Darrell Hair, the Australian umpire who came to prominence when he called Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing, commences the biggest battle of his 15-year international umpiring career in the Central Office of London Tribunals on Monday. He is suing his employers, the ICC, for racial discrimination.
A galaxy of leading figures in the game, including Malcolm Speed, Dave Richardson, David Morgan and Billy Doctrove, will be appearing in the witness box during the hearing, which could last for two weeks and should make for riveting theatre. Hair, who is 55 today, is taking legal action over having not been allocated any Tests or one day internationals since he accused Pakistan of ball-tampering in the fourth Test at The Oval in August last year.
After a history of 1,814 Tests, this became the first to be forfeited. Inzamam-ul-Haq, the then captain of Pakistan who has been served a witness summons to attend the hearing, was eventually cleared of ball-tampering, but Hair, who remains on the ICC's elite panel and hence paid a retainer, was effectively sacked as an international umpire. He has since officiated in ICC Associate matches and was on the ECB's reserve list last year, and has moved from Lincoln to live in his native Australia with his wife, Amanda.
Hair's claim for racial discrimination is based on the fact that Doctrove, a black West Indian, who stood with him at The Oval and who will support him from the witness box, has continued to be allocated top-level matches. He will be represented by Robert Griffiths QC, a member of MCC's committee and a relative of Tony Lewis, the former England captain. Their case will be based on the maxim that the umpire's decision is final. Opposing them on behalf of the ICC is Michael Beloff QC, who has represented the Rugby Football Union and who was formerly president of Trinity College, Oxford.
The ICC will be flying in executives from all around the world in addition to Speed, its chief executive, who publicised damaging private correspondence with officials which isolated Hair, and Richardson, its general manager. Morgan, whose ICC presidency start on Monday, will also be cross-examined. Since filing his law suit in March, Hair, who flew in to London last Thursday after attending an ICC umpires seminar in South Africa, has been immersed in preparation for the hearing with his legal team. The representative lawyers have been unable to reach a settlement.
It is still not known whether Inzamam, who flew back to Pakistan when his contract with Yorkshire was concluded on the last day of the season, will be returning to London. His agent, Darren Long, would not comment on his intentions, but he has made himself unavailable for Pakistan's opening Test against South Africa which starts on Monday. The tribunal has no power to compel the attendance of an individual from the sub-continent, but it can decide whether to issue sanctions that could lead to prosecution.
Hair, who in spite of his experience has attracted hostility from Asian countries for more than a decade over what they have considered to be his strict application of the Laws of Cricket, is spending the weekend visiting friends in the Midlands before celebrating his birthday tonight with a quiet dinner at his central London hotel with his wife, who once sat on Nottinghamshire's committee.