LONDON, 18 May — Since early morning the weather had made its intentions clear. It was not going to allow any cricket on the opening day of this much-anticipated first Test between Pakistan and England here at Lord’s yesterday.
And even as the people poured into the ground since morning anticipating some exciting cricket despite the shower forecasts, it was obvious that the weather was not conducive for any cricket and it continued to pour throughout the day forcing umpires Daryl Hair and Peter Willey to finally abandon the day’s play shortly before tea. The announcement came after two inspections which really appeared futile given that the rain kept on pouring down.
The umpires have now decided that an extra hour’s play would be held on the remaining four days to make up for lost time, weather and light permitting. Which also seems unlikely given that the forecasts are for more showers today and then on Sunday.
It was the first time a whole day’s Test play at Lord’s had been completely washed out since the first day of the second Test between England and Australia on June 19, 1997.
Meanwhile, former Pakistan captain Imran Khan has slammed the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for accepting to tour England for a short series in the months of May and June.
“I don’t blame the English cricket board for organizing the series, but I am surprised that the Pakistan board accepted such an arrangement in the first place. This series is an insult to our team, which has won the last three series in England. And what do we get — a two-Test series which is serving as an appetizer for the Ashes matches. It is totally unacceptable,” Imran told Pakistani journalists yesterday at Lord’s.
He said never in his lifetime had he seen a Test series scheduled in May in England. “Test matches normally start here in June. By agreeing to play this series we have devalued our own self. Pakistan is a team which deserves at least three to five Test matches in this country.”
He had no doubt that Pakistan would find it difficult to win in such conditions. “I don’t think any team will find it easy to beat the home side in such conditions to which they are well accustomed. Our board should have taken a stand on this long ago. Unfortunately this did not happen. I don’t think commercial considerations should override purely cricketing factors.”
Imran believed that England had improved a lot in the last one year and even the Australians would find it difficult to beat them.
The present series which despite signaling the launch of the Test World Championship has come in for heavy criticism from all quarters with the ECB having to issue a clarification to cool things down. Pakistan board agreed to play the two-Test matches during the tenure of Majid Khan as chief executive of the board. It has also cost Pakistan the chance of touring England until 2006 under the new International Cricket Council 10-year program.
Imran, who has come as an expert for Channel 4 to cover the series, said while he could understand one day games being held in May, Test matches should never have been scheduled in such weather conditions. “I think the weather today proves my point. I blame the Pakistan board for accepting such an assignment.”
However, Khan was appreciative of the launch of the Test championship stating it was good that now teams would be playing for something and would be graded according to their performances. “I agree with this championship, because it provides incentives to the teams, but I think some details still need to be smoothed out.”
But he maintained that he didn’t think this was the ideal time or season to launch the World Championship. “Pakistan has got second billing.”
On Shoaib Akhtar, Imran said he was a great asset for Pakistan cricket who could win a lot of games for the team if he maintained his fitness. “Any cricketer knows that the most difficult thing for a fast bowler is to get back to match fitness after a long injury and the longer you stay out of the game, it becomes that much harder. Shoaib’s bowling action has now been cleared and it is clear he has a double jointed action, which creates an illusion he is throwing. He has to be made to play as many matches as possible so that he is back to his old form and fitness.”
Imran had no doubt Shoaib was the best thing to happen to Pakistan cricket after a long time and he required to be taken care off and looked after.
“Bowlers like him don’t come around everyday. He is a big asset for the team.”
On Wasim Akram’s selection, the former Pakistan all-rounder said he never had any doubt he should be in the team for this tour. “I don’t understand on what grounds there was talk about dropping him for this tour where it is so necessary to have experienced bowlers to take advantage of these special conditions. If you don’t know how to bowl in them, then everything becomes useless.”
He also believed Wasim still had some more to give to Pakistan cricket as a cricketer.
Asked about Javed Miandad’s belief that he (Imran) was behind his ouster as coach and had conspired against him, Imran said this was a misconception and he had nothing to do with Miandad’s affairs with the board or team. “Cricket is a simple game, you perform you stay. There were many conspiracies against me in my time, I simply produced results and no one could say anything. It is all about performance.”
Asked how he managed to take time out for cricketing assignments despite a busy political career back home, Imran said his visit was basically a one week vacation and also to collect money for his party, Tehreek-e-Insaaf. “In Pakistan politics you need money to survive and my party does not believe in corruption to raise money, that is why I have decided to take up this assignment, the first time I am working on television after the last World Cup.”
Banned Malik ready to meet
In Karachi, former Pakistan captain Salim Malik, who is serving a life ban from cricket, is willing to meet anti-corruption chief Sir Paul Condon in an attempt to clear his name.
Condon, the head of the International Cricket Council (ICC) anti-corruption unit, is to arrive in Lahore on May 25 for a three-day visit, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced yesterday.
Condon and two of his associates are coming at the special invitation of the PCB, but not as part of their investigation into cricket match-fixing.
However, Malik told Reuters from Lahore: “I will go the full distance to get my name cleared. I would be more than pleased to meet ICC investigators if asked to by the board.”
Malik and former Test fast bowler Ata-ur-Rehman were handed life bans by the PCB last year on the recommendation of Justice Malik Muhammad Qayyum, who investigated charges of corruption in Pakistani cricket.
The PCB said Condon, former head of London’s Metropolitan Police, had not asked to meet any players.
“If Condon wants to meet any player or someone who assisted Justice Qayyum in the Pakistan inquiry, we would be pleased to arrange a meeting. But so far, we have not received any request from the ICC,” the PCB spokesman said.