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BCCI wants umpires' powers curtailed

india Updated: Sep 01, 2006 00:41 IST
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India will support any moves to dilute cricket umpires' powers following the forfeited Test between England and Pakistan, an official said on Thursday.

"For the sake of spectators, television viewers and the game's sponsors, no match should be called off and certainly not by the umpires," said Indian cricket board secretary Niranjan Shah.

"Any decision to forfeit a Test should be made by the match referee or the International Cricket Council (ICC)."

The Oval Test in London ended in bizarre fashion on August 20 when Pakistan refused to take the field after tea on the fourth day in protest at being accused of ball tampering by umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove.

The move led to the umpires awarding the match to England -- the first forfeit in the 129-year history of Test cricket -- and triggering the biggest crisis in the sport since the match-fixing scandal in 2000.

Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq was subsequently charged with ball tampering and bringing the game into disrepute. His case will be heard in the second half of September at an yet unspecified date.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said match referee Mike Procter and the two teams were willing to resume play on the fifth day but the umpires, citing the rule book, stood by their decision to call off the match.

Shah said that in future any umpire or team which refused to play without "sufficient reason" should be penalised heavily.

"An umpire who abandons play without sufficient reason should be sacked," said Shah.

"Similarly, teams walking off and forfeiting matches should be penalised and made to pay heavy damages.

"Unless there are unforeseen circumstances like bad weather or riots, it is the right of spectators and sponsors to see the match go on."

Sri Lankan match referee Ranjan Madugalle will hear charges against Inzamam, but Pakistan wants the role of the umpires, especially Hair, in the forfeited match to be investigated first.

Hair, 53, added to the chaos when the ICC revealed he had offered to quit the elite panel of umpires in exchange for a payout of 500,000 dollars.

Hair, no stranger to controversy, later withdrew the offer and issued a public apology for demanding the money.

Sri Lankans have not forgiven Hair for no-balling spin wizard Muttiah Muralitharan seven times for a suspect bowling action during a Test match against Australia in Melbourne in 1995.

Hair further enraged the Sri Lankans, and many cricket fans within the Indian sub-continent, by branding Muralitharan's action "diabolical" in his autobiography "The Decision Maker".

India's cricket chiefs have said they will wait for Madugalle's ruling on Hair before deciding if they should support demands from Pakistan and Sri Lanka to remove the Australian from the elite panel.

Privately officials admit they will vote in Pakistan's favour if the ICC called a meeting to decide on Hair's future.

Hair, meanwhile, received support from former Australian bowling great Dennis Lillee who said players must respect the umpire's decision.

"Whether you like it or not, you have to abide by the umpire's ruling," Lillee told reporters at his academy for fast bowlers in the southern city of Chennai.

"I was always taught to accept the umpire's verdict. The authorities should back the umpires."

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