Aftermath of The Oval fiasco September 12, 2006

Hair hits out at charges of racism

Cricinfo staff

Darrell Hair: "It really upsets me when people describe me as racist, because they have no idea how I spent my childhood and how that shaped my beliefs in adult life" © Getty Images

Darrell Hair, the Australian umpire at the centre of the Oval controversy last month, has hit out at suggestions that his decisions which led to the forfeiture of the Test were hasty, and, even worse, motivated by racism. In a detailed interview in The Mail on Sunday, Hair said he was forced to intervene because he absolutely had to, and that there were no other extraneous factors which influenced his decision-making.

"The umpires intervene only when they decide the game is not being played within the spirit of the game," Hair said. "People will tell you in matches I have umpired in the past 20 years that I have shown considerable restraint. There have been many times when official action could have been taken but wasn't because you try to control the issue and resolve it on the pitch.

"All good umpires will have a quiet word rather than jump in. I prefer the principle of non-intervention. That is a preferable route compared with someone making a song and dance about something that could be resolved quietly. But the decision to intervene finally depends on the seriousness of the matter."

Hair also said he was deeply hurt by accusations of racism, and by comments that his offer to the ICC - that he would quit umpiring if offered 250,000 pounds - were motivated by personal greed.

"It really upsets me when people describe me as racist, because they have no idea how I spent my childhood and how that shaped my beliefs in adult life," said Hair. "How can people judge me to have prejudices when I went to school in Australia alongside Chinese children, Hungarian refugees and all manner of other nationalities? I grew up in Orange, in central New South Wales, living next door to a large family of Aborigines. I had some of my happiest times playing rugby and cricket with the children. They were like brothers and sisters to me.

"It's particularly hurtful when I count as some of my closest friends the Pakistan umpires Aleem Dar and Asad Rauf, and the Sri Lankans Asoka de Silva and Peter Manuel. We are men from different cultures drawn together by the game of cricket. We exchange views and I have always found men of that calibre tremendously supportive."

Denying the charge of greed, Hair said: "Money has never been a driving force in my career as an umpire. No umpire I know does it for money. I can honestly say I am earning less than half I could have commanded in salary had I stayed in the private sector as sales manager of a clothing manufacturer in Melbourne."

Hair also admitted that some of the comments made after the incident had upset him and Amanda, his wife. "Amanda has been affected by this," he said. "Normally she is very strong, an implacable woman. I think it has affected her because she knows a lot about cricket. She has spent a lot of her time on cricket committees and has a passion for the game herself. Some of the ill-informed comments made have upset her deeply. No matter how much I tell her not to worry, she does worry because she does not like to see what she perceives as injustice."

Despite all the controversy, Hair maintained that he was gratified by the amount of support he had received. "I can honestly say that all the letters, emails and text messages I have received have been supportive. The vast majority of people who have written, I have never met. A lot of them clearly do support the role of the umpire. None of the letters have been abusive. The messages I have received from official cricketing bodies around the world have been very encouraging."

Hair has had controversial moments with the teams from the subcontinent in the past as well, but he insisted that he enjoyed officiating there. "Pakistan is particularly receptive to a visiting umpire like myself," he said. "Their idea of a venue for a chat about umpiring is one of their wonderful restaurants. They are very hospitable people and the discussion goes on all night. The subcontinent has so many happy memories for me and officiating in that region has been instrumental in improving many aspects of my umpiring."

The hearing against Inzamam will take place on September 27 and 28, and the outcome could well determine if Hair continues as an international umpire. "My wish is to carry on and enjoy the rest of my career as an umpire," Hair clarified. "That is what I would like to do. My contract runs to April 2008. After that, who knows? How I am involved in cricket after that date is in the mixing bowl."