ICL: Indian Cricket League

ICC may eventually be the real victims of decision


The fiasco at the Oval could result in a complete reshaping of the International Cricket Council (ICC). The cracks which the forfeited Test revealed have widened to the point that by the time the ICC executive board meet in India in November the organisation must find a way to retain their credibility as a world body.

The decision by chief referee Ranjan Madugalle to overturn the decision of umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove means that for the first time a governing body have said the umpires’ decision is not final.

Madugalle acted as a court of appeal and upheld Inzaman-ul-Haq and Pakistan’s claim that it was monstrous for his team to be labelled cheats. In sport the cardinal principle has always been that the umpire is always right. Now a governing body have said the umpire may not be right.

Pakistan were allowed to claim this victory by fielding a first-rate legal team led by the redoubtable Mark Gay and summoning expert witnesses of the calibre of Geoffrey Boycott, John Hampshire and Simon Hughes. The effect was to turn the hearing on its head. Instead of Inzamam being in the dock, it was Hair who found himself having to justify his decision to punish the Pakistan captain.

One of the most devastating points made during the hearing was by Hampshire, the player turned umpire, who termed Hair’s decision to act immediately on his suspicions that the ball had been tampered with as “pedantic”. Hampshire suggested the Australian had forgotten the cardinal rule of umpires, that they must keep the play going.

In their evidence, Hampshire and Boycott made much of the fact that a good umpire must have played at the highest level, which Hair has not. Gay was also helped by the fact that Hair’s partner, Doctrove, was not fully behind Hair as The Daily Telegraph revealed even before the hearing began. This became very evident during the hearing. While Hair insisted he had to act the moment he felt the ball had been altered, Doctrove felt that the ball could still be played with. While things were suspicious, the whole issue could have been more calmly considered.

The divide was further underlined after the hearing. Hair held a press conference, but Doctrove was nowhere to be seen, which made it appear as if Hair was the only umpire at the Oval.

But then Hair was not only divided from his umpiring partner. He was also alienated from his employers, the ICC, and this was emphasised by the fact that at the hearing Hair had his own barrister, John Beveridge. This clearly indicated that, unlike the other ICC witnesses, he could not rely on the ICC lawyers. This is hardly surprising, given that he clearly feels very hurt by the way the ICC revealed to the world his e-mails to his boss asking for $500,000 to quit umpiring.

Nor could Hair have been pleased that just before he held his own press conference the ICC effectively cut their links with him by saying he would not be umpiring in the Champions Trophy.The reason given was the very lame one that his security cannot be guaranteed. Given that this is an ICC tournament, awarded to India, it says little for the ICC that they cannot demand that India ensure Hair’s safety. If India cannot protect an umpire then how can it be entrusted with the security of a tournament?

In making this decision the ICC are trying desperately to reclaim ground they lost at the Oval on that Sunday night. This was when Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive. pleaded with Hair to restart the match but failed. In many ways much more than ball tampering, it was the decision to forfeit the match, for the first time in cricket history, which has been at the centre of this crisis.

It led to an extraordinary situation. This was a Test series between England and Pakistan. The ICC supplied the match officials but could not overrule one of their officials who decided the match was over. The ICC will now have to look at the powers of match referees and give them the authority to overrule the umpires in such circumstances.

If this is not done many Test-playing countries will begin to question whether the whole system of ICC match officials is worth it. As it is, cancellation of the match could lead to England demanding more than $1milllion and Pakistan in turn asking the ICC to pay.

The ICC will have to come up with better answers than they did during ‘Hairgate’ if they are to retain their authority as the game’s governing body.
Source:The News

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