Instant Hair removal will hurt Cricket
Resident columnist Paul Johnson believes the ICC must take a look a good hard look at themselves after the recent sacking of elite umpire Darrell Hair.
Australian Test Umpire Darrell Hair has often been at the centre of controversy throughout his long and distinguished career.
He has been in that position thanks to his willingness to call the game as he sees it, and to hold no fears about making tough decisions. Now that mentality has caught up with him and he has been kicked off the elite umpiring panel.
That decision is a joke, and an abuse of power by nations who have had a problem with Hair in the past. Those countries were allowed to use and abuse their voting power to have Hair kicked off the elite panel last week ended the career of one of the best and most controversial officials in the modern history of cricket.
The votes were based on spite, built up over a number of years, not facts. Since when do umpires get vilified to the point of being sacked for standing up and making decisions? It is what they are paid to do!
Darrell Hair first became a controversial figure way back in the summer of 1995-1996 when on the first day of the Boxing day Test at the MCG he called a young Muttiah Muralitharan for chucking seven times in three overs, setting a trend for the rest of the summer.
After the third over the Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga had some harsh words for Hair, led his team off the field and took his star out of the attack, and switched him to the other end, where he was not no-balled by the other umpire.
From this point animosity began to rise within the subcontinent where Murali is among the most revered superstars of the sport, and they engaged plenty of ill will towards an umpire who was willing to back his ability to make harsh calls, based on his knowledge of the game. A knowledge dating back to his youth when Hair was a more than handy fast bowler playing for Mosman in New South Wales.
For the record Hair was not the only umpire to no ball Murali, on the same tour Ross Emerson and Tony McQuillan no balled the off spinner a further seven times for throwing in a one-dayer at the Gabba.
Murali was not the only bowler to be called by Hair either. Hair infamously called Zimbabwe star Grant Flower three times in a one-dayer, causing an uproar there too.
In his autobiography, Hair went on to describe the bowling action of Muralitharan as “diabolical” and in a shocking statement revealed, “I would have called him (Muralitharan) up to 27 times but I did not want to make the game a farce”. This further outraged the Sri Lankans and their neighbours in Asia who regard Murali as a star.
The final straw was when he invoked a runs penalty on Pakistan when he believed that their captain Inzamam Ul-Haq had tampered with the ball, in a Test against England. The result was of course that the Test was abandoned.
The Test was not abandoned as a result of the actions of Hair but because of the recalcitrant reaction of Ul Haq who refused to lead his team back on to the field. This of course led to the big Pakistan skipper being suspended for four one-dayers and a hearing that has seen Hair sacked from the International Panel.
Why was he sacked? Many experts believe Murali throws. Many believe that the Pakistanis tamper with the ball. Hair called them on both. Hair also has a record as being one of the best in the game when it comes to decision making, as opposed to the likes of Steve Bucknor and Billy Bowden who often get it wrong but seem to be loved by many for their quirks while umpiring.
Hair had none of these but he shot straight from the hip and was a brave umpire who has now gone unrewarded and been fed to the lions.
The lions, the powerful Asian Bloc of nations were the key in voting him out of the game, with Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India and Bangaldesh leading the charge. They were aided by South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe.
In the current climate Zimbabwe should probably not have a vote, while South African great Dave Richardson admitted he was disappointed by his board’s decision to vote for Hair’s dismissal.
The question surely must be asked why when a decision of this magnitude is made is bias allowed to enter the process, and why is it that the Asian Bloc are so powerful and united when they are the teams who most often bring the game into disrepute?
India for example have just happily added a former match fixer Mohammed Azhruddin into their hall of fame without thought of how it may make them look, while a former Test legend in the country Bishen Bedi has slammed Sri Lankan spinner Muralitharan in the past labeling him a “cheat”. He also noted that “cheating is a subcontinent trait”.
That comes from an Indian legend of the game.
Former Pakistan keeper and whistleblower Rashid Latif thought the decision to sack Hair was harsh, but also felt he never stood a chance and was punished for going up against the powerful Asian Bloc. Latif throughout his career was unpopular for naming match fixers and ball tamperers even within his own team.
Perhaps in the most damning piece of evidence Pakistani spinner Shaid Afridi openly stated during the ball tampering fiasco, “Pakistani teams tamper with the ball”.
To me this verifies that these nations have a history of breaking the laws of the game. It also verifies that if you stand up to them and their money you will be sacked.
Because of the sacking umpires are now threatening to strike feeling that Hair has been let down by the powers that be in International cricket for simply doing his job and standing up against those who are breaking the laws of the game.
After all isn’t that what umpires are supposed to do? Adjudicate on the laws of the game and penalize those who are breaking them?
Apparently that is the case no longer. Apparently umpires are to be puppets at the mercy of the powerful sub continental bloc of nations or face the retaliation of losing their jobs.
The ICC should clean up cricket and encourage umpires to make tough calls on ball tampering and throwing, even if those decisions are unpopular. They should not be encouraging umpires to be spineless monkeys.
When news of the sacking broke Arjuna Ranatunga and Javed Miandad rejoiced.
Ranatunga said, “It is the right decision he was biased against Asian nations.”
While Miandad said, “All other umpires will be under pressure to make the right decisions.”
With such a bias against Hair he never stood a chance, but Miandad’s comments reek. What right decision Javed? The one’s that benefit Pakistan? The one’s that allow cheats to get away with what they do?
If the ICC have any credibility they will reinstate Hair or risk tarnishing the image of cricket even further after the recent positive drug tests returned by Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif.
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