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Mali: Hair 'could umpire Tests again'

Ivo Tennant reports from the fifth day of Darrell Hair's case against the ICC for unfair racial discrimination where ICC executives were all at sea

Ivo Tennant in London

Ray Mali: 'I don't see any reason why Mr Hair should not return to the Elite panel and umpire Test matches' © Getty Images
On the fifth day of Darrell Hair's tribunal hearing against the ICC, a heightened sense of theatricality. On Thursday, Sir John Anderson had described in unequivocal terms exactly what he thought of the off-field performance of the umpire who belongs to the elite panel in name only. Now, it was his turn to receive a pummelling. For, make no mistake, that is what this was.
Robert Griffiths, Hair's QC, had been on his sickbed on Thursday. Fuelled by paracetamol and water (just the one glass of wine) he returned to the Central London Employment Tribunal and proceeded to give Anderson an inquisition he can never have received before in his business career. The upshot was that the chairman of the New Zealand Board was forced to admit that the interests of cricket - and, crucially, its commercial interests - overrode consideration of an official whom he agreed was of "high calibre" when it came to the execution of the Laws of Cricket.
Griffiths drew out of Anderson that after he and two other ICC executives had effectively sealed Hair's demotion at sub-committee level last November, the Board took just five minutes to find agreement with their conclusions. In other words, to relieve Hair of top-level international matches. No matter that the two officials who botched up the World Cup final in the spring - in Griffiths' phrase - remain on the elite panel.
Anderson, who was in a muddle whether Zimbabwe were playing Test cricket last year or not, made two rather curious remarks. One was that "technically" there was no way Hair could re-start the Oval Test against Pakistan once it had been awarded to England. The other was that the ICC "changed the terms of his contract" whereas the tribunal had previously been told that this encompassed standing in both full member and associate matches. Anderson had already stated: "In his contract, ICC was able to give Mr Hair any particular matches."
I am amazed I am asked that by someone of your calibre
Mali's response to a question from Darrell Hair's QC
Tying witnesses in knots is, of course, what QCs are paid handsomely to do. But they have to do it sympathetically, otherwise they will not find favour with a tribunal panel. So when Ray Mali, the president of the ICC, took to the witness box in the afternoon and did not respond to Griffiths' first question, appeared not to realise he had to answer the second and then said to the third, "I am amazed I am asked that by someone of your calibre," the QC did not take umbrage.
Griffiths turned to the media, who included on this occasion one Michael Atherton (no-one laughed more all day) and, jokingly, said: "I hope the press has taken note of that." But if this was a moment of jocularity, no-one seemed prepared for what Mali said next. The demotion of Hair, he declared, was "a corrective measure." He then added: "I don't see any reason why Mr Hair should not return to the Elite panel and umpire Test matches." Griffiths repeated that statement to make sure Mali was fully aware of what he was saying.
If that is so, then what is this case all about?
"You wouldn't want to be facing that (cross-examination from Griffiths)" said Athers. How he must have been wishing the QC had been available when he had his own spot of ball-tampering trouble in 1994. Peter Burge and Ray Illingworth would not have stood a chance, just as Anderson and Mali did not now.