeting amongst themselves as they too considered the fall out from the ball-tampering row which cut short last weekend's fourth and final Test.


Pakistan had threatened to boycott the five-match one-day series if captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was banned as a result of charges of ball-tampering and bringing cricket into disrepute following their forfeiture of the fourth Test against England at The Oval.


A disciplinary hearing was due to take place on Friday in London but was postponed Wednesday because of the unavailabity of International Cricket Council (ICC) chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle, who had been due to hear the case.


In a statement Speed said he thought it would be "extremely difficult" to reschedule the hearing during the one-day series proper which starts this coming Wednesday in Cardiff.


Later in the day England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman David Morgan met with Pakistan counterpart Shaharyar and Inzamam for more than 30 minutes with the Welshman refusing to reveal afterwards what had been discussed.


Inzamam faces the possibility of a two-match limited-overs ban for ball-tampering and an eight-match suspension for bringing the game into disrepute - but it is the lesser charge, with its associations with cheating which is causing most anxiety to Pakistan.


Despite the delay in Madugalle's arrival, the lack of a new date for the hearing and Speed's earlier comments, Pakistan were optimistic that Inzamam's case could be considered before the one-day series.


And Shaharyar stressed Madugalle was the man they wanted in charge.


"Both England and Pakistan agree on Madugalle. We all know he is a very fair and seasoned referee.


"Our preference is for him. If not I am sure we can agree someone else.


"If Madugalle - a very experienced man - can make it a few days later it is fine. That will preferably be before the one-day series.


"We are very, very keen that the one-dayers are not disrupted - and I'm sure they won't be."


Some reports Wednesday suggested Pakistan wanted former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd to stand in for Madugalle and chair a Monday hearing.


But this was contradicted by lawyers DLA Piper, the firm hired by Pakistan to help prepare their case.


"We want the original bloke," said a DLA spokesman. "Clearly he has problems to deal with at the moment - but the situation has not changed."


Meanwhile, Pakistan team manager Zaheer Abbas was confident all remaining tour matches, starting with Thursday's warm-up match against Middlesex, would go ahead as planned.


"We are definitely playing that match and the remaining ones also," the Pakistan batting great told the BBC Sport wesbite.


"The players are now just concentrating on the cricket and winning the one-dayers."


It is estimated that the cost of a cancelled one-day series to the ECB would be 10 million pounds (18.9 million dollars).


The one-day series, which is preceded by a Twenty20 match at Bristol on Monday, has been in jeopardy ever since Pakistan threatened a withdrawal if Inzamam received a lengthy ban for his part in the events at The Oval.


Pakistan refused to come back on the field on Sunday in protest at the award of five penalty runs to England by on-field umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove because of ball-tampering.


Their subsequent forfeit was the first in the 129-year history of Test cricket and saw England to a victory that gave them the four-match series 3-0.


Shaharyar wrote to the ICC asking them to bar Hair from officiating in any more Pakistan matches.


But, in an earlier statement, Speed stressed that it was the responsibilty of ICC, and not individual countries, to select match officials "without fear or favour."


And Hair, much criticised by the press in Britain, where he now lives, for his handling of events at The Oval, told the Independent newspaper: "I have been vilified by virtually everybody here and when the truth comes out a lot of people will pay."

(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)


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