Like a pair of naughty schoolboys

Trying to prove in a court of law that the governing body of cricket is racist is an ambitious aim, and it may well be that Darrell Hair’s surrender stems from a realisation that he was going to lose, and lose expensively. It also appears that he hasn’t managed to cut a deal with the ICC, and is thus probably destined to spend the rest of his life umpiring club cricket and shopping at Primark.

I can’t think of a single incident in the last decade which has split cricket more evenly. Both sides’ arguments make eminent sense. Yes, Hair was simply applying the laws of the game, yes, the Asian lobby probably do wield too much power and yes, the ICC should have offered him more support. But equally validly, Hair was a pompous, posturing fool that day, there was no firm evidence of ball-tampering and trying to blackmail your employers for $500,000, let alone labelling them racist, is just plain daft.

Mercifully, then, it appears to be all over. It’s not really for me to apportion blame to one side or the other – although you should feel free below – but in this ugly display of playground mudslinging, neither party has exactly covered itself in glory and you can’t help thinking that surely, surely, the world of cricket can do better than this. Hair and the ICC have behaved like a pair of name-calling schoolboys. And as your teacher always told you: “It doesn’t matter who started it. You shouldn’t have reacted.”

Hair drops racial discrimination case against ICC

Darrell Hair arrives in court

This really is big news and utterly unexpected. Darrell Hair, the Australian umpire who was suing the ICC for racial discrimination, has dropped his case at the start of the second week of hearings.

“Darrell Hair withdraws his allegation of racial discrimination against the ICC board, members and staff,” Robert Griffiths QC, Hair’s barrister, told the media. “Mr Hair has undertaken to work with ICC management in accordance with the rehabilitation programme over the next six months.”

Hair is contracted to the ICC until March 2008 but Cricinfo has learned that he then has to be given 12 months notice, so in effect he remains an employee until March 2009. He will continue to umpire international matches, but not those involving Test-playing countries. The ICC board will meet in March to discuss the results of Hair’s rehabilitation and decide whether he can return to elite umpiring, and if so, on what terms.

The term “rehabilitation” is a dirty one. And I’m intrigued by Malcolm Speed’s comments:

“I think in six months we’ll have a better idea [about his future as an umpire], it’s a matter for the board, which is a very diverse group generally with strong and differing groups, so a lot will depend on the rehabilitation programme and his attitude towards it.”

“…a very diverse group generally with strong and differing groups”? Even in the current climate, I think it’s fair to say Speed is speaking about the Asian Bloc, against which Hair has been fighting. The ICC appear to be divided by skin colour and it is a huge concern for the future of the game.

My boss, Martin Williamson, wrote an excellent comment on the whole mess.

But more seriously, the executives that run the world game were shown to be a pretty rum bunch. Faced with a cunning QC, they not only fell into his traps but often appeared to give him a hand in digging them as well. If these are the men entrusted with the future of the game and its best interests, then we are all in trouble.

That’s not necessarily the ICC’s fault – it has to work with what it is sent by the Full Member countries. But, with a few exceptions, a more self-interested and self-important bunch would be hard to find.

So finally the circus is over and, when his contract with the ICC expires at the end of March 2009, so almost certainly is Hair’s career. But when he is gone and largely forgotten, most of those on the ICC executive will still be running cricket. That’s a sobering thought.

This case had all the makings of becoming a landmark for racial discrimination in sport. But now, neither party has won. In fact both Hair and the ICC lost – their reputations are in absolute tatters. Hair’s a goner, so where does that leave the ICC?

Darrell Hair under the spotlight

Darrell Hair, the rotund Australian umpire, returns to the back pages of newspapers and homepages of websites next week when he appears at a London tribunal. Hair is suing his employers, the ICC, for racial discrimination – and here’s a brief overview of why.

England v Pakistan, 4th Test, The Oval, 4th day. August 20, 2006. Five penalty runs are awarded to England when Hair signal to the umpires of his conviction that the ball has been tampered with.

An early tea is taken, but Pakistan stage a protest after the interval and refuse to play. Hair, his colleague, Billy Doctrove, and the two England batsman walk out alone and wait for 15 minutes before the covers are brought on signalling the end of play.

Pakistan eventually do make it out onto the field, but by this stage Hair and Doctrove have already decided that the match has been awarded to England.

Cricket’s Law 21.3: “in the opinion of the umpires, if a team refuses to play, the umpires shall award the match to the other side.”

The match was then forfeited, England winning. In the following days it seemed likely that Hair’s position was increasingly untenable, with the Asian bloc threatening to gang up on him. So he responded in a quite remarkable manner by offering to leave, but only for a retainer of $500,000. This was a huge mistake and the ICC exploited his greed by revealing all, as they should have done.

In November he was banned from umpiring in internationals, owing to immense pressure from the Asian bloc who voted for his removal. England, Australia and New Zealand were the three who wanted him to stay. Billy Doctrove’s career, however, could continue and he was not banned.

In February he instructed his lawyers, Finers Stephens Innocent, to issue an application to the London Central Employment Tribunal alleging racial discrimination.

And this all kicks off on Monday, so I thought it best I get my head around it all beforehand. And there’s another twist: Inzamam-ul-Haq, the former Pakistan captain, has been summoned as a witness. If he doesn’t turn up – this is Inzy, remember – the tribunal have the authority to issue sanctions which could then lead to his arrest.

Nasty times. Keep your eyes peeled on Cricinfo for the latest.

So Hair wasn’t banned from internationals entirely…

So the news came through this morning, from our good friends in Kenya no less, that Darrell Hair, the Australian umpire, will officiate in next week’s tri-series. This caused no end of confusion.

He was banned from umpiring in internationals in November – but only from matches involving Full Member sides. He is perfectly entitled to umpire matches between the Associates – in spite of the ICC’s executive board stating in November that they have “come to the conclusion that they’ve lost confidence in Mr Hair”. I’m not the only one who tripped over this inexplicable condition.

What message does this send to the Associates? Do the ICC not feel they deserve anyone better than a banned umpire? Why ban him for some one-dayers and not others? This tri-series has been awarded official ODI status so there is no doubt (or at least there shouldn’t be) that the ICC are taking the series seriously, as they should. Why, then, is he allowed to umpire the Associates but not Full Member sides? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. It’s like firing someone from their job for incompetence but letting them share the tea duties. Well, not quite, but you get my drift.

Martin Williamson has written a thorough and accurate comment which is worth a read. And if you can make sense of the whole fiasco, leave a comment.

Bad Hair Day

The ICC has decided that Darrell Hair has raised his last finger in international cricket, deciding that he will not officiate in any more fixtures, until his contract runs out in 2008. A vote of the full ICC board went 7-3, with only Australia, New Zealand and England voting for him to continue.

Given the lack of confidence in Hair by so much of the international cricket fraternity this decision does not come as a surprise.

Count me in as a reactionary if you like, but I think this is a dreadful day, one that continues the trend of the last two decades in undermining the authority of the umpires. One of the key points of the old game was that you accepted the authority of the umpires, regardless of whether or not you agreed with his decisions. The ICC, like it or not, have sent a pretty clear message to Hair’s colleagues here, and that message is, “Don’t look to us for help, we won’t back you up. You are on your own out there.”

The way things are continuing, you can expect to see other undermining principles like automatic third umpire decisions for leg-before appeals before too much longer, and the umpire’s main job will be to hold the bowler’s sweater.

Oh well. Roll on the Ashes!

Is it even news?

So, Inzamam has been found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute but not of ball tampering, and has had the minimum penalty awarded for his indiscretion. Would any surprised parties please raise their hands?

What, no takers?

After the seeming lack of concrete evidence, it would be hard to say anyone expected a different result. Sky’s exaggeration of Shoaib Akhtar’s thumb-flick had more televised credibility. Of slightly more interest is Hair’s removal from the ICC Trophy list for reasons of ‘safety and security’. Should Hair really be in fear of injury if he umpires on the subcontinent? Or is this merely damage control?

I’m an umpire, get me out of here. What next for Darrell?

Inzy you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
If you say that you are tampering
Ill be here til the media stop hampering
So you got to let know
Should I stay or should I go?

My rubbish attempt at some lyrics there, courtesy of The Clash. So, if Darrell Hair does resign (and even if he doesn’t, frankly), what are his future career prospects? Nothing too rude please ladies and gents, and ideally not libellous either, but anything funny is good. Funny’s always good.

Maybe he’ll do a Tufnell and frolic in the jungle. Or a Darren Gou….er, maybe not. Strictly Come Darrell (but only if you pay me $500,000) doesn’t quite have the same ring. Personally, I think he’s ideally situated to copy Graham Gooch and Shane Warne…a marketer’s dream.

55% think Hair should resign

The results of last week’s poll:

Should Darrell Hair resign?

Yes: 55% (136)
No: 45% (110)
Total Votes : 246

Interestingly, the results were neck and neck until Hair’s email revelations.

Hair: ‘I’ll retire…but only for $500,000′

As if the whole situation could not worsen, or become even more extraordinary, Darrell Hair offered to stand down or resign…but only with a bounty of $500,000. What the hell’s going on? Only just got back, and no time to make sense of it – it’s Friday, and I’m pickling the liver shortly – but leave your thoughts below.

Incidentally the blog might be a bit dry the next few days. Hopefully Scott will feed and water it (and therefore you ‘orrible lot) but ’tis a busy time.

Darrell Hair offered to resign as a member of the ICC’s Elite Umpires Panel in return for a payment of $500,000, Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, told a press conference near Lord’s.

Speed said Hair’s resignation letter was forwarded to Doug Cowie, the ICC’s umpire manager. A copy of that letter was also made available to the Pakistan Cricket Board.

In the letter, Hair asked for “a one-off payment to compensate for the loss of future earnings and retainer payments over the next four years, which I believe would have been the best years I have to offer ICC and world umpiring.”

Read the full story at Cricinfo.

And here’s the full email transcript which is circling its way around, well, just about every site you can think of:

From: Darrell Hair
Sent: Tuesday 22nd August 2006
To: Doug Cowie
Subject: The way forward

Doug, just to firm up what we discussed earlier this evening. I appreciate the ICC may be put in a untenable position with regards to future appointments and having taken considerable time and advice, I make this one-off, non-negotiable offer.

I am prepared to retire/stand down/relinquish my position on the elite panel to take effect from 31st August 2006 on the following terms:

1 A one-off payment to compensate the loss of future earnings and retain a payment over the next four years which I believe would have been the best years I have to offer ICC and world umpiring. This payment is be the sum of [US dollars] 500,000 (£264,000) – details of which must be kept confidential by both parties. This sum to be paid directly into my account by 31st August 2006.

2 ICC may announce the retirement in any way they wish, but I would prefer a simple ‘lifestyle choice’ as this was the very reason I moved from Australia to settle in the UK three years ago.

3 No public comment to be made by me as to possible reasons for the decision.

4 This offer in no way precludes me taking legal action and/or instigating libel suits against various sections of the electronic and print media for comments made either previously or in the future.

5 This in no way precludes me taking civil action (and exercising my rights as a resident of the UK in any court of law and by any other avenue open to me) against any organisation or persons currently part of ICC and in particular, members of the Pakistan cricket team and the Pakistan Cricket Board.

I reiterate this is a once only offer and if I fail to obtain your agreement I shall continue to be available under the terms of my current contract till March 31 2008 to fulfil umpiring appointments as and when ICC sees fit in any country at any time in any series or matches involving any affiliated teams.

I would also insist that my ongoing contracted employment continue in its current form until such time as an ICC performance assessment deems me to be no longer able to perform the duties to the high class expected of an international umpire.

Would you please let me know at your earliest convenience of your acceptance or otherwise of this offer.

Sincerely, Darrell Hair.

What a hairy mess this is.

ICC: the white Commonwealth?

The sport cannot go forward until those two blocs are working together, and that can only be done when ICC is manifestly less of a white Commonwealth club. For the past 20 years it has, to all appearances, been a cartel run by Australians. Highly competent administrators, no doubt, who have for the most part – and despite an obsession with ludicrous money-making wheezes such as last year’s “SuperTests” – done a good job and raised the profile of the sport. But there remains an impression that the Asian countries are permitted into the halls of power on unequal terms. Only when they are equal partners will cricket start to embrace a 21st century whose face is likely to more brown than white.

The Asian countries’ belief that, despite supplying two-thirds of the money in the global game, they are endless patronised by white administrators is the cankerous root of the current crisis. It had to be confronted some time; it might as well be now. The long-term good will outweigh the short-term damage. It is essential that the next chief executive of ICC is Asian, and rather than be in swanky Dubai perhaps its headquarters should be in Islamabad or Mumbai. A bit of bending over backwards to make up for past errors may be in order.

So says Stephen Moss at the Guardian. Your thoughts, please. The more this debate rumbles on, the less it appears to involve the game. Has this incident with Darrell Hair and Pakistan more to do with the ever widening gap of relations between East and West in society? Is this really about ball tampering, or skin colour? I am of course playing devil’s advocate, but Moss raises some interesting points. Leave yours below.