Umpiring controversy enters the courtrooms February 7, 2007

Hair overshadows the cricket again



Darrell Hair umpiring in the World Cricket League final in Nairobi today as the news broke © Ian Jacobs/Cricinfo Ltd
Try as he might, Darrell Hair just can't hide from the limelight, even in Nairobi. Cynics might wonder whether he feeds off it but, in a hastily arranged press conference on the first-floor lobby of the Nairobi Hilton, there was evidence of a man fed up with his life overshadowing the matches in which he officiates.

"I can confirm I have instructed my lawyers, Finers Stephens Innocent, 179 Portland Street, London, to issue an application to the London Central Employment Tribunal," he said, "alleging racial discrimination from the International Cricket Council and the Pakistan Cricket Board. Therefore it is inappropriate for me to make further comment as this matter is yet to be determined by the tribunal."

But try as one might, it's difficult to feel much sympathy for him. Once again he is in the spotlight; once again his dealings with the ICC have eclipsed the cricket. And today, he stole the limelight from Kenya who, in trouncing Scotland by eight wickets, took the inaugural World Cricket League title. It was their day and the clutch of reporters and cameramen ought to have been back at the Gymkhana, where the final had been held, to report on the match - something Hair himself wished for.

"I've just umpired a cricket match today. The World Cricket League is something the ICC has really worked on," he said. "I think it's a shame other things have to overshadow that, and it looks like they have. I wish everyone here was reporting on the cricket match, and not this.

"I haven't spoken to anybody about this. I hope you understand that I haven't released any information about this. Somebody else obviously has. I've got no idea who but I value confidentially, unfortunately I've discovered other people don't."

That much we can sympathise with, but the timing of his application to the Employment Tribunal (last Friday) was plain foolish. Had his lawyers waited until the end of the World Cricket League, by which time Hair would have gone home to batten down the hatches, this needless distraction could have been avoided. He, too, might have been portrayed in a slightly fairer light rather than the bully who elbowed his way into Kenya's parade.

Fortunately, Hair wisely chose to hold the press conference away from the Gymkhana and away from Kenya's party. That it was staged on the landing of a hotel; that he read a messy, hastily handwritten statement - and that he was legally unable to answer the majority of the questions fielded to him - rather summed up the whole affair. A bit of a mess. Lastly, just before shuffling into the lift, he confirmed that today's match was "his last for the time being". His next chapter might be about to get even messier but, for now, let Kenya party long into the night.

Will Luke is editorial assistant of Cricinfo