Hair today, gone tomorrow?

Darrell Hair 

Darrell Hair’s career as a leading international umpire is clearly in the balance after Pakistani cricket captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was found not guilty of ball-tampering yesterday at an ICC disciplinary hearing.

And although he was inevitably found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute by refusing to take the field after tea on the fourth day of the Oval test match against England, the fact that the minimum penalty possible was handed down (a suspension for four one-day internationals) does seem to imply a certain sympathy for the Pakistani captain and a swipe in the direction of Mr Hair.

Indeed, the full text of adjudicator Ranjan Madugalle’s verdict seems to confirm the implicit criticism of the umpire when it suggests that, were such a situation to recur, “the umpires and other officials should do everything possible to ensure the resumption of play. And they should not return to the field of play and then declare the match to be forfeited unless and until they are absolutely sure that the team is refusing to play the rest of the match. All other options should first be exhausted, involving discussions with the team captains and management.”

Former Middlesex and Durham seam bowler Simon Hughes, one of the expert witnesses at the ICC hearing, has written in the Daily Telegraph: “The problem was Hair was guessing, using the flimsiest evidence. The marks on the ball were not blatant enough for the drastic measures Hair took”.

He added: “There were a number of small abrasions on the rough side, fairly typical of normal wear and tear on a deteriorating Test pitch. The only thing that looked slightly suspicious was a number of slightly curved striations concentrated on one area. I concluded that those could have been man-made scratches but there was no way I could be sure. There was no hard evidence of ball-tampering.”

Darrell Hair has now been forced to withdraw from the upcoming ICC Champion’s Trophy due to “security concerns”, and the Pakistani Cricket Board has insisted that Hair be barred from standing in all their matches.

Hair responded by saying, “Of course I wish to keep on being an umpire. If other people consider I am still good enough to umpire I will continue… I umpire matches in good faith and take the decisions I feel necessary on the field.”

Time will tell if Hair ever stands as an international umpire again, but one thing is for sure: it will take an exceptionally brave umpire to call a team for ball-tampering ever again. The real authority of umpires in the middle will be diminished, and the cheats will believe they can subtly manipulate the ball with impunity.

Glorious Royal homecoming is soured

HM looking fed up 

From our man holed up inside the Narayanhity Royal Palace in Kathmandu – The loyal subjects of Nepal and royalists worldwide will be relieved to hear that Their Majesties King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and Queen Komal Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah of Nepal have returned safely to the capital from Pokhara today. During their short trip away, the Royal couple apparently performed pooja (don’t ask) at the Baba Gorakhnath temple and at the Bajra Bhairav temple at Upallokot.

Their Majesties will no doubt have mixed feelings on their return to the capital, given the terrible traffic congestion in Kathmandu (oh yes, and the small fact that it would seem most of the inhabitants would like to see them first up against the wall). Indeed, just as they were making their glorious return, it was reported that the Seven Party Alliance (i.e. His Majesty’s not-so-loyal Government) and the Maoist rebels (i.e. murderous brutes) had neared an agreement which would see monarchy in Nepal ‘suspended’ until after the constituent assembly elections and possible referendum to decide the fate of the King next year.

This alarming development will no doubt piss His Majesty off considerably, although quite what effect it would have is unclear. Virtually all His Majesty’s functions have now been usurped either by the Government or the House of Representatives. The people of Nepal should beware, however, that serious international tensions may result if the King’s one last role of felicitating foreign heads of state is stripped from him as well. The RCC waits nervously to report on what comes of this crisis (and our man in the Narayanhity Royal Palace continues to bite his fingernails as he cowers behind the Royal drinks cabinet).

Royal caption competition

A prize of a metaphorical slap on the back awaits the writer of the funniest caption to accompany this photo of His Majesty King Gyanendra of Nepal meeting His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh. Simply submit your caption in the comments section.

HM The King with HRH The Duke

First try:

HM King Gyanendra: Sir, I would like to felicitate your wife on behalf of my people.

HRH The Duke: Bugger off and felicitate your own wife! Lizzy’s not in to that sort of thing anyway.

Mormons mount legal challange

From our man in Denver — A month after his arrest, the work of our old friend Warren Steed Jeffes, leader and prophet of the fundamentalist Mormons, continues in his absence.

 On Monday, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals formally accepted written arguments submitted earlier this year by a Mormon trio; man wife and prospective wife number two. 

The Utah ménage (all Mormons) are asking the Denver-based federal appeals court to overturn Utah’s ban on polygamy, saying it violates their rights to religion, association and privacy. 

The case is being watched closely by Mormons, who hope the U.S. Supreme Court, will eventually take it up – in 1878 the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the polygamy conviction of George Reynolds, personal secretary to Mormon leader Brigham Young.  

“The sincere and deeply held religious beliefs of J. Bronson, D. Cook and G. Lee Cook are that the doctrine of plural marriage, i.e., a man having more than one wife, is ordained of God and is to be encouraged and practiced,” submitted their lawyer. 

Their legal argument hinges on a case in 2003, when the Supreme Court struck down a Texas ban on chap-on-chap action. They have argued that the state’s ban unconstitutionally targets one religion, and that under the 2003 ruling, striking down Texas laws banning sodomy, polygamy is a private interest that should not be prosecuted. 

“They [Supreme Court] found no compelling state interest in criminalizing homosexual sodomy based on a long history of states and/or a majority of society finding the practice immoral. Similarly, the state of Utah can offer no compelling justification for criminalizing polygamy.”  

Thereby legally conceding from the outset that they (the plaintiffs) are immoral.  

Assistant Utah Attorney General Nancy Kemp said the state’s anti-bigamy law affects all residents, not just members of fundamentalist Mormon sects who continue to hold those beliefs despite a decision by many Mormons to abandon the practice more than 100 years ago. 

“Nothing in the statute suggests that it is to be applied only in the context of religiously motivated plural marriage, and, in fact, it has been applied outside the context of religion,” Kemp wrote. 

Polygamy, along with incest, abduction and forced marriage, has been practiced in Utah since the 1800s, when early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints settled the Salt Lake valley.  

The faith officially abandoned these practices in 1890, although they continue among some members privately or in public splinter factions.

EU President: “Stand up for our values” & back the Pope

In a development which has left many reeling from the sheer unreality of it, the EU President has publicly supported the Pope, denounced Islam and left open the possibility of Turkey being rejected from the Union. 

I will clarify: this is not a piece of elaborate sarcasm, this actually happened. 

The EU Commission has in the past rejected Catholic commissioners, spoken against Church values and allowed John Paul II to be heckled whilst making a speech.

Talking to German paper Die Welt over the weekend, Jose Manuel Barroso accused European leaders of letting Benedict XVI down, after his remarks on violence and the prophet Mohamed in a lecture led to violent outbursts, murder and Church burning across Europe and the Muslim world.

“To attack the Pope because he referred to an historical document in a speech is fully unacceptable,” said Mr Barroso.

“I was disappointed that there weren’t more European leaders who said: of course the Pope has the right to express his views. The problem is not his remarks, but the reactions of the extremists.”

Mr Barroso implied that European leaders’ reticence to support the Pope suggested cowardice. “Perhaps because there is concern about a possible confrontation. And sometimes a sort of political correctness: that one is only being tolerant when placing the opinion of others above one’s own. I am very in favour of tolerance, but we should stand up for our values.” 

It is now very fashionable to dismiss Muslim violence as the work of an ignorant or brainwashed minority, countered naturally by exposure to Western society as it really is and not as preached by Imams.

However Barroso rubbished the idea that jihadists did not understand what they were seeking to destroy, saying “some of them are very educated people who have studied at our universities. And still, they hate our open societies, our free economies.” 

He went on to give the stark warning “If they are prepared to kill themselves for that, don’t you believe they are also prepared to kill us?” 

When questioned about Turkey’s upcoming entrance negotiations with the EU, he dropped the bullish, pro-accession line, which the commission has heretofore insisted upon.  

Asked whether Turkish EU membership could help boost moderate Islam and curb extremism, Mr Barroso said this is a “hypothetical question”.

“Turkey is currently not a member and in the short term, accession is not imminent. The EU member states have unanimously decided to open accession negotiations. This takes time, the result is open,” he stressed.

The commission will on 8 November release a report on Turkey’s membership preparations, with Mr Barroso saying the document will be “fair and objective” if Turkey has made progress to “possible membership” of the EU – notably he left the possibility of a failure of the talks open. 

This marks a radical departure in outlook and tone not just for the commission as a body but for the President personally.  

This dramatic vault-face ranks with the return of Elvis, Loch Ness monster sightings and Liberal Democrat manifestos for believability.  

What the media portrayed as an insensitive gaff by the Holy Father is now looking like the most subtle and potent move he could have made.  

In a week, he has highlighted the dogmatic insistence on violence in Islam, stirred public opinion against Islamic demonstrations in Europe and now the most prominent politician in the EU has publicly backed him, condemning European leaders who do not do the same.

While the new Pope may not be the great performer John Paul II was, he is proving a far more adept politician in a new millennium where subtlety is everything.

A real dialogue

kasper.jpgFrom our man in the Vatican – Catholic and Orthodox representatives have ended the bilateral meeting of the Catholic/Orthodox International Dialogue Comission citing a “spirit of friendship” and promising another meeting in the next year.

In a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting in Belgrade, held over five days, said the 60-some participants had discussed in depth a draft document that touched on papal supremacy and the role of Eastern-rite Catholic churches.

Unsurprisingly, a joint committee has been established to redraft the text in accordance with revisions imposed from both sides. The revised document is expected to be adopted by both sides during the next meeting.

In truth, it will probably contain as much substance as an unblessed communion wafer. What is important is that representatives of the Eastern Patriarchs and the Pontiff formerly known as the Patriarch of the West have sat down together without anyone being lamped with a crosier.

It was the first time the Commission had met since 2000, when talks were broken off following an outbreak of ecumenical happy-slapping concerning the Eastern Catholic churches in the former USSR.

It said the draft document, titled “The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Conciliarity and Authority in the Church,” was discussed at three levels of the church’s life: local, regional and universal. Esschewing details, Catholic participants said before the meeting that papal primacy was thought to be the most important and problematic issue on the table and that the Belgrade meeting would be part of a long process towards an “agreement” and presumably eventual re-unification.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, the Vatican’s head of delegation, told Vatican Radio Sept. 22 that the most important result of the meeting would be “the friendship we established in these days”.

Characterizing the atmosphere as “very serious but also very calm and friendly” he said that while the dialogue had been frank, all sides had steered clear of polemics, calling the progress “certainly a starting point”.

Cardinal Kasper, who famously said Cardinal Ratzinger would be elected pope “over my dead body” before the conclave, has been extremely well behaved since surviving Benedict’s election.

The Pope has said he hoped the Belgrade meeting would lead to “real ecumenical progress” between Catholics and the Orthodox.

Middlesex CCC win major trophy

Middlesex County Cricket Club have capped a remarkable season by being awarded the MCC Spirit of Cricket award at last night’s PCA awards at the Royal Albert Hall.

Finishing rock bottom of the first division with a staggering 1 win, 7 draws and 8 loses, Middlesex have certainly done their part to keep the famous English “amateur spirit” of the game alive. Indeed at no point this summer could someone have accused them of looking “professional”.

Working hard to secure the bottom spot in their Pro40 League division ensures a famous double relegation and a solid platform (of bedrock) to build on next year.

Captain Andrew Strauss was quoted as saying “Middle who? Oh them, yeah, bad luck about that, I’m sure the’ll do better next year.” 

Former Middlesex captain Mark Ramprakash, who was presented with the PCA Player of the Year award, decliend to comment.