SCOTLAND'S cricket umpires couldn't disguise their acute disgust yesterday after a player who assaulted an international match official was shown leniency by disciplinary chiefs.
Poloc batsman Saleem Sajjad admitted verbally and physically attacking Vic Hadcroft during his team's Premier Division defeat by Grange at Shawholm last month. The player shouted at and grabbed Hardcroft after a decision went against him.
Hadcroft's colleagues had begged the game's ruling body to take a hard-line towards Sajjad - with some even demanding a life-ban.
But the Cricket Scotland beaks - SCU president Mahendra Patel, John Downie (Penicuik) and panel chairman Dick Auchinleck - opted merely to impose a suspension until the end of this season, eight league matches in total.
Umpire training officer Jim Connell insisted the sentence had been a cop-out. He declared: "We have been let down badly - but, sadly, this is what I expected to happen, knowing who were making the decision.
"Sajjad's actions were not a spur-of-the-moment thing, they were pre-meditated. He was angry after being given out - but it was almost 15 minutes later when he re-entered the field of play to confront Vic.
"Vic was, and still is, pretty shaken up about the whole affair and I would not be surprised if he gave up umpiring sooner than he planned to. It was an extremely frightening sequence of events. Sajjad had plenty of time to calm down, but he opted to take the matter further in a most unacceptable fashion.
"If a player in soccer, rugby or hockey had accosted a match official in that manner, I am certain that the ban would be counted in terms of years rather than weeks.
"A life ban in Sajjad's situation would have been harsh, but possibly merited. He certainly should have been put out the game for much longer."
SNCL umpires' convener Sandy Scotland added: "I am very disappointed because it doesn't appear to give officials proper protection in this sort of situation.
"I feel the outcome does nothing to help us keep existing umpires in the game - and certainly won't do much to help in terms of attracting new recruits. I feel that the punishment does not fit the crime. I think a longer term would have been more appropriate - perhaps taking in part or all of next season."
Hadcroft, who was handling the Greenock v Ferguslie encounter at Glenpark yesterday, declined to comment.
Poloc spokesman Keith Young said: "We have no quibble, either with the due process of the case or the outcome. We feel the suspension is reasonable, given the circumstances. As far as the club are concerned, the matter is now closed. Saleem has the opportunity to appeal against the sentence but that will be entirely up to him. We will have no input. As regards his future with us, again that is his decision. He has been commuting from Spain to play for us and if he believes it is worth his while doing that next season then that will be fine by us."
A Cricket Scotland spokesman confirmed: "A meeting of the Cricket Scotland disciplinary committee was held at the National Cricket Academy, Edinburgh, on Thursday to consider a report from the umpires in the Poloc CC v Grange CC Scottish National Cricket League match on June 17.
"The committee found, on the basis of the report, that Saleem Sajjad (Poloc CC) had breached the Code of Conduct in relation, principally, to:
• Re-entering the field of play having been given out by an umpire.
• Confronting that same umpire in an intimidating and threatening manner.
• Putting hands on an umpire.
"The committee has determined that Mr Sajjad be banned from all forms of cricket for the remainder of the 2006 domestic season.
"Poloc CC has also been reminded of its responsibilities for ensuring matches are conducted within the spirit of the game as well as within the Laws of Cricket.
"In accordance with Cricket Scotland's disciplinary and appeals procedures, Mr Sajjad has the right to appeal the decision within seven days."
Hadcroft, who is a Latin teacher at Glasgow Academy, was recently called up for a promotion to the ICC international panel and was an official at the Ireland v Namibia Intercontinental Cup tussle in Dublin in May.