Pakistan cricket: the umpire strikes back

ANTON RIPPON delves into the archive, back more than half a century, to find possibly the first Pakistan cricket row

Gatting heated: 23 years on, the Shajoor Rana row is still remembered as a low-point for England v Pakistan cricket

What is it about Pakistan cricket?

The latest betting scandal is just the latest that seems to have dogged the game for a decade. Whenever Pakistan are playing, though, no bookmaker will take any money on a row breaking out some time soon.

There was that iffy business when skipper Salim Malik and medium pacer Ata-ur Rehman were found guilty of match-fixing at the turn of the decade (though the rulings were subsequently overturned).

The abandoned “ball tampering” Test at The Oval in 2006 still has a whiff about it.

And when it comes to people just falling out, well the Gatting-Shakoor Rana finger-wagging nonsense in Faisalabad in 1987 still raises a smile, not to mention the various ding-dongs between Lillee and Miandad or Malik and Warne down the years.

The story of Pakistan cricket is certainly littered with conflict, on and off the field. Indeed, we can go back 55 years to the time when a future pillar of cricket’s establishment became unwittingly embroiled in an unsavory incident in Pakistan that caused a diplomatic row and threatened to wreck an MCC tour. Inevitably, there is a dodgy umpire in there, too.

In 1955, the future looked bright for all-rounder Donald Carr. In his first season as Derbyshire’s captain, Carr had proved an outstanding success, dedicated to attacking cricket. Now, he looked forward to leading a young and talented MCC team to Pakistan at the end of that year.

But ahead lay an unpleasant incident – forever known as “the water treatment” – for which Carr, a product of Repton, the Army, and Oxford University, would need all the powers of diplomacy he could muster.

After a brilliant career as a schoolboy cricketer – in 1944, while still at Repton, he played against Australia in a Victory Test – Carr joined Derbyshire in 1946. At Oxford, he won a double Blue: he was a good enough footballer to appear for Pegasus in two FA Amateur Cup Finals. He was appointed vice-captain for the 1951-2 MCC tour to India. He played in two Tests, captaining England in Madras.

Carr: outstanding all-rounder

In December 1955, the call to leadership came again and Carr was on his way with an MCC “A” party that included Brian Close, Ken Barrington, Fred Titmus and Tony Lock. Despite leading such a talented team, Carr would find it a difficult trip. Condition were harsh, practice facilities poor.

At Peshawar, Pakistan took a 2-0 lead in the unofficial series. And on the last day of the match – February 26, 1956 – came the notorious incident, which would sour cricketing relations between the two countries.

During that late evening, Idrees Baig, a 45-year-old Pakistani umpire who had just officiated in the Test, was alleged to have been manhandled by some England players.

The full details of the affair have never emerged. At its worst, there were stories of Baig being “kidnapped” from his hotel room, a blanket thrown over his head, and of him being doused in iced water.

Omar Kureishi, who became Pakistan’s senior cricket columnist and managed several touring sides, was present and said later that he regarded the affair as just “horseplay” which got out of hand.

Whatever the truth, Idrees Baig claimed that he was hurt and humiliated. The MCC tour manager, Geoffrey Howard, issued an immediate apology, but the Pakistan board complained to London. The MCC president, Lord Alexander of Tunis, telephoned the Governor-General, telling him “to offer to cancel the remainder of the tour and recall the team forthwith if this would be in the best interests of restoring friendly relations”.

The Governor-General counselled against such action and the tour continued. Carr, although he had absolutely nothing to do with the incident, felt that, as captain, he should do the decent thing and take full responsibility.  Peace, if not harmony, was restored, and Idrees Baig stood in the final Test.

Carr returned to captain Derbyshire until he was appointed assistant secretary of MCC in 1963. When he retired as a player, he had scored 14,656 runs for Derbyshire, held 404 catches as a brilliant close fielder and his slow left-arm spin had taken 232 wickets.

Idrees Baig, who had played first-class cricket for Delhi before the Second World War, died in Karachi in July 1986.

Some years later, it emerged that the great Indian cricketer, Lala Amarnath, told of an incident when he was managing the Indian team on its tour of Pakistan in 1954-55.

He was sitting with his back to the door, taking tea in the dressing room of the Pakistan captain, Abdul Kardar, when someone came in.

“He asked: ‘Any instructions for tomorrow’s game, skipper?’

“I turned to see who it was. It was Idrees Baig, one of the umpires named for the final Test in Karachi.

“’What kind of instructions do you want?’ I said. Seeing me, Baig rushed out … I looked at Kardar, who was visibly shaken.”

That evening, Amarnath told officials of the Pakistan board that Baig would now be an unacceptable choice and threatened to boycott the Test.

No alternative umpire seemed available at short notice, and it was past midnight when an official joked: “We have one qualified first-class umpire, our selector, Masood Salahuddin, but you will not accept him.”

Amarnath agreed to let Salahuddin officiate, probably the only instance where a home team selector has officiated as umpire. Salahuddin gave Kardar out stumped when he was on 93.

Footnote: Donald Carr was assistant secretary of MCC from 1963 to 1976 and then secretary to the Cricket Council and the Test and County Cricket Board – both forerunners of the England and Wales Cricket Board – for 10 years after that. He managed several MCC tours in the 1960s and 1970s. he also became an ICC match referee.