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Last Updated: Friday, 29 September 2006, 11:08 GMT 12:08 UK
Cricket left tampered by affair

By Paresh Soni

Umpire Darrell Hair
Hair laughed and joked away, confident of continuing to umpire
The actions of Inzamam-ul-Haq and his Pakistan team were under the spotlight when he turned up for his disciplinary hearing at The Oval on Wednesday.

But 36 hours later it was the guardians of the game at the ICC who were facing uncomfortable questions.

Inzamam's camp talked of a "victory" after he was cleared of ball-tampering charges, although he did receive a four-match ban for bringing the game into disrepute.

Meanwhile, the man who had effectively accused him and his team of cheating - umpire Darrell Hair - appeared to be heading out of the game altogether.

The big Australian cut a relaxed, even bullish, figure during his post-hearing news conference.

He has been accused of bias against South Asian teams during his 21-year career but the most irrefutable allegation against him is that he sticks to his guns.

There were two umpires out there and no decision could have been taken without both agreeing on it

Darrell Hair

When ICC media manager Brian Murgatroyd said there would be five more questions, Hair interjected: "I know you're trying to help Brian but I'm happy to answer as many questions as possible."

Inevitably, there were suggestions that the ruling had damaged his credibility and reporters wondered whether he could keep umpiring at the highest level.

Hair refused to talk in detail about the events surrounding the furore, other than to say: "I don't feel my authority has been undermined".

He did, however, make some damning observations.

His co-umpire, West Indian Billy Doctrove, has been virtually invisible since the incident, saying next to nothing about the affair.

Hair pointedly said on Thursday: "I'm glad people are asking about this, because there were two umpires out there and no decision could have been taken without both agreeing on it."

The ICC has pulled Hair out of the Champions Trophy in India on "security grounds" but the Australian insisted he had received no personal threat.

It appears he is being eased out of the international scene, although the ICC denies this.

Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan says it does not want Hair to stand in any of their games until "his contract runs out" in March 2007 - a hint that they do not expect to see much of him after that anyway.

India are also not comfortable with him officiating him in their games, which leaves his options in the next few months limited.

ICC chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle
Madugalle was keen to draw a line under the sorry affair

Because of his nationality, he cannot stand in the Ashes series, although there are several other series organised between now and March.

With former Pakistan players such as Imran Khan and Rameez Raja questioning how he can continue, the "holiday" he jokingly talked about taking on Thursday might well be an extended one.

While Hair confidently strode out to take on his inquisitors, chief match referee Ranjan Madugalle - who chaired the two-day hearing - was reluctant to say much at all.

He admitted the ball-tampering law and its interpretation needed looking at - but that was as far as he went.

The Sri Lankan stuck rigidly to a prepared statement and, like ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed, was keen to draw a line under the affair, claiming it had "been dealt with".

But the game's governing body has been left damaged by the affair.

Many observers have said that when Pakistan initially refused to carry on playing in protest at the ball-tampering accusation on Sunday, 20 August, the ICC should have prevented the situation from escalating.

Then e-mails from Hair that evening, in which he offered to resign in exchange for $500,000 (an offer that was later retracted), were released to the media by his bosses.

"These things should be kept private," was the Australian umpire's curt assessment on Thursday, although he insisted he had not been "hung out to dry" by the ICC.

The authority of the ICC has also been challenged by the fact that countries like Pakistan and India feel able to try and dictate where and when Hair officiates.

If an organisation cannot implement the laws of the game and decide who umpires which games, what role does it have?

SEE ALSO
Hair 'guessed' at ball-tampering
29 Sep 06 |  Pakistan
Disrepute ban for skipper Inzamam
28 Sep 06 |  Pakistan
Pakistan 'vindicated' by verdict
28 Sep 06 |  Pakistan
Is tampering law right?
28 Sep 06 |  Laws & Equipment
Ball controversy timeline
21 Sep 06 |  Cricket


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