Karachi: Faisalabad is a dusty city of two million that was just another spot on a map of Pakistan until Mike Gatting and his England cricket team arrived 13 years ago.Now it is part of cricketing folklore, a sign of the rocky sporting relations that have helped keep England from touring Pakistan until they returned this week to start a visit that includes three One-day Internationals and three Tests.
Like the famous ''Bodyline series'' in Australia in 1932 when England's bowlers attacked Australia's batsmen, relations on all levels between the countries were affected by the finger-wagging tiff between England captain Gatting and Pakistan umpire Shakoor Rana. The row in the second Test of the three-match series at Faisalabad, soured relations and although Pakistan did tour England twice after that in 1992 and 1996, England stayed away from Pakistan for 13 years.
The scene of the controversy was first set during Pakistan's tour of England earlier in 1987 when, after clashes between umpire and players, Pakistan manager Haseeb Ahsan asked the then Test and County Cricket Board to change umpire David Constant for the Lord's test. His request was rejected. That created uneasiness between the countries' cricket Boards and, on England's visit to Pakistan, a few controversial decisions from Pakistan umpire Shakeel Khan in the first Test at Lahore did nothing to improve the mood before the teams left for Faisalabad.
In the last over of the second day's play at Faisalabad with three deliveries left from off-spinner Eddie Hemmings, the umpiring controversy erupted again.Rana stopped Hemmings in his bowling stride by calling a ''dead ball'' after suspecting that Gatting had moved a fielder behind Salim Malik without the batsman's knowledge ''incommoding the batsman'', according to the laws of the game. Gatting disputed the call and he and Rana started shouting and wagging their fingers at each other to the astonishment of players and the crowd.
Both later also accused the other of using bad language.Rana refused to start the Test on the third day unless Gatting apologised in writing, while Gatting demanded that Rana do the same. Pakistan were in dire straits, on 105 for five, when play was stopped as officials of the two cricket boards struggled for a solution.Finally, England cricket chief Raman Subba Row told Gatting to write an apology, but by then his team had lost its grip on the game and the Test petered out to a draw.Pakistan won the Lahore Test and took the series 1-0 after the last Test in Karachi also ended in a draw. Rana and Gatting both say now the incident should not overshadow cricket relations between the countries.''When I look back at it I think I was wrong,'' Gatting told theBBC in a recent interview.
But Gatting who left Pakistan vowing never to return, has so far kept his promise.Rana was also contrite. ''It was all in the past, I have forgotten everything, I have healthy respect for Mike Gatting and if he visits Pakistan Iwill accept him as my guest. I welcome the England team to Pakistan and hope they have a good series here'' Rana said.Current England captain Nasser Hussain refused to be drawn into the row. But the 2000 tour is unlikely to be free from controversy.
Pakistan team members are angry at remarks from current England Cricket Board chairman Lord MacLaurin that players suspected of match-fixing should be suspended until their guilt or innocence is proved. (c) Reuters Limited.