Inzamam cleared of cheating but Pakistan still pursue Hair

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The Independent Online

The Pakistan captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, was cleared of ball-tampering yesterday, but banned from four one-day internationals for bringing the game into disrepute following the saga at the Oval in the final Test of the summer, but it is unlikely to be the end of the matter.

As happy as Inzamam was at the verdict of the two-day International Cricket Council disciplinary hearing delivered by the chief match referee, Ranjan Madugalle, - he claimed the decision a "victory for Pakistan" - the Pakistan Cricket Board chairman, Shaharyar Khan, said the board had not given up hope of pursuing a charge of bringing the game into disrepute against Darrell Hair.

It was Hair's intervention on the fourth day of the fourth and final Test between England and Pakistan at the Oval last month - claiming the tourists had been guilty of ball-tampering - which led to Inzamam refusing to lead his players out after the tea interval. Yesterday he was deemed to have brought the game into disrepute by that action.

But there was an intriguing by-product of the explosive affair when it was announced that Hair, who will be 54 tomorrow, would not be standing in next month's ICC Champions Trophy on the Indian subcontinent, where feelings about him run high.

In a statement, Malcolm Speed the ICC chief executive, said: "For Darrell Hair, a decision has been made in consultation with the ICC president Percy Sonn, the ICC general manager of cricket David Richardson and myself that he will not umpire at the Champions Trophy amid concerns over his safety and security and the safety and security of those around him during the tournament."

But no mention was made of whether Hair, whose contract on the ICC's elite panel of umpires runs out on 31 March 2008, would be standing in the South Africa-India series or the rubber between New Zealand and Bangladesh, both of which start in December. Indeed, the man himself had no idea when he would next be officiating in any match, be it a Test or a one-day international, and that can only provoke speculation about his future.

"I don't believe any further appointments have been made by the ICC, but you would have to check that out with them," Hair said. "The appointments process varies. Sometimes we are told a few weeks in advance, sometimes a few months."

There is no question of him being invited to officiate in the series between Pakistan and West Indies.

Hair, who now lives in Lincoln, has been on the England and Wales Cricket Board's reserve first-class list of umpires, so he could always turn to that.

Hair was prepared to front up and field a barrage of questions yesterday, but was unable to say much because of the restraints placed upon him by the ICC's code of conduct for umpires. He deflected most questions in a courteous and humorous way.

When asked why he was the only umpire appearing before the media, when his colleague Billy Doctrove had also been involved in the decisions at the Oval, Hair said: "A lot of people could be forgiven for thinking there was only one umpire out there. Billy Doctrove and I have umpired quite a lot together in the past and I hope to umpire with him in the future but whether he chooses to come to a press conference is his choice. The decision for unfair play can't take place unless [both] umpires agree."

Shaharyar welcomed Madugalle's judgement. "The not guilty verdict on ball-tampering has removed the slur on our team and on our country," he said.

The PCB appeared to be happy to accept the four-match suspension of Inzamam, subject to a close examination of the judgement.

The ban means Inzamam will miss the Champions Trophy but the punishment was the minimum under a level-three breach of the ICC Code of Conduct.

Inzamam was in placatory mood, saying: "Since this is the minimum possible suspension I don't think we will appeal. The next four [one-day international] matches start with the Champions Trophy next month [so] I will not be able to play in the tournament."

Inzamam expressed no regret for having staged his protest by refusing to lead his team back out on to the pitch after tea on the fourth day of the final Test.

"It was a matter of the team's reputation, and ball-tampering allegations meant that we cheated during the Test match," he said. "We have built a reputation with this young team in the last four years. What happened at the Oval was an attempt to spoil that.

"Everyone in Pakistan welcomed my decision to protest and they would have prayed for my team and for myself. That is why we have been acquitted of ball-tampering allegations."

Speed added: "I'm content that the processes that have been put in place to deal with incidents that occur on the cricket field have been followed and that, after quite a long time, the process is complete, the decisions have been made and I hope that all parties can move on and accept those decisions and put them behind them," he said.

"For us, we move on to the Champions Trophy in India where we will have four weeks of great cricket. I hope that the players, the umpires and the cricket fans can enjoy a great festival of cricket in India as we all move on and put this issue behind us."

But while Hair declared that, other than his ill-advised e-mail demanding $500,000 (£270,000) in exchange for his resignation, he had no regrets, and seemed prepared to call the matter closed, Shaharyar stated that the PCB had requested the ICC to launch an inquiry into whether Hair, through his conduct during the Test match, had indeed brought the game into disrepute.

A spokesman for the ICC said that it would not be possible to instigate an inquiry before the hearing, but yesterday Shaharyar added: "For me to say we would not press further is not correct."