A satisfactory compromise

Ivo Tennant looks at a compromise that suits both the ICC and Darrell Hair

Ivo Tennant

Darrell Hair arrives at the tribunal last October © Getty Images
Darrell Hair's lawyers, Robert Griffiths QC and Paul Gilbert, decided to terminate his tribunal hearing against the ICC in London last October because a point of no return had been reached after six days in court. The next witness Griffiths would have cross-examined would have been Nasim Ashraf, the Pakistani delegate, and he would not have concerned himself with any sensitivities.
Hence there was a compromise: Hair would undergo six months 'rehabilitation' and the ICC would then reconsider whether he should be allowed to officiate in Test cricket once more. Had he not been allowed back, Hair would have consulted his lawyers once more and there can be little doubting that both parties would have been back in court.
There has been no collusion between the respective legal teams since then, but this is an outcome that suits both camps. Hair's lawyers anticipate that the forthcoming series between England and New Zealand will be the obvious one for his return, since neither country will object to his presence. The ICC, for its part, needs only employ him for the next 12 months until his contract expires, and it can pick and choose his matches to everyone's satisfaction. It is not as if he has to stand on the subcontinent.
Hair is fortunate in one sense, for this verdict comes at a time of poor officiating by umpires in world cricket, notably in the recent acrimonious series between Australia and India. Never has there been greater need of an experienced, resolute official who can make correct decisions in terms of the contest between batsman and bowler, to say nothing of dealing with the increasing amount of sledging in the game.
The ICC was always going to present the termination of the tribunal hearing as its own victory and Hair is well aware that there is nothing further he will be able to do if his contract is not renewed in a year's time. He will, though, have resumed officiating at the highest level and will be able to write his memoirs, which should reap better sales than those by any umpire bar Dickie Bird.
Above all, Hair realised he would miss Test match umpiring, and his lawyers were always mindful of that. Although Malcolm Speed, the chief executive of the ICC, claimed afterwards not to have paid any attention to the coverage of the tribunal hearing, the governing body of the game would not have wanted its representatives to be exposed again to the probings of Griffiths, whose knowledge of the Laws of Cricket is due in part to sitting on the committee of MCC, which still has responsibility for them.
Hair, through his lawyers, expressed his delight at the prospect of returning to the Test arena, although he was never actually demoted from the ICC's Elite panel. His 'rehabilitation' has consisted of standing in a number of low-key matches, for there was little he did not know about the Laws. His interpretation of them, the sticking point at The Oval in 2006, is not likely to change now.
Otherwise, Hair has been living quietly with his wife, Amanda, at their home in Australia while relying on the good sense of the ICC. He will have to contend, inevitably, with a hefty media presence when he resumes his duties but he is unlikely to court controversy so long as he is not engaged with any country that objected to his return to the international game.