The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) may have launched an anti-corruption programme for its players but the arrest of Akram Raza, one of its top umpires, was a major blow to the country’s umpiring system.
Raza, a former off-spinner who played nine Tests and 49 One-Day Internationals for Pakistan, was one of seven arrests made by Lahore police on Saturday after they were caught red-handed betting on Indian Premier League matches, according to security officials.
Apart from Aleem Dar and Asad Rauf, Pakistan lack quality umpires with Zameer Haider and Nadeem Ghauri’s status suffering due to poor performance.
The development has all but sidelined him from the International Cricket Council (ICC) panel that he was to be interviewed for. The other Pakistan umpires who were interviewed are Khalid Mehmood from Karachi, Lahore’s Shoaib Raza and Ghaffar Kazmi.
Raza, however, pleaded innocent on the charges and was granted bail while also claiming to have been set up. He was also one of six players to be fined by the Justice Malik Qayyum-led commission that was set up after match-fixing allegations surfaced in 2000.
Chaotic umpiring system in the country
The PCB has more than 100 umpires and after being divided into different categories, 30 are on the elite panel. However, the board randomly chooses an umpire to stand in domestic tournaments.
“It’s very unfortunate,” former Test umpire Mian Aslam told The Express Tribune. “Despite being a full-time profession, the umpiring system is doing very poorly in Pakistan. The PCB has a rich management system but when we talk about the umpiring standards, everything is based on nepotism. Most of the umpires on the elite panel of Pakistan cricket are relatives of someone and this has degraded the whole profession.”
Aslam added that the PCB’s move to not offer central contracts to umpires has made it difficult for the standards to rise in Pakistan.
“The PCB has never centrally-contracted these umpires and this is why only 10 per cent are able to understand the game professionally.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2011.