Hair today, gone tomorrow as cricket’s governing body bottles it
We knew it couldn’t last. The tiny bit of warm afterglow that everyone was enjoying following the ICC Twenty20 championship has evaporated in the cold, harsh light of Darrell Hair’s employment tribunal hearing. Hair’s charge of racial discrimination against his employers, the ICC, has been dropped, but not before the already tarnished reputation of the ICC Board was given another battering.
It is difficult to imagine any positives will come from yet another public airing of the cricket world’s dirty laundry. The back-story to Hair’s fall from grace is well documented. He was a central character in the abandoned England-Pakistan Test match at The Oval in 2006. He wasn’t the only character, but he has taken the brunt of the fallout from that disgraceful episode.
But Hair’s charge that his treatment was the result of racist influence of ICC board members was never going to fly. There is no doubt that race is a big issue with the ICC, but it is unlikely that it was the motivation behind the treatment of Hair. Corruption or ineptitude is a much more likely culprit.
The ICC board have been exposed as the Machiavellian b**tards that we have long suspected. The way Hair was set up after the debacle at The Oval was a masterful display of manipulation. While publicly declaring his support for Hair, chief executive Malcolm Speed was ensuring that he was nobbled with some deft behind-the-scenes touches.
The ball-tampering case was made to go away by charging Inzamam ul-Haq instead of the most likely culprit, Mohammad Asif. Charging Inzie made it easy for the hand-picked referee, Rohan Madugalle, to dismiss the charge. As an insurance policy, Hair was convinced to set out a deal under which he would make the whole problem go away. His offer was then exposed in a callous display designed solely to undermine his credibility.
Once Hair’s reputation was left in tatters, his future was decided by three men over lunch in what has been called a sub-committee meeting. No minutes were taken, indeed it would take some clever forensic investigation to actually determine that a meeting had taken place. But the real gold thread in the stitching up of Hair was the composition of this “sub-committee”.
This erstwhile group comprised Sir John Anderson from New Zealand, Nasim Ashraf, the Pakistan Board chairman – that’s right, the side that Hair made the accusation against and the same bloke who OK’d two of his star bowlers using steroids – and Peter Chingoka, the president of Zimbabwe Cricket and mouthpiece of Robert Mugabe’s corrupt regime. Any chance that Hair had a fair hearing? I don’t think so.
So Hair is on the way out. Ignoring the intimation from Ray Mali that Hair could one day return to Test match umpiring, there can be no doubt he will be quietly pushed away and at some point will be given a ‘golden handshake’. This whole disgraceful episode will start gathering dust in the history books and one of the great injustices in the game of cricket will have been allowed to pass unchallenged. Hair will not umpire again at Test level and the game will be so much poorer for it.
Whatever people think of Hair or his approach to umpiring, the handling of the aftermath by the ICC was an unmitigated disaster. The fix was in because Hair was willing to say that the emperor had no clothes, he was willing to make calls that embarrassed national heroes, he acted according to what he thought was right, without first thinking through the potential consequences.
And that’s the whole point of an umpire. They shouldn’t have to be politicians or diplomats, they should make the calls as they see them. It is the job of the administrators to sort out the peripheral issues, perhaps making an effort to stamp out ball tampering or working to ensure dodgy bowling actions don’t make it to Test level.
If the ICC did their job properly, umpires would not need to start international incidents when they make a call, and could get on and do the job they are paid to do – umpire a game of cricket impartially, without fear or favour. Not much chance of that happening now.