Who will rid me of this turbulant lawyer?

The ICC has stepped in to prohibit cricket clips of the World Cup being available online via YouTube. Andrew Miller skewers this incredible piece of stupidity here. I’m just left gasping at how ICC’s powerbrokers have managed to get themselves so ‘out of touch’ that they thought this was a good idea.

Short of actually prohibiting broadcasting of the games, they could not have made a worse decision. Imagine an attempt by ICC to prohibit cricket blogs or newspaper coverage or forums and you have an idea of how stupid this is. Does Malcolm Speed know how to turn on his PC?

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.

More questions than answers in the morning after

Are you all set for an exciting final day’s play today? It is a pity that in all the noise, there’s been very little said at all about the cricket itself, because England played some magnificent cricket until tea, with Kevin Pieterson to the fore once again. It would have been interesting to see what might have happened if England had been able to force Pakistan to chase 150 on the fifth day with plenty of help for Monty Panesar.

Well, if ‘ifs and buts’ were berries and nuts, we’d have Christmas every day. Of course the big story is the Great Oval Farce of 2006.

A couple of bored or overexcited journalists have called it the biggest crisis since Kerry Packer, which is just a bit over the top; there was the general match-fixing crisis and the Hanse Cronje affair, after all. What this farce is, when it comes down to it, is just a massive dummy spit that has been badly managed.

There’s been a lot of ill-informed commentary about this affair all over the internet already. However, you can not blame the commentariat for that; we still do not know all the facts about what has gone on. The failure of just about everyone involved to come out with timely information has simply added a layer of frustration to the whole mess.

We still do not know about what has happened with the state of the ball, and in talking to the BBC this morning, Malcolm Speed was pretty delphic with his remarks.

“The ball tampering charge, that will be dealt with, and there is power there for the match referee to fine or ban the player there. Similarly, if other charges are laid, the player could face fines or, if he is found guilty, he could face a fine or a ban.”

So it is quite possible that the umpires had someone specific in mind. I will await with interest the ‘charge sheet’ that is brought in the wake of all this, because if there is no particular individual charged with ball-tampering, then I have to say that the umpires have been way out of order.

It also appears that Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq may be charged with bringing the game into disrepute, by staging that ‘sit in’ after tea. Now bear in mind that he’s already been penalised by means of the forfeit, I think the ICC should tread carefully there. I basically agree with Aggers that the whole idea was pretty infantile, but having the game forfeited is actually a pretty severe penalty already.

I have to wonder about the Pakistani management though; how well was Inzamam advised? I do not blame him for not being aware of the ins and outs of cricket regulations; I think it is perfectly possible that he was not aware that in staging his protest, he ran the risk of forfeit.

And there is nothing wrong with that- a cricketer has enough on his plate without becoming the equivilent of a cricket lawyer. Inzamam is busy enough as it is avoiding training drills and actually playing the game. The role of being aware of every contingency is the role of the team manager. He is the fellow who should have got things moving.

Here is the timeline, once again:

4.40pm – Although play is officially due to resume, Hair and Doctrove wait in the middle, England batsmen Ian Bell and Collingwood remain on the dressing-room balcony while Pakistan do not re-emerge.

4.44pm – The match officials leave the field of play.

4.50pm – England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive David Collier is seen addressing England coach Duncan Fletcher.

4.55pm – The England fifth-wicket pair and umpires Hair and Doctrove return to the middle but Pakistan again are absent.

Now, to me, it seems that at 4.55pm, Pakistan should have emerged- they had staged their sit-in, made their point, and should have got on with the game. Clearly the players feelings were running high, and when that happens, people do not think as clearly as they ought, and it is at that point that the Pakistani hierarchy should have insisted to their players that they resume.

Because we don’t clearly know what happened, we can only guess that sometime in the next few minutes after 4.55pm, the umpires decided on declaring the game forfeit. However, if they did so, they were plainly in the wrong in clearly explaining this to the teams and the relevant ground authority.

England seem to have understood clearly enough- when Pakistan walked onto the field at 5.23 pm, they stayed confined to barracks. After all, they had been awarded the game. So if England knew it was all over, why did Inzamam lead his men on the field? Either they did know, and were trying to force the umpires to reverse their decision, or they did not know, in which case the umpires and Mike Proctor were incompetent in explaining the situation to Pakistan.

However, if the game had been forfeited, why was the ground authority not told? Play was ‘officially called off’ at 6.13pm, so from that we can infer that the game was still live at 5.23pm when Inzamam led his team back on the field.

In which case, why did England and the umpires not appear at that time as well?

Are you confused yet?

This is what happens when people aren’t kept clearly informed.

Where do we go from here?

The ICC needs to have a full inquiry into the mess, and to release its findings of what actually happened to the public. Beyond that, it is clear that dispute resolution procedures need to be improved. Also, the ICC needs to reform the way that it appoints umpires to fixtures. It is pretty clear that some teams have problems with Darrell Hair, and while it is a pity, it is also the case that cricket teams are entitled to play the game with confidence in the officials who are standing.

It is worth remembering after all that the whole point of having neutral umpires in the first place was to give both teams confidence in the integrity of the match officials.

Still no confirmation about the status of the Oval Test

There has still been no confirmation about whether or not the Fourth Test has been forfeited or not. Readers with tickets to day five are advised to check on the Surrey CCC website.

ECB Vice Chairman Mike Soper has once again hinted that he doesn’t think there will be play tomorrow. Meanwhile we learn that ICC HQ was thinking they were going to have tomorrow off.

It’s just been noted that the ICC office will be closed tomorrow. As the press release has it: “The day has been declared a holiday in Dubai to mark the Ascension of the Prophet (PBUH). The office will be open as normal on Sunday 20 August (8.30am – 5pm) and, after the day off, it will reopen at 8.30am on Tuesday 22 August.” Could this situation get much more farcical? Probably not…

ICC President Percy Sonn and CEO Malcolm Speed certainly will not be having a day off, I guess.

My own guess, and it is only a guess, is that we will have play tomorrow, as ICC puts pressure to avoid a Test ending via a forfeit, which would be unprecedented.

Aggers has put his column up. He has some sympathy for Pakistan’s plight, he doesn’t think that a ‘sit-in’ was the appropriate way to protest. He does not address the ‘forfeit’ issue, which is fair enough. There’s enough for everyone to get their heads around as it is.

ICC presidency: handle cricket with care

There’s plenty of ways to measure the health of cricket. How many people are paying to get in, of course. Television ratings, column inches, blog posts are another.

But there is a more intangible way of measuring the health of cricket, and that is in the emotional commitment of those same spectators to the game. One of the most delightful images to come out of the Headingley Test was actually a row of spectators, all dressed up in Superman outfits, with Monty Panesar style beards and turbans.

monty fans.JPG

Of course, getting dressed up to go to the cricket is a long standing Headingley tradition. You can see a Batman & Robin duo in the photo, and a couple of Homer Simpsons, as well.

But in identifying with a particular player, these fans in the Super Monty Panesar outfits are making a statement- they are big fans of the guy, and really enjoy his efforts for England, to the point where they are willing to make an effort to show the world.

It is also a symbol, I think, that the emotional commitment between England’s cricket team, and its fans, is in robust good health. It has in fact been in good health for a long time. Even in the darkest days of England’s cricket in the 1990’s, the fans cared, and the England team have always responded to that. They were not always able to respond with runs and wickets, especially in Australia, but all three England captains Down Under made it pretty plain that they really got a kick out of the support that they got.

Contine reading

The future of Zimbabwe

Percy Sonn (new Best Name In Cricket award nominee) and Malcolm Speed have returned from their chin-scratching mission in Zimbabwe and will release their findings on the future of the country’s participation in international cricket soon. Don’t know how soon, but soon. And this after a really quite remarkable victory (albeit against the mighty Banglas).

What’s the consensus out there? Should they be allowed back into Test cricket or banished for good? In case you didn’t hear, Terry Duffin – 24-years-old going on 50 – was sacked the other day…

“India, you selfish big beast, you!”

Well well well. Mike Atherton, whose excellent column you can read at the Sunday Telegraph, has branded India the ‘big beasts’ of cricket following their withdrawal from the Champions Trophy in 2007, and their general mucking around of the Future Tours Programme (FTP). I’ve written it up on Cricinfo, so will summarise:

“India’s announcements last week as to their future playing arrangements, meekly confirmed by England, has left no one in any doubt who is now master and who is servant,” Atherton wrote.

Atherton added that India’s behaviour toward the ICC conveyed an image of a country `acting as superpowers tend to act: self-interest first and last and bugger the rest.’

“Last week, Malcolm Speed, the chief-executive of the ICC, found himself in a position much occupied by Kofi Annan and the United Nations in recent years: being bullied by a superpower for whom the notions of international law and collective responsibility have long ceased to have any meaning.

“He needs to stand his ground and we need to support him.”

A very strongly worded and angry attack, which will make for a fascinating response by the BCCI. Or indeed, any Indian cricket fan…


Thomson: ‘ICC is a waste of space’

I love it when former players get given a microphone.

The former tearaway fast bowler said the ICC was ineffectual when it came to the important issues of the game.

Thomson’s blast came after ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed called for a collective improvement in behavioural standards, with a particular view to the Australia-South Africa clash.

“They do nothing about blokes chucking, they do nothing about all this other stuff, they are more worried about words.

“That is all they are – full of words, the ICC,” Thomson said.

“They always look like they are doing something, but they do nothing. They are the biggest bulls—ters in the world, the ICC.

“What a waste of space.

“They are bagging the game rather than promoting; it’s highlighting things that aren’t worth highlighting.”

So eloquent, was our Jeffry Robert Thomson. But I think that there is a lot in what he says. The ICC has been good at promoting the game in new places, but its stewardship of the game has been average. And yes, I blame Malcolm Speed. There is a place for the sort of corporate and legal skills that he has, but the CEO should be more a cricket person. That’s my 0.02 cents.