Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hair Today - Gone Tomorrow

Cricket's Umpiring Woes.

News that Darrell Hair is to sue the cricket authorities makes it clear that the authorities have bowled themselves a bouncer.

Whatever happens, cricket is going to be the loser.

Hair alleges, quite rightly, that the authorities are being racist because he has been hung out to dry whilst his colleague, Billy Doctrove, continues to officiate in Test Matches. It's going to be difficult not to agree with him or for the authorities to claim that there is no case to answer

What is in danger of being lost in this mess is what the laws of cricket say about unfair play.

First: the umpires shall be the sole judges of fair and unfair play (Law 3.7). Therefore, it is for the umpires appointed for the match (Hair and Doctrove) to decided if any unfair play has taken place, without reference to any outside body!

Second: Under Law 42.3 the umpires are empowered to change a ball they think has been tampered with – without any reference to anyone else, or without apportioning blame to any one person. This is precisely what happened. The umpires changed the ball and the Pakistani captain was responsible, even though he may not have personally done anything to the ball.

Third: Under Law 3 it is clear that both umpires must agree before any action can take place under Law 42. Therefore, Darrell Hair's contention that since Billy Doctrove is still on the umpires circuit he is being discriminated against is, without a doubt, valid.

At the press reported at the time: On 20 August, Hair and Doctrove awarded England a five-run penalty because they believed the ball had been interfered with.

A spokesman for the Pakistan Cricket Board said, "It is crass for him (Hair) to say a black West Indian was let off [whereas] he was a white man and therefore he was charged.

"Mr Hair was the senior umpire and he literally took over that Oval cricket match. I was present there. "There was only one man that evening that did not want cricket to be played. [It was] a black spot on the history of cricket thanks to Mr Hair."

This is nonsense. The match was awarded to England under the laws when Pakistan refused to take the field.

An ICC spokesman stated that Doctrove's status was not discussed at the meeting to discuss events at the Oval. If that's not discrimination, I'm not sure what is!

Both umpires must agree, or the status quo must be maintained. The Laws do not sanction the idea of a “senior umpire”.

The Pakistan team refused to resume play after the tea interval in protest against the decision, leading to the first forfeiture in 129 years of Test cricket.

ICC adjudicator Ranjan Madugalle later cleared Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq of ball-tampering charges. Unfortunately, this verdict, which is a disgrace (insofar as it does not support the match umpires) has not and probably will not be made public. Likewise the ball in question may not be seen again.

Try to imagine the scenario. Umpire Hair sees the ball suddenly moving in strange ways. He is concerned that the ball has been tampered with. He calls “Dead Ball” and moves to the middle of the wicket to consult with Umpire Doctrove.

What was said? Here's my version.

Darrell: Well, Billy, this ball has clearly been tampered with. I examined it just a few minutes ago and now its condition is clearly not the same. And, it has begun to move in a way that it wasn't moving just a moment ago.

Billy: Yes, Darrell.

Darrell: I'm going to award 5 penalty runs to England and change the ball.

Billy: Ok, Darrell.

That's pretty much it. And, most importantly, that's exactly what the laws of cricket stipulate. The umpires confer regarding unfair play (Law 42). They reach a joint decision and impose penalty runs if they both agree. The concept of a “senior umpire” does not exist in law. Both umpires must agree or the status quo is maintained.

For the ECB or the Pakistani Board to now insist that the whole thing is Darrell Hair's fault is ridiculous. Darrell, unfortunately for cricket, has a good case for unfair treatment. The fact that Billy is still employed and the ECB “leaked” his memo regarding compensation are prima facie evidence that he has been discriminated against.

The authorities would do well to pay up to shut him up. He may get the 500,000 dollars in an out-of-court settlement. Cricket is the loser.

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