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Umpires must be diplomatic: Reporter
Deepti Patwardhan
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August 22, 2006 18:57 IST

"The umpires have to keep the show running and not shut it down," says former Indian Test umpire Pilloo Reporter, commenting on the fiasco in the fourth Test between England [Images] and Pakistan.

Australia's Darrell Hair and fellow-umpire Billy Doctrove called off the Test at the Oval on the fourth day and awarded it to England after Pakistan failed to show up after the tea break.

The Pakistan team was protesting against the charge of ball-tampering and the subsequent penalty of five runs they were slapped with.

Reporter, 67, who officiated Test matches between 1984 and 1993, was of the opinion that the on-field umpires should have been patient and waited for things to subside before calling off the match.

"The umpires should've been a little flexible. You need patience in such times, because these things take time to subside. In the end, it became a little bit of an ego problem; Hair and Doctrove wanted to show their authority on the field," he said.

Apart from the ball-tampering issue, the Pakistan team management has come under fire for the timing and method of their protest.

The umpires imposed a five-run penalty for alleged ball tampering and then changed the ball in the afternoon amidst heated discussion. Play carried on until tea, with England on 298 for four. Thereafter, things took a turn for the worse.

"Pakistan's management should've been more diplomatic about this. They should've lodged a complaint with the match referee and said that they were playing under protest. What happened then (the team refusing to come out after tea) was not in good taste."

Indeed, the bone of contention is inconclusive evidence of Pakistan players tampering with the ball.

According to Reporter, roughing up of the ball is done so "stealthily" that even multiple cameras sometimes fail to capture such images.

"Many other teams do this, but once you are caught you are labeled a robber. Those who go scot-free are not pointed at," he explained about the bias against the subcontinent teams, especially Pakistan.

Though reverse swing was still a new phenomenon during his days as umpire, Reporter admitted that he did find a few bowlers "altering the shape of the ball".

"I had caught some foreign teams applying face cream on the ball to make it shinier. I immediately pointed it out to the captain and solved the issue on the field. People outside didn't need to know about it.

"Umpires have to be diplomatic and make sure the match goes on. That's what they are there for."

With the issue blowing out of proportion, he believes, it were the spectators, television crew and advertisers who ultimately suffered.

So how would he have acted if he were in Hair's place?

"I would have done everything to sort the matter out on the field itself, by first speaking to the concerned captain," he declared.

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