Darrell Hair, the experienced umpire who is suing the International Cricket Council for racial discrimination, was no longer permitted to stand in Test matches and one day internationals following a cover-up comparable to Watergate, it was claimed on the opening day of the hearing in London yesterday.
A decision was taken during a lunch meeting of three of the governing body's executives that the burly Australian should no longer be allocated top-level matches.
Robert Griffiths QC told the hearing that a part of the tape of the ICC's meeting that day went missing. "That part is when there was a further lengthy discussion as to Mr Hair's future role, the legal actions that might arise from the actions being considered and the simultaneous, coincidental, withdrawal of the Pakistan Cricket Board's complaint. The result is, whether by accident or design, there is no record whatsoever of this most critical aspect of the meeting.
"Who is the very last person who should have been directed to be one of the three people to take part in that discussion? Dr Nasim Ashraf. He was the new chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board and he was in the Pakistan dressing room during his team's protest. He was effectively prosecutor, judge and jury.
"Who else was directed to join in the discussion? Peter Chingoka, the chairman of Zimbabwe, which has selected its players on the basis of their race and colour. Sir John Anderson of New Zealand was the third member of the triumvirate and, it appears, was the only white member of the board who supported taking legal action against Mr Hair."
The three were empowered to resolve Hair's future, it was claimed, by Percy Sonn, the then president of the ICC, when there was an impasse over his umpiring.
Malcolm Speed, the chief executive of the ICC, who was at the hearing in the Central London Employment Tribunal, recommended, according to Griffiths, that no action should be taken against Hair and that he should continue to umpire international matches. He and Billy Doctrove, his friend who was also officiating at The Oval and who is a black West Indian, took a joint decision to penalise Pakistan for ball-tampering, it was claimed, but only Hair was held to account by the ICC.
"So he remained on its elite panel but he has suffered both personally and financially. The ICC bowed to the racially discriminatory pressure that was brought to bear on it by the Asian bloc and ICC Board member countries. The Asian bloc is dominant and sometimes it uses that dominance inappropriately. Everyone knows it, but most are afraid to say so," Griffiths said.
"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. To discriminate against Mr Hair for upholding the Laws of Cricket and to justify this as being 'in the interests of the game' is a huge indictment of the ICC's governance."
Michael Beloff QC, for the ICC, declared that Hair was "the author of his own misfortune". Exactly the same decision would have been made by the ICC had he been black, brown or green. He said that, in cricketing parlance, Hair "had run himself out". For the first time in 129 years, a match had been decided not by the skill of the winning team but by the decision of an official. The question posed is, did the ICC act in the manner complained of because of Mr Hair's race or was it on grounds unconnected?
"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]. Mr Hair agrees that Mr Doctrove did not himself favour immediate change of the ball when marks were first identified. It was Mr Hair who walked out of the crucial meeting when an attempt was made by all interested parties to broker a restart," Beloff said.
How the Hair affair began
It is 20 August 2006 and the fourth day of the fourth Test at The Oval when the umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove confer over the state of the ball, with England 230 for 3 in their second innings. Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood select a new ball from half a dozen offered to them. The Pakistan coach, Bob Woolmer, tries to see the match referee, Mike Procter, to no avail.
* Bad light stops play with England 33 behind and six wickets intact.
* With play due to resume, Hair and Doctrove wait in the middle. Collingwood and Ian Bell, remain on balcony. Pakistan do not re-emerge.
* Umpires leave the field.
* ECB chief executive David Collier is seen talking to England coach Duncan Fletcher.
* The batsmen, plus Hair and Doctrove return to the field. Pakistan do not.
* ECB chairman David Morgan talks with his Pakistan counterpart, Shaharyar Khan.
* Signs made by Pakistan hierarchy suggest play will continue shortly.
* Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq leads his team back on to the field to a chorus of boos.
* With umpires absent, Inzamam leads players off.
* Khan confirms the delay was a protest against the punishment and implication Pakistan had deliberately scuffed the ball.
* Play called off for day.