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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Simon 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.

  • Chatty 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.

  • Chatty 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!

  • Jack 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.

  • Geoff 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.

  • David 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.

  • Chris 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.

  • Harry 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

  • Mark 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

  • Cricinfouser 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

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