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Sports


Every which way you lose – Hair stands accused

So the long-awaited verdict has been finally delivered by no less a person than Sri Lanka’s Ranjan Madugalle, the chief referee of the International Cricket Council (ICC) who was acceptable to both parties Pakistan and the two ICC appointed umpires.
Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq has acknowledged the punishment of a suspension for four one-day internationals (which effectively rules him out of next week’s ICC Champions trophy in India) in good faith.
To quote Inzamam: “I had an idea that I would face some sort of ban. This is the most lenient ban and I will not appeal against it.”
Inzamam was banned for bringing the game into disrepute when he deliberately refused to play by declining to bring his team back onto the field of play on two occasions as a protest against the umpires’ decision to award five penalty runs for ball tampering.
The fact that he wasn’t charged for tampering with the ball suggests that the umpires, especially Darrell Hair, were wrong in changing the ball giving the impression that Pakistan had cheated.
The conclusion that Madugalle reached on the ball tampering issue was:
“Having regard to the seriousness of the allegation of ball-tampering (it is an allegation of cheating), I am not satisfied on the balance of probabilities that there is sufficiently cogent evidence that the fielding team had changed the condition of the ball. In my judgment, the marks were as consistent with normal wear and tear and with the ball being pitched into the rough and contact with cricket equipment, as they are with deliberate human intervention. Furthermore, although of course paragraph E7 recognises that there can be cases where no specific fielder can be identified as having altered the condition of the ball, it is striking that with all the technology available for modern-day coverage of a Test Match, there is no evidence of any fielder acting in any suspicious manner. If, as the Umpires told us, the ball was in an acceptable condition after the 52nd over, it is, in my view, highly unlikely that the condition of the ball could have been changed so substantially thereafter by human action within a short period of play without some suspicious conduct by a fielder being noticed by an umpire, television camera, or third party. Mr Saini submitted that I should not reject the views of the experienced ICC witnesses. I have considered their evidence, honestly and fairly given, very carefully. But my duty is to form and give my own judgment.
“Given that the physical state of the ball did not justify a conclusion that a fielder had altered its condition, and neither of the umpires had seen a fielder tampering with the ball, there was no breach of Law 42.3. The course of action which I would have expected from Umpires concerned that there may be ball-tampering would have been for the Umpires to draw Mr ul-Haq’s attention to the marks and to tell him that they intended to keep a close eye on the ball after each over. The charge of ball-tampering is therefore dismissed.”
Inzamam said the verdict was a victory for Pakistan. “This was a matter of respect for our team and country. We fought for what we thought was right. The team’s reputation in the past hasn’t been great, so this was important. It was important to register our protest because if we didn’t then it wouldn’t have gotten this far. Now it has been proved we are not guilty of ball tampering,” Inzamam said.
The big question now is what next?
Should Hair be allowed to continue umpiring? His international career is already on the line after he was withdrawn from officiating in the ICC Champions trophy in India. Pakistan has also made a case against him to the ICC. They don’t want him officiating in any of their matches and they have drawn comparison with Sri Lanka following the Muttiah Muralitharan affair in 1995. Hair was subsequently not posted to Sri Lanka for eight years.
Shaharyar Khan, the Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman said that by continuing to post Hair for four consecutive series in one year was like “a time bomb waiting to go off.”
But the crudest remark on Hair came from former Pakistan captain and wicket-keeper Rashid Latif. “I think Hair would now write a book on the Oval incident and earn the money which he had sought from the ICC,” Latif said.