When Australia tried to quit Pakistan

“I said to Simmo, ‘I can see where things need to change, but I don’t want to throw away the tour.’ We were young players as well and just wanted to play. More so on reflection you think, wow, that was a really significant moment.”

As he went on, Dodemaide would captain Victoria, become the chief executive of two state associations, and now join the selection panel. From that vantage point, he appreciates that they were never going home.

”With the advent of those extra experiences, I certainly look back now … that the team sits around in the captain’s room and takes a vote to go home – there was no way it was going to happen,” he says. “I think in a way everyone knew that at the time, but wanted to make a statement. We genuinely felt that it wasn’t in the spirit of the way cricket should be played.”

Gray, who had impressed upon the touring party the need for a calm approach after a widely publicized fight between the England captain Mike Gatting and the umpire Shakoor Rana on the previous Pakistan tour, sought counsel beyond that of Egar and Simpson. He went to Mike Coward, then the secretary of the Australian Cricket Media Association, for an independent reading of events.

Allan Border, seen here during the home summer following the 1988 Pakistan trip.

Allan Border, seen here during the home summer following the 1988 Pakistan trip.Credit:Getty Images

“There certainly was contact – I think he sensed from our reports that the divisions were pretty strong, and we were polarised, and confidentially he sought another view,” Coward says. “The belligerence and arrogance was breathtaking. It was a diplomatic disaster.

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”It wasn’t so much that the umpiring was good, bad or indifferent. It was more than the Australians completely lost it, a collective loss of responsibility, care, and an absolute insult to Dodemaide and [Bruce] Reid, who were absolutely outstanding. Across the 1980, 1982 and 1988 rounds, 45 catches were dropped in nine Tests. Some would argue about the light or catching so close, but I would say it had a hell of a lot more to do with state of mind in Pakistan.”

As Gray said in Inside Story: “I’d gotten to know Mike and respected him, so I got hold of him and asked if he could take off his journalist’s hat for a bit and talk to me, and tell me what is going on. And he told, basically the opposite of what I was hearing back through Dave [Richards, ACB CEO] from Egar and Simpson – how they’d gone down into the room and fronted the umpires, and what a disgrace it was.”

Mahboob Shah, the umpire responsible for most of the decisions that the Australians took exception to, spoke to Coward for his groundbreaking book Cricket Beyond The Bazaar: “I am sure there is a general view that with a colored umpire it is often a question of integrity; with a white-skinned man the same mistake is called human error. I’ve never received anything like this criticism on the cricket field or otherwise. I thought I was good friends with Mr Egar until the first Test match started.”

Events were deemed so dramatic that a 60 Minutes crew, with reporter Mike Munro, was sent to Pakistan to follow up the story. Told he would get no access to the team, Munro interrupted a press conference with the touring media for grabs from Border and Simpson, while also confronting Egar during training sessions. Meanwhile, Javed gave the crew his view of events.

From the archive: Mike Munro pictured reporting for 60 Minutes.

From the archive: Mike Munro pictured reporting for 60 Minutes.

“Always been poor losers, the Australians,” he said, smiling. “I know in the past, they’ve always been bad losers. I was very upset and sad the way they behaved in the first Test match.”

Gradually, the Australian response de-escalated. A team statement was released, with the tour continuing initially “under protest”, before that position was also retracted. The PCB re-appointed Shah for the second Test. In Faisalabad and Lahore, Border’s men performed far better, and got within a couple of wickets of squaring the series on its final day. Dodemaide sees it as a moment in time that ultimately helped the team’s growth.

“Steve Waugh’s reflection on that was it really steeled him for a lot of the back end of his career,” he says. “Particularly going back to Asia and the sort of mindset and approach you needed to have to win over there. It certainly laid some foundations for a pretty resilient team.”

For Coward, the attitude change was also evident, but he remains adamant that the 1988 tantrums had been unnecessary. “In the end, Border, Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor were the ones who pulled Australia out of that mentality,” he says.

“But at the time Border was just as guilty. They were completely in the wrong frame of mind from the time it started. And management has to be culpable – this is only days after Gray made it patently clear they carried enormous responsibility because of the circumstances, the sensitivity.“

Three decades on, if there is rather more worldliness about Australia’s first tour of Pakistan since 1998, there is also more security and fewer opportunities for exploration. Dodemaide’s salient memory is not so much of cricket, but of fishing in Karachi Harbour.

Tony Dodemaide, on his Test debut, dismisses Martin Crowe at the MCG in 1987.

Tony Dodemaide, on his Test debut, dismisses Martin Crowe at the MCG in 1987.Credit:wayne ludbey

“We had a day in Karachi with four or five of us, Steve Waugh, Tim May, Peter Sleep and Peter Taylor,” he recalls. “I’d been given a card for a captain Jack in Karachi harbour, to go down there and go out fishing crabs for the day.

“We took off in a taxi, went out in a rickety old boat on the harbour, catching and cooking crabs. No mobile phones, no security at all. It seems mind-blowing now that’s what five Australian cricketers were able to do. That’s the beauty of touring at that time, you had experiences as a young block that I treasure.”

The takeaways from the trip were significant. Undoubtedly, an international move towards neutral umpires was given momentum, stripping back Australia’s opposition to the concept. But equally, there was a sense of looking the other way for a tour not televised into Australia. The dramas certainly did not hurt Egar – he replaced Gray as ACB chairman the following year.

When Pakistan faced similar hurdles with home umpires in Australia in 1989-90, their response was, by comparison, the epitome of good manners. As John Woodcock wrote in The Times: “Thank you, Imran is not threatening to take his side home as Border wanted to do from Pakistan when Australia were there last. What is incompetence or inexperience in Melbourne can, I suppose, be something else in Faisalabad.”

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