Reverse swinging in the court
Darrell Hair took to the witness box for the third day running in the Central London Employment Tribunal, where he is suing the International Cricket Council (ICC) for racial discrimination. He had dead-batted much probing from Michael Beloff QC, occasionally played a few shots, and now faced a question that his own QC, Robert Griffiths, considered would be the most tricky he would face.
What is reverse swing?
There is a possibility already that the hearing will not be concluded by the scheduled finishing date, October 12. Here was the perfect opportunity for Hair to take it into a third, reconvened week, for the three-man tribunal - while evidently bright people - had not presented themselves as cricket experts. No doubt they were none the wiser when the umpire, whose international career began at the same time that Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram were baffling opponents with this novel form of attack, started to talk about "wind drag."
Wind drag? That was a new one to the assembled cricket lovers, let alone the tribunal panel. "This affects the ball as it is delivered," explained Hair, who generally had a fair stab at a succinct explanation. And this was by no means the only tricky question he was asked. He was queried on his "bedside manner," although he is not a man of medical experience, as well as being told by Beloff, in a term "borrowed from the criminal vernacular" that he had "form."
Then there was "the gesture" that Inzamam-ul-Haq had made at him at the Oval that sad August day last year when Test cricket ground to a standstill. What exactly, the chairman asked, was this gesture? The mind boggled. Hair explained that the then-captain of Pakistan had waved him away during their discussions to re-start the match. "I have seen that gesture in Pakistan," he said, "in restaurants and hotels. It is a way of insulting a person." Did he mean to waiters or to chefs? Is this akin to Michael Winner waving a handkerchief around his head when he is not served quickly enough?
So much time was expended on eliciting information from Hair that there was only a brief appearance in the witness box from John Jameson, the former England batsman, who was called for his expertise on the Laws of Cricket. Rarely before in a court of law can complex questions have been met with such succinct answers. "Short and sweet, then, John," the reporters said as he departed to find a bus. "Like my innings," came the modest reply.
Mostly, though, the action centred around Beloff trying to find a way through Hair's defence. Strangely enough, having seemingly not been aware of Dickie Bird's status as a best-selling author on the previous day, now this learned cricket lover said to Hair: "Ranjan Madugalle - he's an expert umpire?" No, responded the big man. "He is a referee." But even if, at times, the dialogue is going nowhere, the entertainment is of a high order. The season has ended, the weather is dreary, and this beats watching Chelsea, for sure.