Revealing dialogue with umpire at heart of the ball-tampering affair

The Australian coach was belligerent and angry when he talked to David Llewellyn on Tuesday afternoon
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When I spoke to Darrell Hair on Tuesday afternoon his mood was defiant. Belligerent even. Our conversation, though brief, was also highly revealing. What I did not realise then, of course, was that it came at the same time that Hair was considering his remarkable offer to the International Cricket Council. Indeed it may be that the extraordinary series of e-mails between Hair, Doug Cowie and Malcolm Speed (see below) was already in progress.

I had rung him, as I presume many other reporters had, to ask for his response to the unfolding story which Hair had begun by declaring that the Pakistanis had tampered with the ball during the fourth Test. I had been surprised he answered the call at all, especially as we had never met. But he was prepared to talk, and when he did so he answered my questions with a mixture of anger and disdain.

He gave me a flat "No" when I asked him to reflect on the events of Sunday afternoon, but then added: "I know exactly what you are going to ask, so it's useless you asking the questions. It's just wasting both our time."

Was there any threat to umpiring amid all this, I asked. "There's a lot of things under threat and you people are probably responsible for a lot of them, so take a good hard look and maybe you might understand that a lot of the problems in the world are caused by the media and not the people actually doing a job."

Not for the first time, you were left with the overriding impression that in Darrell Hair's world there is no middle ground, no grey area. Black, white, right, wrong, he could almost march to the monosyllabic, monotone rhythms that have directed him in his life.

Hair has long been one of cricket's most controversial umpires, and while it is difficult not to admire his independence, his interpretations of the laws of the game lack any imagination or sensitivity for surroundings, context and "crime".

The game's authorities insist to all players, coaches and indeed everyone involved in the game worldwide, that it is the spirit of cricket which has to be fostered, but Hair appears to be above that. He goes by the letter of the law and gives not a thought to the spirit enshrined within.

Hence his statement to an Australian journalist last Monday: "I stand by what I have done. People who know me, and the sort of person I am, know I would not take any action unless I really thought it was necessary, but if anything comes out at the inquiry that proves me incorrect I would accept that, too. The process would have been followed."

His defenders describe Hair as courageous, determined and forthright, but that is to blur the meanings of some endearing human qualities. It certainly took courage back in 1995 to call Muttiah Muralitharan for chucking that first time. But stubborn would be nearer the mark when describing Hair, or obdurate, immovable, unmoved. He is forthright, which is fine, on occasion, but in life and work you have to know when to shut up. Perhaps outspoken and undiplomatic are nearer the mark.

He certainly lacked diplomacy during our telephone conversation. A gentle prompting question as he ran out of breath quickly had him going again.

A degree of aggression was evident in his final response. "I'll be putting a lot to [sic] my side when this is all over. I have been vilified by virtually everybody here [in England] and when the truth comes out a lot of people will pay. So that's all I can say."

That aggression seemed to be as much a defensive reaction. Suddenly he was unsure of himself and where he stood. Paranoia insinuated itself into his thought processes and it rattled him.

He does not cope with pressure when HE IS not in control. Out in the middle, in the white coat, he is in his world, albeit a very little world. Outside that microcosm he does not enjoy being a VERY much smaller fish in a far larger pond of real life. He is uncomfortable, hence the crassness with which he offered his resignation.

He will believe he was right to his dying day, might even republish his autobiography to put his side of things across. But he has once more proved that his judgement, on the square and off, is often poor.

Explosive e-mails Full text of Darrell Hair's e-mails with the ICC

From: Darrell Hair (Sent Tues 22 Aug, 2006)
To: Doug Cowie [ICC's umpires and referees manager]
Subject: The way forward
Doug, just to firm up what we discussed earlier this evening. I appreciate the ICC may be put in a untenable position with regards to future appointments and having taken considerable time and advice, I make this one-off, non-negotiable offer. I am prepared to retire/stand down/relinquish my position on the elite panel to take effect from 31st August 2006 on the following terms:

1) A one-off payment to compensate the loss of future earnings and retain a payment over the next four years which I believe would have been the best years I have to offer ICC and world umpiring. This payment is to be the sum of $500,000 - details of which must be kept confidential by both parties. This sum to be paid directly into my account by 31st August 2006.

2) ICC may announce the retirement in any way they wish, but I would prefer a simple "lifestyle choice" as this was the very reason I moved from Australia to settle in the UK three years ago.

3) No public comment to be made by me as to possible reasons for the decision.

4) This offer in no way precludes me taking legal action and/or instigating libel suits against various sections of the electronic and print media for comments made either previously or in the future.

5) This in no way precludes me taking civil action (and exercising my rights as a resident of the UK in any court of law and by any other avenue open to me) against any organisation or persons currently part of ICC and in particular, members of the Pakistan cricket team and the Pakistan Cricket Board.

I reiterate this is a once only offer and if I fail to obtain your agreement I shall continue to be available under the terms of my current contract till March 31 2008 to fulfil umpiring appointments as and when ICC sees fit in any country at any time in any series or matches involving any affiliated teams. I would also insist that my ongoing contracted employment continue in its current form until such time as an ICC performance assessment deems me to be no longer able to perform the duties to the high class expected of an international umpire.

Would you please let me know at your earliest convenience of your acceptance or otherwise of this offer.

Sincerely, Darrell Hair.

From: Doug Cowie (Sent Tues Aug 22, 2006)
To: Darrell Hair CC: David Richardson
Subject: Re: The way forward.
Darrell, Your offer may have merit and is acknowledged and under discussions with ICC management.

Your timeframes seemed impractical at first glance even if agreement were achieved on the suggestion.

Will discuss this further tomorrow.


From: Darrell Hair (Sent Tues Aug 22, 2006)
To: Doug Cowie
Subject: Re: The way forward
Doug, Phones have been ringing off the hook (or out of the mobile charger anyway!) since early this morning - ICC are not the only ones marshalling legal counsel. It appears from overnight developments that the issue of racism has arisen and from advice I have just received, the sum indicated in my release offer is being revised. Therefore the offer is withdrawn until I have had the chance to take further advice. Hope to get back to you within the next 24 hours.

Cheers, Darrell.

From: Malcolm Speed (Chief executive, ICC)
To: Darrell Hair (Sent Tues Aug 22, 2006)
Subject: Letters
Dear Darrell, I have been given copies of letters that you have forwarded to Doug Cowie today concerning the current issue. The matters raised by you concerning your future employment are entirely inappropriate. There is a clear process that is to be followed and it is in place. I will call you tomorrow to advise as to progress.

Yours sincerely, Malcolm

From: Darrell Hair (Sent Tues Aug 22, 2006)
To: Malcolm Speed
Subject: Re: Letters
Thanks Malcolm, I have revoked the e-mail. As you say it is inappropriate and we will see how things unfold over the next few days. It would appear that life will go on regardless. I have just sent Doug another message with you and David copied in about events under my control and some others that are not!

Cheers, Darrell.

Hair lines: Factfile and umpiring controversies

Name: Darrell Bruce Hair

Born: 30 September 1952, Mudgee, NSW

Lives: Lincolnshire, England

Test debut: Australia v India (Adelaide, fourth Test, 1991/92)

No of Tests umpired: 76

No of ODIs umpired: 124


* Hair no-balls Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing on seven occasions at the Melbourne Cricket Ground in December 1995. Arjuna Ranatunga led his players off the field in protest.

* Hair calls Muralitharan's action 'diabolical' in his 1998 autobiography. Charge prompts Sri Lanka board to ask the ICC to charge him with bringing the game into disrepute.

* Refers Inzamam-ul-Haq run out to third umpire in second Test against England in Faisalabad in November 2005. Pakistan captain was trying to evade the throw of bowler Steve Harmison, therefore the decision should not have been referred.

* Hair and fellow umpire Billy Doctrove rule Pakistan bowlers have tampered with the ball in the fourth Test against England at the Oval in August 2006.

Impose a five-run penalty for the offence and decide the match is forfeited when Pakistan fail to return to the field in protest.