Thursday, August 24, 2006

Hair, Hair Go Away, Poor Asians want to play!!!

It’s just not cricket. Haven’t we heard this sentiment just too frequently? Every time there’s a new issue in the game, we hear this and realms of print go into expressing a sense of despair at the downward slide of the self-proclaimed gentleman’s game. How long can a game dealing in billions of dollars hold back itself and stick to maintaining this facade of holiness? This time it’s taken a bone headed Aussie’s (who else but an Aussie) hard nosed stance to question the game’s best traditions, once again precipitating cries of doomsday across the rather small world of cricket.

World cricket’s most (in) famous umpire Darrell Hair has always been in the midst of controversies right from when he made his debut in 1992 in Adelaide, in a game marred by controversial LBW decisions. In 1995, he no-balled Muralitharan seven times in three overs for “throwing” which resulted in the Lankan skipper Ranatunga staging a walk-off leading to arguably the most hot blooded series seen in recent times. In 1998, Hair’s autobiography Decision maker: An Umpire’s Story (Don't ask me who read it) was published in which he called Murali’s action diabolical and said that if he had a choice he would call have called Murali many more times for throwing. This embarrassed the ICC and he was dropped from the ICC’s panel of umpires briefly only to be recalled later. There have been a few more instances of Darrellgate but probably nothing weirder than what was witnessed last week in Lords when Hair declared that Pakistan had forfeited the match because of their apparent “refusal” to take to the field on the 4th day post-tea session– the first time ever that a team had forfeited a match in this manner in 129 years of cricket.

It all started after about 55 overs into the English innings on the 4th day of the test match when Hair felt that the ball had been tampered with. He then proceeded to award the English team 5 runs and replace the ball as per Law 42.3. No reason was given to Inzamam as to why this was done. The Pakis continued to play but in the post-tea session, they refused to come on to the field as a symbolic protest, as claimed by them. Later on after about 40 minutes they relented but this time, the two umpires were not willing to play ball. Citing Law 21.3 which deals with match forfeiture, Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove, declared that Pakistan had forfeited the match and England was the winner. Technically, the umpires were right but then aren’t the rules meant to be played not only in the letter but also the spirit? If the umpires had agreed to continue, this mess could have been averted and the ball tampering issue could have been decided outside the field by the referee. Somewhere, they did not realize that the game has a commitment towards its legions of public across the world. In the midst of the entire din, match referee Mike Procter’s role was forgotten. He went silent throughout the entire debate making me wonder if the job is a mere rubber stamp.

The Pakistan team could have easily emerged unscathed had they not have botched up the situation by not taking the field. The Pakistani captain Inzamam owes moral responsibility for his team’s actions and the trigger happy (atleast Asians think so) ICC would only be too willing to oblige by punishing him under charges of bringing disrepute to the game. 26 cameras in the field did not see anything but our old friend Hair felt that there was something wrong with the ball. Hair seems to have gone by the Pakistani reputation when he decided against them. There has always been an element of mystery associated with reverse swing and the Pakistanis have not always helped their cause in their bowling with the likes of Waqar and Shoaib Akhtar being caught on camera for trying to tamper with the ball. But in this case, they have received extensive support from the playing fraternity and the public except for the Aussie media. The Aussie media and stalwarts like Steve Waugh and Mark Taylor have backed Hair (The Daily Telegraph called him the bravest person in cricket). But then, no one is surprised- Aussies have never made any pretensions of trying to be morally or politically correct.

There have been a few points raised regarding the role of ICC in the entire fiasco. Unlike FIFA, ICC has really no great powers. There are no proper laws created to handle such a situation. It has also been pointed out that Hair and ICC could run into trouble if Pakistan were to take the matter to the court of law. The failure of ICC is also in dealing with such umpires who have been repeatedly seen to needle the cricketers from the sub-continent.

There are quite a few issues which the ICC has to take care after this.

On what basis can the umpire decide that the ball has been tampered?

Is camera/video evidence necessary for this?

Shouldn’t umpires try to explore all possibilities to ensure that the game continues no play is possible and only then abandon the game?

Should the umpires or the Match Referee take decisions on matters like abandoning the match, which are outside the field of play?

Just when the Dean Jones controversy was dying down, another Aussie has brought to focus the other side of the game .There have been accusations of racism against Darrell Hair citing some of his other controversial decisions but personally, I am inclined to give him a slight benefit of doubt. It sometimes becomes an easy stick to beat the Western world with when we raise the bogey of racism. I would like to put his behaviour down to his overzealous, autocratic and dogmatic nature with a scant regard for cultural differences but he has been consistently erratic in this behaviour right throughout his career. He’s rubbed many people the wrong way throughout his career and got away with it but this time I think he’s chanced his luck a bit too far.

In the current situation when the Muslim world’s relations with the West is at an all time low , a crisis such as this could easily escalate into a polarized political situation. The fact that one man’s stubbornness and dogmatism could potentially have such repercussions is unfortunate but then history has always been dictated by the whims and fancies of individuals. Darrell Hair is among the most experienced umpires in world cricket now but he lacks the wisdom and maturity to handle such a situation.

Cricket carries the unfortunate burden of bearing the responsibility of being a "nice game" and every such incident is a reminder to us to stop romanticizing the sport and face the reality that George Orwell had once said about modern sport being–“ …war minus the shooting”.


  1. I read that after the initial hesitation the Pakistanis wanted to play but hair did not show the required flexibility. To insinuate without definite proof was his first stupidity.

    Hope technology improves to such an extent that umpires become redundant.

  2. Something about this controversy reminds me of the burning issue in India rite now, the issue of reservations in educational institutions. After 50 long years of reservations in schools, colleges and even jobs, the so called backward classes still crib about being discriminated against. I am not against affirmative action for the upliftment of the poor, but the criteria for reservations must not be caste based but income based.
    The analogy with cricket is glaring. 'Poor Asians' being discriminated against by the cruel westerners. Come to your senses..... Darrel hair was just doing his job. If Inzy had a problem with the decisions that he was getting out of Hair, he could have expressed his displeasure after the game. Surely the asian bloc (being the richest of all the boards) has enough clout in the ICC to see to it that their intrests are kept intact? No way has Inzy got the right to forfeit the match and bring disrepute to the game (by the way, that is a bigger offence than ball tampering). Have you any idea the cost of an entry ticket to a cricket ground in England to watch an international? The costs are exorbitant. Still, the true followers of the game bear this prohibitive costs to watch their favourite stars in action. Did Inzy give a thought to this before walking off?
    Be it Pakistanis, Indians or Srilankans, we have to get this inferiority complex out of our minds and get on with the game. So what if Hair thought or still thinks Murali is a chucker. I know that he is a chucker myself. So does Bishen Singh Bedi (Bedi called him a javelin thrower once). Every man has a right to his opinion. Hair refrained from repeating the fiasco after ICC instructed him didnt he? No marks for guessing the biggest gainers from the new rule introduced by ICC, the 15 degree rule. So lets not claim all innocence and being victimis of global stategy againsts the Asians. .

    Also lets not forget the umpiring standards in India. I can remember Mr AV Jayprakash making n number of blunders with his hasty decesion making.

    Lets refrain from giving this issue religious overtones or the resulting mess will be far more.

  3. In my last para, I have clearly mentioned that I do not believe that there are any racial overtones in Hair’s behaviour..I agree Inzy acted stupidly and have mentioned that but it was a situation that could have been defused if the umpires had decided to continue with the game later on…The umpires also have a responsibility towards the game and they could have continued…I have never believed that Aussie umpires have been very clean in their games and I do not think highly about Hair myself…

    Regarding chucking, for every Bedi who thinks that way, there are many in the cricketing world that they have no issues with Murali…And I’m with Murali for the sole reason that there are people who are experts who have agreed so..I think it was more an issue of Hair later on going public with his views that was a problem and so ICC had to drop him from their list for sometime…

    There have been numerous instances of Asians having to bear the brunt of overzealous umpires and referees..McGrath, Donald and their likes can abuse players and get away with it but the moment Saurav/Sehwag glares at the umpire, he’s suspended…Mike Deness punished 7 players in India for over appealing and showing dissent…Wonder why Aussies never seem to face this problem ?? The entire world agrees that Aussies are no gentleman but they rarely get punished for anything..

    Finally, we must realize that there’s more to cricket than the game…Politically, the Muslim world is highly suspicious currently about the western world, so such situations must be handled very carefully and tactfully…Hair does not have the wisdom to do so..A Dickie Bird would never allow such a situation to develop..I assume the Asian Bloc has the power to handle its interests and I think they will go for it..Even without this incident, Asia has always felt uncomfortable with Hair and ICC must ensure that this must be taken care of..It's not only important to be fair but also perceived to be fair..

  4. Very very catchy.....appreciate the thought that has gone on the caption sir.....need to read this in full!!!