Martin Williamson
Executive editor, ESPNcricinfo, and managing editor, ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

A Pyrrhic victory for the ICC

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

Martin Williamson

October 9, 2007

Comments: 23 | Text size: A | A



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

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Posted by simonc3 on (October 11, 2007, 4:29 GMT)

Umpire Hair has consistently sought headlines throughout his career. He should never have been made an international umpire and the ACB erred in backing him. No doubt they encouraged him to make calls and inflated his ego. International umpiring is better without him.

Posted by KingOwl on (October 11, 2007, 1:52 GMT)

Only having read this article did I find out what Hair said about Koertzen. Quite incredible that this man can stoop so low as to reveal a private conversation!! I am utterly surprised. Even by Hair's standards, this is a new low.

Posted by KingOwl on (October 11, 2007, 1:39 GMT)

Hair is gone, and I hope that it is for good. He was probably the worst umpire that I have seen over the last couple of decades. He has very poor judgement - confirmed for one last time by his decision to sue the ICC. He is just too stupid and lowly to be in the international panel. There is nothing elite about Hair. In fact he is just a typical Australian. Good riddance!

Posted by JackJ on (October 10, 2007, 13:56 GMT)

Its awful to read the unjustified, derogatory comments some fans/media make about Darrell Hair. Truth is, he's developed into a fine umpire, after a shaky start in the 90's. It was his peformance in the SA/Aus tests then that caused many SA fans to dislike him. But people develop and change as they learn, and we need to recognize this. The Pakistan furore was unfortunate, but its good that Hair stuck to his guns. It is utterly unacceptable for a team to refuse to play because they disagree with a decision. I blame the ICC for that and subsequent events. Hair has been treated disgracefully by them in the aftermath. I relished the discomfort to ICC officials that Hair's counsel caused. He exposed them for the effete,clueless fools they are. Its vital that the political interference from the 3rd world bloc be voided. Top ICC managers must be empowered to act correctly, fairly and independently. Ugly sores like Mugabeland must be resolved. Such regimes have no place in top cricket.

Posted by Pegasus82 on (October 10, 2007, 10:56 GMT)

The way I see the Darrel Hair story is, good umpire, terrible politician, and I am sorry to say it, but you have to be a good politician to umpire at the top level. I am cynical enough to say that it can be even more important. Hello, Mr Doctrove, are you there? Darrel Hair has had the guts to stand up and say what others are too afraid to say. An umpire has a duty to apply the laws of cricket honestly, and I cannot fault Darrel Hair on that. When he sees a bowling action that he believes is illegal, he doesn't pretend that he didn't see it - he calls a spade a spade. Personally, I have umpired matches where I believed a bowler was throwing, and where a ball has been clearly tampered. I did and said nothing, and for that I am a coward, and for that same reason, I have a lot of respect for Darrel Hair. If the authority of cricket umpires continues to be eroded in this fashion, it won't be long before you see them treated like football (soccer) referees.

Posted by Hoppers on (October 10, 2007, 8:30 GMT)

Inspite of the negative effect of Darrell Hair's poor decision making, this was major case of discrimination and if there should be any heads rolling, the 'five minute decision' sub-committee should now be vapour. What this case has underlined is that the sporting and financial machinery of international teams and organisations should not be left to the 'Old Boy' political networks and agendas. These reponsibilities should be in the hands of paid professionals capable of running both. The ICC, SA, Zimbabwe, BCCI, Pakistan and Sri Lankan soap operas, to name a few, would be good places to begin.

Posted by Reg_Dyer on (October 10, 2007, 8:11 GMT)

I can't agree with this interpretation. It is clear to everyone that Hair was treated in a racially prejudicial manner if only because certain areas of the cricketing fraternity were convinced that he himself was racist. But now both have avoided a hearing to decide the truth. It is also clear that it is highly likely that Hair will be back umpiring test cricket in 6-9 months time, as he should be, or receive a handsome payoff by the ICC. The evidence of behind the scenes manoeuvering by the ICC is clear in the non-appearence of Doctrove and Inzamam, and they have now in all probability been joined in that by Hair now he has agreed to drop the case. The whole affair, from Hair's demotion to now stinks to high heaven and if this is how the ICC and world cricket is to be run from now on heaven help the game.

Posted by Aroldo on (October 10, 2007, 1:31 GMT)

I do not agree with the conclusion the article reaches in the final paragraph and it is certainly a very different supposition to that presented by the Australian media. I would find it hard to believe that Hair would withdraw at this stage - the trial did not have too long to run, and there seemed a possibility for a Hair victory considering the bungles made by senior ICC officials during the trial - unless Hair has reached a decent out of court agreement. It was reported on ABC radio that this was not monetary, but rather Hair would undergo a 6-month course to improve his management of issues like that at The Oval, after which he would once again be able to umpire test matches. He has certainly made more enemies than friends through the trial, but his QC was adamant that both sides could leave their differences in the past - another factor to consider is that Pakistan, the primary Hair-protester, is now coached by an Australian. I believe that it is instead a Pyrrhic victory for Hair

Posted by Kevin07 on (October 10, 2007, 0:32 GMT)

Captain Jamie I agree the ICC needs soughting out but to suggest that their actions were indeed racist because they singled out Hair are a little far fetched. Darrell Hair may have a good right decision rating but he has time and again shown the cricket world that he lacks the personal skills to be an international umpire. He considers himself to the star of proceedings rather than present solely to facilitate the game. An umpire should not be noticed, if he is it is generally because he has had a bad day and Hair has had plenty of those. Hair has a long history of controversial decisions, all directed against Asian teams, and all made in a belligerent style. His conversation with Rudi Coertzen reflects just as much his attitude towards asian teams which I have difficulty believing is not racist. This law suit only confirms my view of both his attitudes and his personal skills. Unfortunately, I know too many Australians with similar racist attitudes, one of them is our PM

Posted by DRKASHIF on (October 9, 2007, 21:38 GMT)

That was another attempt by Mr Hair to get some money out of ICC and when he realised that it is not going to be possible, he withdrew, exactly the same way as he did with the email of $500,000. I think if he was given another chance he will be very controversial

Posted by SantoshSankar on (October 9, 2007, 21:18 GMT)

Why do people so vehemently support Hair? He was an umpire who showed no common sense in his application of the laws of cricket. Sure, rules are rules but shouldn't he have realized that it would have been prudent to at least have a chat with the Pak. team in the Oval Test before removing the bails? Instead, he takes it as a personal affront that the team did not emerge from the dressing room, something that happened after Hair accused them of ball tampering and docked them runs for it (a first in the history of test cricket)! And let's not forget, he was later unable to provide any evidence for his grave charge that the ball had been tampered!

Of course, Doctrove was a part of it too. But an honorable man would have had the decency to realize that Doctrove was a significantly junior umpire and it was obligatory on him (Hair), the senior umpire to take responsibility for their actions. Or at the very least, not force him to take the stand against the ICC the organization that pays him

Posted by bobwd on (October 9, 2007, 20:38 GMT)

In my mind, this episode was never really about Hair, but about the inept manner in which the ICC runs cricket. At some point, you'd expect that there will be a backlash against the ICC and its member boards. They will adapt improvements only when the ratings and TV revenues decline.

Posted by arulraas on (October 9, 2007, 20:21 GMT)

Cricket is a gentleman's game, Michael Holding clearly pointed out what is morally right. A Policeman when parked in yellow lines will not charge you if you had parked near Pharmacy to get emergency medicines. Darrell Hair clearly lacks common sense, is keeping the spirit of the game important or talking the rules of the book important.

Harassment to Hair, was he right in calling cheater and chucker, is that not an harassment. If you can't prove it, what ever your instinct says and however you're good, I'm sorry at the end of the day you've not proved it in the technology world. The Asian countries were right in saying they lost confidence in Hair. I don't want to be harassed if the technology cannot prove it. That's exactly what Hair did to Murali and would have done to Inzy. To protect their players from harassment, Asian countries had to veto him and I'm afraid to say you only reap what you've sowed mate.

Posted by badnoc on (October 9, 2007, 17:50 GMT)

Hair's decision to withdraw the case unconditionally is something more than meets the eye. He is not a very simple guy. He must have agreed a deal under the tables with ICC before withdrawing this case.

Either he will start umpiring in international matches once again - that will be a disgrace to cricket - or he would be taking a big amount to retire. He is a racist and he was trying to tell the world that he is a victim of racism. Its like the kettle calling the pot black.

Even his shadow should not be seen anywhere near any cricket ground anywhere on this planet earth. Let the game of cricket be clean.

Posted by Idiosyncrasies on (October 9, 2007, 15:52 GMT)

All this debacle was a massive mud slinging contest to show everyone the politics of cricket. Hair should have been reprimanded for allowing a test match to be forfeited first time in its long history. He was the one who instigated. No tact, just pure bullheadedness.

What was Doctrove supposed to do? Stick up for Hair? It was a lose-lose situation for him. And as Martin said, Doctrove wasn't at the crux of the issue, and didn't wanted to be "Koertzened" - it was Hair who took off the bails on that fateful day.

This whole debacle showed how ineptly flaccid ICC really is. Oh, don't get me started about BCCI.

Posted by SPANKY on (October 9, 2007, 14:48 GMT)

I really feel for Darrell Hair. While it's unlikely the discrimination he suffered was racial in nature it was discrimination nonetheless.

I was desperately hoping the ICC would cop a solid kick in the pants over this whole thing. Players should never, ever be able to hold the umpires or the rules to ransom and instead of following this tenet and supporting the rules of the game the ICC has clearly decided to pillory an umpire (not both of them...but ONE of them!) in the hope of keeping certain off-field parties happy. Inzamam was found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute and punished...it should have ended there. At the most, Hair should have been disciplined for his decision regarding the condition of the ball, but only if that decision was deemed to be incorrect.

Not that anyone cares but I'm not going to watch any games being officiated by Billy Doctrove. He's a coward.

Posted by PlanetJamie on (October 9, 2007, 14:42 GMT)

Let's look at some facts here: the Laws of cricket were correctly applied in the Oval test match. Billy Doctrove continued to umpire tests and one day matches even though he was involved. Darrell Hair didn't. On the surface that can be seen as racist. Darrell Hair had the second highest right decsion rating. The politics of the ICC is completely responsible for this.

Doctrove's no show is pathetic; I have lost all respect for him. That the ICC bigwigs have been shown to be lumerbing halfwits *is* the ICC's fault. That they have been humiliated is something that's been a long time in coming and very well deserved. I've said it before and I'll say it again: the top level of the ICC is unfit for purpose. They can't even follow basic procedures relating to employees!

Darrell Hair has humiliated the ICC and highlighted its failings of leadership. World cricket needs to recognise the ICC needs to sort its own house out. Big time. Or the game is in real strife.

Posted by AussieGuy on (October 9, 2007, 14:27 GMT)

This may be the beginning of an end to the ICC; ICC has been breeding people like Darrell Hair. ICC has grown in size, but it has shrunk mentally. It was well aware of Darrell disliking to the teams from sub continent and sub continent cricketers did not like his way of treating them as well. So why would they appoint him to officiate a match, ICC did not have the mental capacity to understand the delicate balance between two parties. If people can remember Dickey Bird calling Mike Atherton for rubbing sand on the cricket ball, did he penalized 5 penalty runs, Answer No. Darrell Hair rewrote the cricket in to history book single handedly, Billy Doctrove was holding his finger, and Billy can not be blamed. Darrell is an embarrassment to the game of cricket, ICC is a fat joke.

Posted by mahjut on (October 9, 2007, 14:21 GMT)

I do not think the ICC top-brass gave the trial anything like the proir attention they probably should have, knowing they would be facing a QC - who are paid handsomely to embarrass and cajole - they were so unprepared it seemed they simply could not see their irresponsibility as employers.

They did treat Hair badly and as employers they have been exposed - for that i am happy. However, although i want to say that i am VERY pleased too that there seems to be no way back for Hair - whose "respected employee" status is open to debate - but I think ultimately that i feel more sympathy for him than antipathy.

I didn't care for him as an umpire, i don't respect people who use their position to highlight/enforce thier opinions (even when done to the letter of the law). In an unmarked cop-car, once, I witnessed a driver followed for 5 miles before being pulled over and fined for not indicating - the cop had a name for it. The driver was 'undesirable', the cop wanted to get him - he did

Posted by ajit_ponds on (October 9, 2007, 14:14 GMT)

ICC is an impotent body run by impotent people. They were not sure what to say in this case. There were no clear thoughts bad or good. Martin is right ,future of Cricket seems bleak. God save it from its caretakers. Ditto with BCCI.

Posted by sakhan76 on (October 9, 2007, 13:08 GMT)

Hair has wrongly criticised many officials. Its totally wrong. Look he has to pay for his deeds.

Posted by driftwood on (October 9, 2007, 12:58 GMT)

I don't really understand why Hair tried to use the racism argument. Presumably he wanted to throw the accusation that some people level at him back at the ICC. And this highlights his problem - everything concerning him always seems to end up being a case of appearance and attitude rather than facts. The facts at the end of the day are that the ICC have been unable to explain themselves and umpires have been undermined. They will now feel unable to consider the possibility of ball tampering, no-ball a dodgy action or follow the laws of the game regarding forfeiture. I have very little sympathy for Hair - if he had acted a little more humbly we may have had the authority of the umpire upheld - and his attitude has allowed the spineless administrators to ignore the real issues.

Posted by MidOff on (October 9, 2007, 12:50 GMT)

This is all about money and how much Hair could get from the ICC. First he demanded for half a million dollars to quit and when failed he charged them with the racial discrimination probably thinking that ICC would settle before it even got to the bar. This guy is not fit to umpire any form of cricket.

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