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Pakistani MPs call for cricket row action

Written by: Staff
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ISLAMABAD, Aug 24 (Reuters) Pakistani members of parliament today backed embattled cricket captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and his team in their ball-tampering row with the International Cricket Council (ICC) and Australian umpire Darrell Hair.

Members of parliament called on the government to intervene in the controversy that erupted on Sunday when Hair and fellow umpire Billy Doctrove imposed a five-run penalty on Pakistan for ball tampering in the fourth and final test against England.

Inzamam and his men then refused to resume play after tea at The Oval.

''The whole country is disappointed,'' Mohammad Hussain Mehnati, a member of an alliance of conservative religious parties, told parliament as he introduced a motion urging support for the team.

''We were treated unfairly so we should take strong action and the government must intervene.'' He did not say how he wanted the government to intervene but he accused Hair of being biased against Third World teams.

Several other MPs spoke in favour of the motion while Sports Minister Shamim Haider assured support for the team.

''We are behind the team. We are taking up this issue with the ICC and hopefully the issue will be sorted out soon,'' said Haider, who also described Hair as a controversial umpire.

President Pervez Musharraf, a keen cricket fan, has not spoken publicly on the row but soon after the controversy erupted media reported he had called Inzamam-ul-Haq to pass on his support.

RELIGIOUS FOLLOWING Earlier today, Australian Prime Minister John Howard told a public radio station in Sydney the game would descend into chaos if umpires did not get support in enforcing rules.

The umpires awarded the match to England and the ICC has charged Inzamam with bringing the game into disrepute, for which there is a maximum ban of eight one-day internationals and four tests.

The disciplinary hearing into the charges against Inzamam has been postponed due to the unavailability of adjudicator, Sri Lankan Ranjan Madugalle. No new date has been announced.

Cricket is followed religiously in the country of 160 million people and support for Inzamam and his team has been widespread with rallies of support and protests against Hair in several cities.

Effigies of the Australian umpire have been burnt.

A Pakistan radio station is also inviting listeners to sign a petition backing Inzamam.

''The response to the campaign has been fantastic,'' FM 107 marketing executive Talal Durrani told Reuters today.

''We are getting calls and SMS's constantly. It is our way of supporting our cricket team against an unjust umpire.'' The station will send three listeners to Dubai to submit the petition to the ICC, he said.

Pakistan team manager Zaheer Abbas said on Wednesday the one-day series starting next week would go ahead but some question marks remained over the schedule.

A one-day tour match between Pakistan and English county side Middlesex was abandoned today due to bad weather.

REUTERS DH KP1759

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