Pakistani umpires...


NOVEMBER 14: Isn't modern technology wonderful? It sends astronauts to the moon, allows divers to tell the time many fathoms underwater and it brings us thousands of miles from London Heathrow to Multan. But there are other uses. Escaping from a toilet, for instance. You didn't think of that did you? Several of the media giants working from the press centre at Multan Cricket Stadium find that while it is easy to enter the gentlemen's lavatories it is difficult to get out again. There is no handle on the inside. Oh, dear. No names of course; these VIPs will be embarrassed. One has to send a text message to his boss: "Help I'm stuck in the loo!" Another shouts for assistance and finds another man from his county — one who understands what he is saying I guess — to open the door. Another phones a friend as if he is on the television quiz show and finds that the friend thinks it is a huge joke to leave him for a while.

November 15: Researching the detail from my preview to the first Test I bump into the important man behind the scenes, the television umpire Asad Rauf. He turns out to be an affable guy who plays first class cricket in Pakistan and spends many years in England batting for teams in the Bradford League, a famous breeding ground for Yorkshire and England cricketers. He begins by making three centuries and a fifty in his first four matches. He is also on the way up in the umpiring world after standing in three one-day internationals and being appointed for the Boxing Day Test in Melbourne. It is only a couple of years since he has a major operation for a heart complaint and naturally he feels a very lucky man. This afternoon he hits trouble when there is a tight run out decision to be given. I am standing with several Test cricketers at the time and at first we dismiss the appeal as not worth considering. Then as we watch another replay someone shouts: "It is out" and by the time the verdict flashes up on the big screen there is a consensus around our TV set that Salman Butt ought to be out. Instead the verdict is not out. "I cannot give it out," says umpire Rauf later. "The bail is not dislodged when the batsman is outside the crease and when it is properly dislodged he has crossed the line." I don't agree with his verdict but he has done his job fairly. "I have to answer to two bosses," he says. "The ICC and my God."

November 16: Back home in England the newspapers are not amused to report that England lose by 22 runs and take back all the nice words they write when the Ashes return. "Multdown" is the wittiest headline and as I remember from the 1987 series — of which more in a couple of days — the side that wins the first Test usually wins the series in Pakistan.

November 17: Ian Botham will mark his 50th birthday on November 24. He has spent a few days off this week in Lahore making arrangements. The man never changes. Last week he is warned he will be arrested if he makes his driver overtake the team bus on the way from the Multan ground. He has no reason to hurry; but he has reasons to celebrate. So be careful. Only those with strong constitutions ought to accept invitations.

November 18: After England lose the first Test against Pakistan in Lahore in 1987 — to a mixture of brilliant bowling by Abdul Qadir, some very strange umpiring decisions and hysteria in the England dressing room — my sports editor suggests I get in touch with Shakeel Khan, the umpire who causes most of the trouble. It turns out to be more difficult but I take a taxi ride to Ray's Hotel in central Faisalabad to meet Shakoor Rana, another umpire who has given England heart attacks in the past. At that time the press label him The Worst Umpire in the World and I am slightly apprehensive about asking him what he thinks of this description. This proud Punjab warrior — his words not mine — says that he always calls it the way he sees it and that he has no master except his own conscience. We agree to meet after play on the second day of the Test and drink tea and discuss the way the game has gone. "You will see that I am a good umpire," he laughs. His companion is one Kaiser Hyatt, then a Test umpire, now the head of umpiring for the Pakistan Board of Control. "We all admire Shakoor," he tells me as I leave. "He teaches us so much about the art of umpiring. He rarely makes a mistake." As I am about to join Shakoor for tea I complain to another reporter — the late Chris Lander, a man who lives life to the full, joins Ian Botham on two of his major walks for charity and, sadly for me since he is a good friend, dies at the early age of 59 — that we have nothing to write about. "I wonder if that is what we need," Lander replies and points to the scene at square leg where Mike Gatting is giving Shakoor the finger wagging of his life. "I have a date to see Shakoor," I say. "Perhaps he will explain it all." Well, as the whole world knows now, my tea time chat with Shakoor was well worth the effort. I return to visit him again the next day and see and hear some remarkable sights. At one stage Mickey Stewart, then the England coach, and their manager Peter Lush, arrive to try to negotiate with Shakoor. "You have no right to be here," Stewart shouts at me. "I'll leave if you gentlemen have business to discuss," I say, but Shakoor intervenes. "Mr. Ted is having tea with me. He is my guest. I will talk to you when he finishes his tea." I leave them to their talk but they have rubbed up Shakoor — a proud, vain man who stupidly claims that in his culture he has the right to kill Gatting — the wrong way. On the third day of the match Gatting writes an apology and the game ambles to a draw. The third game is also played at a slow tempo and at tea on the last day the reporting group gather for a chat with Lush and Stewart in the tea room when the door swings open and Javed Miandad, the Pakistan captain, appears. "We have abandoned the match as a draw," he says. He seems to have no time to explain who "we" are. Indeed most of the events of the 1987 tour are still a mystery. Did the match have to be continued because of some pact between the two governments over the sale of a warship? Who phones Shakoor soon after the incident with Gatting? He will not tell me even when he visits England five years later. It is true that the game brings forward the appointment of match referees and neutral umpires although I am still not sure whether that is a boon.

November 19: Even though you can neither hear nor see the Barmy Army — which is a pity since these ardent cricket fans will also attempt to raise money for the earthquake disaster if they are here — Pakistan will make a huge amount of money simply because they are playing against England who raised the temperature by winning the Ashes. But if Pakistan schedule a match for Multan and India are adamant that matches must be played in Ahmedabad and Nagpur they cannot hope to bring in lots of British pounds.

November 20: There is a lady we meet frequently on our trips abroad who earns a few shillings back home by acting as a steward at big outdoor events from Test matches to pop concerts. Once she has to stop an argument among several men and is so effective that one of them says: "You must be a prison warder." She is stuck for an answer for only a few seconds. "Why do you say that?" she asks. "Do you think you recognised me?"