October 9, 2007

A Pyrrhic victory for the ICC

Although Darrell Hair withdrew his claim for racial discrimination against the ICC, both sides suffered considerable damage

Darrell Hair: facing a massive legal bill, with his career surely in ruins © Getty Images

After seven days of accusations and mud-throwing, Darrell Hair has decided there is nothing more to be gained in his attempts to sue the ICC for racial discrimination. Hair, his career seemingly in tatters despite murmurings about a comeback, walks away with a massive legal bill while the ICC, though vindicated on the specific charge, has emerged with a severely tarnished reputation.

Hair's testimony at the start of the tribunal was very general and appeared to be based largely on his own opinions. You were left to wonder quite where he was going. One insider said that he suspected Hair just wanted his day in court, but that his case was flimsy at best. Perhaps he hoped the ICC would back down and settle before it even got that far. But he had rubbed too many backs up the wrong way for that to happen.

Hair, already a lonely figure, appeared to alienate the few umpiring friends he had left. His accusations against Rudi Koertzen were probably the final straw. There was no evidence of any conversation surrounding the Pakistan team and revealing a private chat between friends was beyond the pale. Koertzen, umpiring in Sri Lanka, was left with his reputation for impartiality - so vital for any umpire - dented by innuendo. Billy Doctrove, Hair's colleague at The Oval and his star witness, instead opted to stay in Dominica rather than risk being Koertzened.

But the ICC will hardly be breathing a collective sigh of relief, for two things came out of the evidence that was heard.

One was that Hair was pretty shoddily treated in the aftermath of the Oval Test in August 2006. He was left very much to cope by himself while the establishment closed ranks. That's a million miles from racial discrimination, but it is an appalling way for any employer to treat a senior and (at the time) respected employee. It was a battening down of the hatches that would have done the MCC of a hundred years ago proud.

But more seriously, the executives that run the world game were shown to be a pretty rum bunch. Faced with a cunning QC, they not only fell into his traps but often appeared to give him a hand in digging them as well. If these are the men entrusted with the future of the game and its best interests, then we are all in trouble.

That's not necessarily the ICC's fault - it has to work with what it is sent by the Full Member countries. But, with a few exceptions, a more self-interested and self-important bunch would be hard to find.

So finally the circus is over and, when his contract with the ICC expires at the end of March 2009, so almost certainly is Hair's career. But when he is gone and largely forgotten, most of those on the ICC executive will still be running cricket. That's a sobering thought.

Martin Williamson is executive editor of Cricinfo