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December 8, 1987 – When Mike Gatting and Shakoor Rana spat threatened to end the tour

Faisalabad witnessed England captain Mike Gatting and the on-field umpire Shakoor Rana involve in a heated argument.

Umpire vs player
Mike Gatting argues with the umpire Shakoor Rana. (Photo Source: YouTube)

Faisalabad stood as the host for one of the most infamous rows in Cricket history caused between England’s skipper and the on-field. On 8th December 1987, Pakistan and England took the field on the 2nd day of the 2nd Test match of the series which witnessed Mike Gatting and the umpire Shakoor Rana involved in a heated argument. This argument was such that the game resumed only after the involvement of the England cricket board after losing a complete day’s play.

The Pakistan umpire Shakoor Rana had a history of being a part of controversies with his bias in decisions towards the home team. Sunil Gavaskar once threatened to leave the field after Shakoor showed double stands by warning Mohinder Amarnath for running on the pitch but ignored Imran Khan during the 1978 Test series while New Zealand skipper Jeremy Coney too threatened for leaving the field after Shakoor adjudged Javed Miandad not out in a Test in 1984.

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Umpire Rana
Match umpires Khisar Hyat and Shakoor Rana take the field. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

Ravi Shastri was once quoted saying about his 1982 tour to Pakistan that the home side played with the four-man pace attack that comprises of Imran Khan, Sarfraz Nawaz and the two on-field umpires. Interestingly, Shakoor replaced Shakeel Khan for the Faisalabad after England skipper Gatting’s complains about the unfair calls in the first Test. England players were aware of Shakoor’s history but couldn’t stop his appointment for the game.

Irrespective of his history, what happened with him on that day at Faisalabad was an unfortunate one. Off-spinner Eddie Hemmings bowled the final over of the 2nd day’s play to Saleem Malik. On the 4th ball of the over, as Hemmings ran in to deliver, Shakoor who was standing at square leg shouted “stop stop” as he saw Gatting signalling to David Capel, who came in from long-leg. The other on-field umpire Khisar Hyat was quick on calling it a dead ball.

Gatting rushed towards the leg umpire for an explanation for calling it a dead ball. Shakoor said that Gatting was waving his hand when Hemmings delivered the ball and that was cheating. The England skipper explained that he informed the batsman about the fielding move to ensure no time lost and asked the umpire to go back to his position so that the game can carry on. While turning back, Shakoor heard Gatting saying him “You are a f***ing cheat”. Umpire did react to those words as both came head to head into a heated argument only to be separated by England player Bill Athey.

Shakoor Rana threatened to withdraw from the game after this incident but people thought he would resume on the next day. However, Rana didn’t take the field and demanded a written apology for which Mike Gatting asked a return apology. He led his team just before 10:30 AM but neither batsmen nor the umpires turned up. The situation remained the same for the next six hours with 20000 spectators in the stands.

England players
England players waiting for the umpire. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

The Faisalabad-Lahore phone calls to the rescue:

After the incident, Rana said that “In Pakistan, many men have been killed for the sort of insults he threw at me. He’s lucky I didn’t beat him and even more lucky no spectator came onto the field to assault him.” While the BCCP President, General Sadaf Butt was quoted saying “Mike Gatting used some very filthy language to the umpires, and, let me tell you, some less filthy words are b***ard and son of a b***h, and so on. No-one has the right to abuse umpires.”

On the evening, Raman Subba Row, the chairman of the Test and County Cricket Board tried to find a solution for it. With the next day being a rest day, the England officials tried to solve the issue with Gatting as the team looked like calling off the tour which could affect the England-Pakistan cricketing ties. The TCCB even offered £1000 as a bonus for each player for carrying on with the tour. The England board officials were successful in making an unhappy Gatting to offer a written apology to Shakoor by the 4th day morning.

Rana vs Gatting
Mike Gatting with the written apology. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

The loss of a full day’s play did make an effect over the result as the game ended in a draw. Pakistan bowled out for 191 in their first innings in reply to England’s 292. England declared their 2nd innings on 137/6 to set a target of 239 in front of the home side. Pakistan made 51/1 in the 24 overs before the game came to an end. With the 3rd Test in Karachi as well ending in a draw, Pakistan won the series thanks to the innings win in the first Test in Lahore.

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