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An imperfect past makes the present tense

Peter Deeley on the repercussions of two unfortunate incidents

2 December 1997

TWIN ghosts from England's troubled past in Pakistan threaten to haunt Adam Hollioake's side, who arrive in Lahore today for six days of preparation before the Sharjah one-day tournament.

Umpire Shakoor Rana, whose name will forever be linked with Mike Gatting, says he may watch England play a Pakistan side at the Gaddafi Stadium this weekend.

Journalist Asghar Ali, called a ``buffoon'' by Michael Atherton at a press conference during the 1996 World Cup, wants to confront the England team and demand recompense for the hurt to his pride.

Next Monday sees the 10th anniversary of one of the most acrimonious games in Faisalabad. It also led to England refusing to send another senior side on a Pakistan Test tour, though there is provisional agreement for a visit soon after the millennium.

Gatting's 1987 side had lost the first Test by an innings and late on the second day of the next game, when the England captain moved David Capel in to save a single as Eddie Hemmings came in to bowl, Shakoor at square leg stopped the game to inform the batsman, Salim Malik, what was happening.

Shakoor claimed Gatting had unfairly moved a fielder behind the batsman's back. Gatting objected, suggesting that the umpire had over-reached his powers.

Then came the infamous head-on finger-wagging that led to the match being halted for more than six hours until the England captain was persuaded - reluctantly - to pen a note of apology to Shakoor.

Shakoor, now 60 and retired from umpiring after 18 Tests, recalled: ``Gatting was a very good batsman but as a human being I am sorry to say he was very ungentlemanly. Whatever I did was within the laws and I was the person wronged.''

He later visited England at the instigation of a tabloid newspaper and met Gatting in the car park at the Worcester ground. ``I said, 'Hello Gatting' and when he saw me he said, 'Oh God, no, what are you doing here?'.''

Shakoor, also retired from his railwayman's job, said: ``I would like to go along to the game. I gather Mr Gatting is not an England player any longer.''

Raman Subba Row, the match referee in the present Pakistan-West Indies Test series, flew here in December 1987 as chairman of the Test and County Cricket Board to offer the England players £1,000 each 'hardship money'.

Subba Row was deputed to get a reciprocal apology from Shakoor and after much persuasion the umpire wrote a letter to Gatting.

``I went to Gatting's room but he was out and I left the note on his pillow,'' said Subba Row. ``Then I heard that he and Peter Lush, the England tour manager, had refused to accept it because the word 'apology' was not used.

``Perhaps the board and the England management didn't handle the matter very well.''

Asghar Ali is travelling to Lahore with what he calls ``a personal mission to clear my name''.

During an England World Cup game in Rawalpindi last year he gained instant fame when Atherton - tiring of his questioning declared: ``Can somebody get this buffoon out of here?''

Atherton later acknowledged it was a tactless remark, but Asghar has turned it into a one-man campaign. ``My personal life has been ruined,'' he said. ``My fiancˇe has broken off her engagement, my friends and family taunt me.''

He wants to write a book, but cannot find the finance. He wants to meet his ridiculer face-to-face, but Atherton will not be here.

That does not deter Asghar. ``I want to tell the English they cannot get away with insulting a respected person - especially an Asian.''

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 25 Feb1998 - 15:10