Whatever happened to the presumption of innocence?

Just had a brain flash, more often known in my world as a brain fart. Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty”? If you assume the ICC as the court, or the judge, then Pakistan are the party being tried. But without evidence, surely this incident should not have progressed to its current state so quickly? Pakistan haven’t so much been tried as convicted. Not even the BCCI are coming to their assistance and bailing them out.

I ought to point out my stance on this, or rather my own confusion. I don’t know where I stand, because no evidence has been put forth. None of the 26 cameramen saw anything but, as I said yesterday, if Darrell Hair honestly believed the ball had unlawfully altered in shape then he was perfectly in his right to call Inzamam-ul-Haq’s team to account. Pakistan, then – in my opinion – ought not to have reacted so strongly. In doing so, they almost came across as the blushing cheater at the back of the classroom. That’s at least what they might have appeared to be: guilty. But their knee-jerk reaction was inevitable and fully understandable too given Hair’s notoriously gloomy reputation in the subcontinent, and past history with Sri Lanka and others.

Hair is no fool, though. Courting controversy over eleven years is not something an umpire can do without reason. He will have known, in his gut, the storm he would provoke by making these allegations; I simply cannot believe he is the heartless dictator people are making him out to be. He’s a straight-talking bloke merely doing his job, isn’t he?

All’s fair and rosey in retrospect, of course, but it’s an interesting thought comparing this incident to the legal system. If nothing else, at least the ICC should learn from this mess. Well…we can hope

BCCI (comb) back Hair, not Pakistan

Sensationalist headline, apologies for that. How about I improve it with the news that the BCCI are acting like a soothing, herbal shampoo for Darrell; that’s right, the India board have stated their allegiance to the ICC, not Pakistan.

This has many implications, some of them a little worrying; others rather amusing; most utterly fascinating. In short….had India agreed to Pakistan’s stance (and Sri Lanka’s too) on refusing to play in any matches Hair officiates in, the umpire’s career would be over. And that would’ve been the very start of the problems.

I stuck up the full fart in all its wafty glory on Cricinfo:

“We would never say no to any umpire that the ICC supported,” Shah told the Sydney Morning Herald. “If the ICC is happy with [Hair], then we are happy. Let us see a report first, and if Mr Hair has made a mistake, then we will see what happens. But it is up to the ICC to take action.”

Were India to side with the ICC and not Pakistan, a potentially disastrous situation would be avoided. Given Hair’s history – he has courted controversy with Pakistan in the past, as well as Sri Lanka – it is unlikely he will ever umpire games involving either of those two countries. And if India were to be added to that list, his role as an elite international umpire would be reduced to officiating in only half the international sides. Hair also cannot stand in matches involving Australia, his birthplace.

“If the Asian bloc gangs up on him and says, ‘We don’t want him appointed in our games’, there might be trouble,” Dick French, a former umpire and Hair’s mentor, told AAP. “He can’t umpire Australia as a neutral, so he can’t then just umpire South Africa, West Indies and England for the rest of his career. So that’s a tough one for the authorities.”

Should Darrell Hair resign?

On the one hand he has done everything to the letter of the law, and indeed upheld the laws and regulations of the game in his role as umpire. On the other, should he perhaps have given Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, notice of his fears about the ball being tampered with before docking runs?

Let’s face it: he should not have umpired in this series. If an official courts such controversy, and isn’t trusted by one particular team, the ICC should be reactive enough to accomodate. After all, Hair is no stranger to these incidents. Throughout this series, and certainly based on the feedback we have received on Cricinfo, fans do not like him; in fact they detest him, in some quarters. Imran Khan was even moved to call him a fundamentalist umpire.

What next, then? Should he stand his ground, be supported by the ICC and resume his duties? Or retire now with his reputation hanging by a thread? (click here to vote if you’re reading via a feed / RSS). Leave your comments below and vote.

Voting closed (see results)

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Imran Khan: Hair should be sued

Duncan wrote in to say he had an exclusive interview with Imran Khan who feels Pakistan should sue Darrell Hair:

“Pakistan have been unhappy with Hair’s umpiring before: it’s his manner, as if he wants to stamp his authority on the game. These kind of umpires do so much damage to the game.

“If he thought the ball had been tampered with, Hair should have given Inzamam a warning – instead of immediately jumping in and suggesting that ball tampering had occurred.

“Inzamam made a big mistake: he should have taken a stand on the spot when the ball was changed. Not coming out after tea was the wrong kind of protest. The captain’s job is to focus on winning the game. The manner of the protest has lost Pakistan valuable time in a game they looked like winning.

It’s all kicking off, and it’s all pretty depressing too. Thanks to Scott for the flurry of posts. Cricinfo has the mess in full of course.

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.

Oval Test awarded to England

Update: the fourth Test has been awarded to England. More on this when news filters through.

Earlier…

Hot off the presses: Test match is ‘abandoned’.

So that implies a draw, not an England victory. This matters not a jot to the players, but it matters mightily to those people who bet on the outcome.

There is a precedent for this.

In 2001 the final Test between South Africa and India, at Centurion Park, was stripped of its Test status after India refused to play with Mike Denness as match referee when he brought charges against six Indian players, including a claim that Sachin Tendulkar had tampered with the ball. Denness, and the neutal umpire George Sharp, flew home and the ICC refused to call it a Test.

Sad, but that is probably the way to go.

UPDATE – It now seems that the game has been awarded to England. We finally have a statement,  which reads:

“After lengthy negotiations which resulted in agreement between the teams, the match referee and both the ECB and PCB to resume the fourth Test tomorrow, it was concluded that with regret there will be no play on the fifth day.

“The fourth Test has therefore been forfeited with the match being awarded to England.

“In accordance with the laws of cricket, it was noted that the umpires had correctly deemed that Pakistan had forfeited the match and awarded the test to England.”

Darrell Hair refuses to umpire in Zimbabwe

Although Zimbabwe Cricket is indesputably on the rocks, this latest announcement surely puts their future as a cricketing nation in genuine doubt. From The Sunday Times

It has also emerged that the Australian umpire Darrell Hair, a member of the ICC’s international panel due to stand in the second game on Wednesday, has told the ICC that he does not want to officiate in matches in Zimbabwe again.