England v Pakistan, 4th Test, The Oval August 22, 2006

What went on behind the scenes?

Andrew Miller and Martin Williamson
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Darrell Hair has attracted both criticism and praise © Getty Images

Three days into the biggest crisis to have gripped the game since the match-fixing scandal, two clear and intractable portraits have been painted of the man at the eye of the storm. On the one hand there is Darrell Hair the scourge of Asia, a man described as "intransigent" and "insensitive" by the PCB chairman, Shahrayar Khan, who has spent a lifetime in the diplomatic corps and so knows how to mince his words.

But, as clear proof of the schism this issue is causing in the game, another picture is emerging: Darrell Hair the pillar of the establishment, the only man in the game brave enough to stand up for what he believes. His actions meant a thrilling Test match was brought to a grinding halt, but some believe that in doing so, Hair ensured that the laws of cricket, those ancient and revered codes, were upheld through the sternest of examinations.

"If Darrell Hair was the prime mover, as many suggest, let it be acknowledged that he was adhering strictly to rules not of his making," wrote Ian Woolridge in The Daily Mail, a newspaper that can always be guaranteed to sway to the right of any argument. "This column stands steadfastly behind him." As indeed do a swathe of Hair's fellow countrymen, not least Steve Waugh, who recalled how Sunil Gavaskar "tried that one on the umpires" in Australia in 1981. "No-one is bigger than the game," added Waugh. "The laws are there for a reason."

The flip side of the argument was expressed most eloquently by Simon Barnes in The Times, who wrote: "So now we know it. Officials are more important than players, laws are more important than people, one man's vanity is more important than the pleasure of millions."

But what if it was more than just vanity. As a former lawyer, Hair is a man acutely aware of the sort of small-print that Pakistan have palpably overlooked as they prepare to combat Inzamam-ul-Haq's disrepute charge. As a man of considerable stature, he has demonstrated that at least one representative of the ICC has the balls to make the game's big calls, however crassly he may make them.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but given the toothlessness of many of the game's administrators, Hair's knowledge and uncompromising attitude might have been better utilised further up the ICC foodchain - at boardroom level, away from the public eye, where he could have fought for the game's best interests against the ever-encroaching issues of the modern era - TV rights, player burn-out, and yes, the dominance of the Asian bloc. Let's not mistake sympathy for the plight of this particularly likeable Pakistan team with complete acceptance of their actions - imagine if Javed Miandad had taken a similar course of action. (Of course, with a less pig-headed umpire in charge, he might not have been forced to...)

And so, while Hair burns as a consequence of his convictions, the one man who was in a position to act as a broker between the two sides continues to fiddle in the shadows. Just what role has Mike Procter, the ICC's match referee at The Oval, had to play in this whole schemozzle?

Someone who has worked closely with Procter told Cricinfo today that he was in many ways the antithesis of Hair, an individual who was happier to let things run their natural course rather than meet situations head-on. On the evidence so far, that seems to have been the case on Sunday.

It was apparent as soon as the ball was changed that events would escalate. To his credit, Inzamam kept his cool and kept his team on the field, but anyone who believed that that would be the end of the crisis was naïve in the extreme.

Given that, why did Procter not nip things in the bud immediately, summon both captains and umpires to his room at tea (and the extended bad-light delay gave him an opportunity to take as long as was needed) and ensure that at least the day was completed without further mishap. He could have asked for assurances from Inzamam and the umpires that the last session would pass without incident and promised a full and frank exchange at the close.

As it was, it seems that Hair - and remember that his colleague, Billy Doctrove, is so new to the elite panel as to be almost meaningless in terms of having influence over events - was left to make the important decisions on his own.

The situation is further complicated by claims that Duncan Fletcher, England's coach, approached Procter before the start of play to raise concerns about Pakistan's handling of the ball. While the ECB has vigorously denied that any formal approach took place, it has accepted that Fletcher and Procter did chat. It might have been no more than a quiet word to express off-the-record disquiet. It's not as if the two are strangers - the pair were team-mates in the Rhodesia side for several seasons in the early 1970s.

The implications if any such conversation took place are massive. It means that rather than Hair acting as a one-man law-enforcement machine, he may well have been alerted to a potential problem by the match referee. If so, then he would have been more vigilant than normal, and as soon as something untoward appeared, then he would have felt the need to act there and then in light of what he had been told.

Unfortunately, it may well prove that Hair has been the right man in the wrong place. Cricket's dirty laundry was washed on the outfield on Sunday evening, because the officials empowered to prevent such scenes of anarchy were unable to show anything approaching his resolve.

Andrew Miller is UK Editor of Cricinfo and Martin Williamson is the Managing Editor