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.

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

LBW: Linux Beer Hike

I was just looking for a definition of the LBW law for the post following this, and came across all manner of weird definitions for our favourite and most controvosy-provoking law:

Finally on page 3 of Google’s listings it mentions LBW just might, you know, maybe, perhaps, be related to cricket (THE SPORT DAMMIT! NOT THE GREEN INSECT)