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Last Updated: Monday, 21 August 2006, 13:50 GMT 14:50 UK
How Hair courts controversy
By Tom Fordyce

Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove
The fateful moment when Hair and Doctrove first examined the ball
Throughout his umpiring career, Darrell Hair has been no stranger to controversy.

In the 14 years since his international debut, he has been among the most visible of a new breed of match officials.

But Hair is not one for the crowd-pleasing physical antics of a Billy Bowden or David Shepherd, nor the animated chatter of a Dickie Bird.

The title of his autobiography - "The Decision-Maker" - provides a hint to his character.

Hair sees himself as a figure of authority on the pitch. If you want banter, talk to your team-mates. If you want to take things further, don't expect him to back down.

It has been that way from his very first match, a Test between Australia and India at Adelaide in January 1992 which Australia won by 38 runs.

A flick through the pages of Wisden reveals that the game was "marred... by controversy over lbw decisions - eight times Indians were given out, while all but two of their own appeals were rejected".

But that was only the start of things for a man who had spent his earlier cricketing days as a right-arm fast-medium bowler with the Mosman club in Sydney grade cricket.

Sri Lanka fury

It was on Boxing Day 1995 that Hair became embroiled in the row that made him a household name from Kandy to Kalgoorlie.

On the first day of the second Test between Australia and Sri Lanka at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Hair no-balled Muttiah Muralitharan seven times in three overs for chucking.

This was despite the fact that Hair was at the bowler's end, rather than at square leg, from where an umpire would ordinarily study a bowler's action.

Darrell Hair and Muttiah Muralitharan
Hair no-balls Muralitharan in Melbourne in 1995

Sri Lanka captain Arjuna Ranatunga was so incensed by Hair's actions that he took his team off the pitch, although - unlike Pakistan on Sunday - they returned shortly afterwards.

The other umpire that day, New Zealander Steve Dunne, had no problem with Murali's action when he was brought on from his end.

Dunne also pointed out that the rules stated that any suspect action should be reported to the match referee rather being called immediately, and that it was governing body the ICC - not the umpires - who should rule a bowler's action legitimate or not.

Hair, convinced he had acted correctly, refused to back down.

Despite receiving death threats, he went on to describe Murali's bowling action as "diabolical" in his autobiography.

In Hair's mind, he was merely upholding the old maxim that the umpire's decision should always be final.

To others, he was guilty - at best - of stubborn intransigence, and at worst of bias against Asian players.

"Hair is a misfit in today's cricket because he acts in a high-handed manner whenever he officiates," said Ranatunga after Sunday's fiasco at the Oval.

There have been other incidents too.

Prior to the Murali mayhem in Melbourne, Hair had attracted criticism for his decision to give Craig McDermott out caught behind as Australia were denied a record-breaking win over the West Indies in Adelaide in January 1993.

At the same ground a year later, South Africa's Peter Kirsten was incensed by a series of lbw decisions from Hair, eventually prompting an outburst which cost him 65% of his match fee.

In Hair's defence, the ICC clearly has a lot of faith in him. He has officiated in 76 Tests - only three men in history have stood in more - and 124 one-day internationals.

He has a reputation as an umpire who is consistent in his decision-making, and has also made high-profile calls against Pakistan's opponents.

"The Darrell Hair I know calls the game the way he sees it without fear or favour. He knows the laws better than anyone," said fellow Australian Simon Taufel, another member of the elite umpiring panel.

"Umpires have to follow the laws and the playing conditions as they are written, so it's hard to fault the umpires in this case.

"The disappointing thing is that the spirit of cricket has taken a hit over this," Taufel told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Problems in Pakistan

The current Pakistan side's issues with Hair began during England's tour last winter.

The team were angered by Hair's decision to refer a run-out call involving captain Inzamam to the third umpire, despite the skipper only being out of his ground because he was taking evasive action.

In the same Test, Hair warned opener Salman Butt for running down the middle of the pitch, sent him back to the striker's end and gave him out lbw next ball.

When he was appointed for the third and fourth Tests in England this summer, the Pakistan management privately expressed their disappointment.

And Hair's refusal to give Kevin Pietersen out when he appeared to edge a Shahid Nazir delivery to the wicketkeeper on the first morning of the third Test only succeeded in stirring troubled waters still further.

Hair may yet survive this latest controversy, as he has done all previous ones.

Whether his authority with the world's best cricketers will be intact is another question entirely.

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