Darrell Hair will return to umpiring in Tests and ODIs after the ICC decided that he had successfully completed a six-month rehabilitation period. Hair has not stood in a major match since the Oval Test between England and Pakistan in 2006 when he and Billy Doctrove penalised Pakistan for ball-tampering, which led to the game being abandoned.
Hair withdrew his allegations of racial discrimination against the ICC - with whom he is contracted till March 2009 - seven days into a tribunal in London last October. It was then recommended that he enter a period of rehabilitation. While he was never removed from the ICC's elite panel, he was in effect isolated as it was made clear he would not be appointed to any game involving a Full Member.
Since he was suspended from standing in major cricket, Hair has officiated in a few ODIs involving Associate countries as well as umpiring in three ICC Intercontinental Cup matches. The ICC maintained that the decision was unanimous but it seems that a deal has been done behind the scenes as only yesterday a senior Pakistan board official said that the PCB would never countenance Hair standing in any of their matches.
Hair's response was brief. "My commitment to cricket and umpiring is as strong as ever and I wish to get back on to the field as soon as possible."
The wording of the statement from the ICC gave every indication that Hair's contract would not be extended and it stated he was free to umpire any match "in the next 12 months".
Cricket Australia welcomed the decision to reinstate Hair. "We're pleased to see Darrell back," Peter Young, the Cricket Australia spokesman, told AFP. "Cricket Australia has always had a view that he is, in a technical sense, an excellent umpire, one of the best two or three in the world. World cricket needs good umpires. We look forward to seeing him back on the circuit."