Australian Prime Minister John Howard weighed into the Pakistan cricket controversy Thursday, saying the game would descend into "chaos" if umpires did not receive support when enforcing the rules.
While refusing to comment on specific issues arising from Australian umpire Darrell Hair's involvement in the ball-tampering controversy, Howard said umpires deserved support for applying the rules.
"I always believe that umpires and referees should be supported by the governing body of the game," Howard told public radio.
"There are rules and, provided the rules are followed and properly applied, then the umpires should be supported.
"Once you start cutting and running from supporting umpires, you have chaos."
Asked if he gave Hair his full backing, Howard said: "I'll leave that to the International Cricket Council."
The crisis erupted last Sunday when Hair and fellow umpire Billy Doctrove ruled Pakistan had forfeited the Fourth Test against England when they refused to take to the field after tea in protest at a ball-tampering allegation.
Howard's position is at odds with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who phoned national captain Inzamam-ul-Haque after the incident to express his support for the protest.
The prime minister said he hoped the matter would be resolved because Pakistan was a great cricketing nation.
"Their president is a cricket fanatic, like I am, and I just hope that the matter is resolved and we go back to normal operations," he said.
Howard also involved himself in the previous controversy involving Hair, when the umpire no-balled Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in 1995, labelling Murali a "chucker".
Pakistan has threatened to boycott its five-match one-day series in England if Inzamam is banned on charges of ball-tampering and bringing cricket into disrepute following the forfeit controversy.