ICC 'gave in' to Asian bloc, says Hair lawyer

Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2007, 0:34 [IST]
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London: Darrell Hair, the Australian umpire, was prevented from umpiring in top-level international cricket so as to appease non-white cricketing countries, it was claimed in the Central London Employment Tribunal here Monday.

Hair is suing the International Cricket Council (ICC) for racial discrimination.

Together with fellow umpire Billy Doctrove of the West Indies, he took a joint decision to penalise Pakistan for ball-tampering on the fourth day of the fourth Test against England at The Oval in August last year.

So enraged were Pakistan by this decision they refused to take the field immediately after tea.

By the time they were ready to play the umpires ruled they had forfeited the match - the first and so far only time this has happened in the now 130 years of Test cricket.

Hair, 55, says since taking that decision the ICC have caved into pressure, primarily from cricket's Asian bloc (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh), which has seen him denied the chance to continue to stand in major international matches.

Hair explained why he accused Pakistan of ball-tampering, claiming that he felt the rough state of the ball "had been accelerated by human intervention". He impressed upon the three-man tribunal panel that he had taken joint decisions throughout the Test with Doctrove.

"I was surprised by how much roughing up of the ball there had been," Hair told the tribunal. "There were quite a few scratch marks on it."

The burly Australian decribed how the match ended.

"Doctrove called time and I removed the bails at my end," signalling that their decision was taken in unison. He also said that "the abuse I received from Pakistan players continued unchecked by the ICC."

Hair's lawyer Robert Griffiths told the tribunal that Malcolm Speed, the chief executive of the ICC, wanted fellow Australian Hair to continue to stand in Tests and One-Day Internationals, but Pakistan and India were opposed.

"So he remained on its elite panel but he has suffered both personally and financially," Griffiths said.

"The ICC bowed to the racially discriminatory pressure that was brought to bear on it by the Asian bloc and ICC Board member countries. That has traumatised the world of cricket.

"The Asian bloc is dominant in cricket and sometimes it uses that dominance inappropriately. Everyone knows it, but most are afraid to say so," said Griffiths.

"A fundamental issue is whether this was done to save Pakistan's reputation and, or, to teach a lesson to a white Australian and any other umpires who dare take similar action."

Griffiths also claimed that there had been a "Watergate" style cover-up of an ICC Board meeting last November.

Part of a tape-recording of this meeting, attended by Sir John Anderson (New Zealand) Peter Chingoka (Zimbabwe) and Dr Nasim Ashraf (Pakistan) at which it was decided that Hair should not continue to umpire at the highest level, had gone missing, he said.

Hair, who is contracted to the ICC until April 2008, admitted he has suffered from depression and that, after 15 years of officiating at the highest level, he was missing the game.

Ray Mali, the ICC president, said before the hearing started: "Racism was never an issue. This is a bad day for cricket."

Michael Beloff, the lawyer appearing for the ICC, declared that Hair was "the author of his own misfortune".

He added: "Exactly the same decision would have been made by the ICC had he been black, brown or green."

"His case on the question of discrimination has been changeable, evasive and, to a degree, reckless.

"He was immeasurably the more experienced and senior of the two umpires and in respect of every action during the fourth Test which has excited adverse comment, Mr Hair took the initiative and Mr Doctrove's role was only to agree (with him).

"Critically, it was Mr Hair who baled out of the crucial meeting when an attempt was made by all interested parties to broker a restart to the match," said Beloff.

"The fact that a majority of those who supported the so-called resolution were Black or Asian does not of itself establish or even give rise to the inference that they took their decision on grounds of Mr Hair's race as distinct from his behaviour."

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