ICL: Indian Cricket League

Cricket gets its badly needed Hair-cut


In Darrell Hair’s case, it finally turned out that justice isn’t all that blind. Images of the Australian umpire removing the bails on the fourth day of that fateful Test at The Oval this summer would go down in history as one of cricket’s most disgraceful moments. Those very images finally led to the downfall of cricket history’s most controversial umpire when he was sacked as an international umpire by the International Cricket Council (ICC) in Mumbai on Saturday.

Millions of cricket fans watched with either bewilderment or disbelief as the Australian umpire penalised Pakistan over ball-tampering even though there was no proof to support his decision. He later forfeited The Oval Test and awarded it to England, ignoring the fact that the tourists were ready to take the field after initially protesting what turned out to be the most controversial call ñ Hair’s signal to award five penalty runs to England over alleged ball tampering - made by an umpire in 129 years of Test history.

Just days later, Hair demanded the ICC to pay him US$500,000 for stepping down as an international umpire. The demand made through an email message looked more like a ransom note and was proof that this was no gentleman.

If someone was ever responsible for bringing the game into disrepute, it was Hair. He may have had some supporters but a large majority in the cricket world was convinced that the umpire had dented the spirit of cricket by accusing Pakistan of ball-tampering and later forfeiting The Oval Test.

Thousands of spectators present at the historic ground that day went home confused and disappointed after being deprived of an absorbing day’s play between some of the world’s best cricketers.

More damaging was the fact that his bad call created further divisions between the already fragile cricket world, something that became more evident with the ICC Executive Committee vote taken to decide Hair’s fate in Mumbai this weekend when the entire ‘black’ Test playing nations wanted him out. But Australia, where Hair was born and England, where he lives, together with New Zealand voted in his favour.

Though justice was delivered, it should have come in a different way. The 7-3 verdict, with the Blacks pitted against the Whites, may make a martyr of Hair in his native Australia and England. It should have been a clear cut decision. It should have read: “Because Mr. Darrell Hair was found guilty, he is fired.” Just like Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was banned for four matches following an ICC inquiry that found him responsible for The Oval Test forfeiture and punished him for bringing the game into disrepute.

The Australians are already upset at Hair’s sacking, something that was reflected in Ricky Ponting’s comments that came soon after the ICC decision. The Aussie skipper minced no words when he said that Hair simply stood up for what he thought was right. Most cricket buffs would react in a similar manner Down Under and in England.

ICC’s Chief Executive Malcolm Speed barely hid his disappointment over the decision to bar Hair from standing in international matches. Speed, a fellow Aussie, supported Hair all along and it seems that he would have protected his ‘mate’ if he had his way.

Even the ICC President Percy Sonn appeared a bit apologetic when he announced the Executive Board’s decision to sack Hair. One of the comments the South African made in his press conference was: “We owe Mr Hair the courtesy of allowing his future to be discussed by him with our management before we go anywhere further in the matter.

“I don’t believe the cricket world owes anything to Mr. Hair. The discussion between Hair and ICC management, some believe, could result in the umpire getting paid for the rest of his contract (till March 2008) as an elite umpire. If that happens, then it would be a case of a culprit getting a fat salary while sitting at home ñ hardly a severe punishment, I would say.

The ICC had blood of The Oval fiasco on it hands as the international body did little to avoid a farcical end to the match. Now by making Hair’s sacking look more like a political decision than anything else, it has faulted again. It continues to come across as an impotent, divided and, at times, useless body that is more interested in making money than running this great game in a befitting manner.

However, one cannot ignore taking a look at the better side of the coin. Darrell Hair’s sacking as an international umpire is perhaps the happiest news for Pakistan cricket this autumn. The Australian umpire was after all the man who triggered Pakistan cricket’s summer of crisis in August and in the end had to pay the price for his actions.

Though Hair did not have many friends in Sri Lanka or India, it were the Pakistanis who suffered the most at his hands. And it was the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) that made the call for his sacking.

The fact that Hair has been made to face the consequences, through whatever means, also shatters the myth that umpires are holy cows. It should now become clear to everyone that nobody is above the game and that includes the umpires.

Source:The News

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