Cricket: One Hair Less
Darrell Hair seems to be the current bad boy of cricket when it comes to being the centre of a controversy. The apparently no nonsense umpire has been removed from the elite panel of umpires and will no longer be officiating in International matches.
While the media from Down Under and Britain are crying foul and terming it as strong arm tactics of the Asian bloc, Mr. Hair is not stranger to courting controversy. Lets take a look at his career which has never remained free from the limelight.
1992. Adelaide Test. India vs Australia. Australia won by a narrow margin of 38 runs. Wisden felt that the entire affair was "marred ... by controversy over LBW decisions - eight times Indians were given out, while all but two of their own appeals were rejected".
1994. Adelaide Test. South Africa vs Australia. Peter Kirsten had an animated talk with Mr. Hair after a series of Proteans were declared out LBW. Kirsten was promptly declared out LBW in the next innings, and South Africa lost the game. Many felt that the decision was flimsy at the best.
1995. Melbourne Test. Sri Lanka vs Australia. Mr. Hair infamously no-balled Murali (from the bowlers end) for chucking. Now though the Aussies agree that Mr. Hair is very fair in all his dealings, I am ready to bet that such instances are not very common in the cricketing arena where the leg umpire is generally the one to declare a ball as being "thrown". Lot of water has flown under the bridge since then. ICC has cleared Murali of all charges. Mr. Hair was charged (note, not penalised) for bringing the game into disrepute by calling Murali's action "diabolical" in his autobiography.
2005. Faisalabad Test. Pakistan vs England. Mr. Hair declares Inzamam run out for leaving his crease while taking evasive action. Cricketing gurus feel it is contradictory to cricketing laws that stipulate that batsman cannot be run out if he leaves his ground due to evasive action. [Side note: I was happy as the decision against Tendulkar at Eden Garden is avenged.]
2006. Oval Test. Pakistan vs England. Mr. Hair, in consultation with Mr. Doctrove, declare the ball as being tampered with penalise Pakistan 5 runs and change the ball. Now, we all now that Pakistan has long faced such charges and are often in trouble for tampering with the ball and getting "some" reverse swing. Anyways, Pakistan decide that they had done nothing wrong and decide to not take the field as a mark of protest. Mr. Hair declares the match as forfeited and awards it to England. An enquiry committee then finds the ball being not tampered with and clear Pakistan of ball tampering charges but penalise them for bringing the game into disrepute. This was done after hearing the views of former cricketer Geoff Boycott and TV analyst Simon Hughes.
On the receiving end of Mr. Hair's decisions have been India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and South Africa while on the other end stand Australia and England. Now, only if someone could explain me why the so called Asian bloc (supported by South Africa, West Indies and Zimbabwe) was for, while Australia and England (supported by New Zealand) are against, the suspension of Mr. Hair?