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?

It’s all over for The Corridor of Uncertainty

Sadly I’m currently in dispute with Andy Clark, the owner of the trademark “The Corridor of Uncertainty”. He asked me to change the name of the blog last week which, as you know, I did – to “The Corridor”.

His lawyers tell him that I am still infringing his trademark. I’m assuming he will also sue Geoff Boycott, the man who created the phrase years ago, as well as numerous broadsheets who use it several times each summer.

It’s all rather pathetic. But until I can confirm whether he’s right or wrong, I need to come up with a different name (again). You’re all far more clever and wittier than I, so it’s over to you. As many suggestions as possible, and if you see one you like please do say so.

If there are any lawyers willing to offer free advice on such matters, do contact me.