As the son of a lawyer and a stockbroker, I am genetically disposed to sneeringly dismantling those I dislike and to shouting incoherently. Several characters in the Pakistan affair have caused me some near misses in the annurism stakes recently as I try to moderate both tendencies.
The predictable ruling at the Oval last week offered much in disgraceful conduct. Ranjan Mudugalle produced the predicted acquittal for ball-tampering and gave Izamam a slap on the wrist for bringing the game into “disrepute” (read “crisis”). In fairness he could have done nothing about the first and is too much of a diplomat to risk a Pakistan appeal by book-throwing over the second.
What set cricket loving blood to boil was the shameful way Darrel Hair was publicly removed from the ICC Trophy on a pretext (an obvious second sentencing from the ICC) and then pilloried.
Hair did marvellously to keep his lip stiff as he was marched out, forced to read his own ICC gagging order and then made to sit there as he was called a racist, told he was unfit for his job and and asked for apology after apology.
With a quiet dignity far beyond others we will come to in a minute, he preserved his temper and his dignity, he defended his honesty and his place at the top of his profession.
Pakistan have been putting it about, via their revolving door of mouth pieces, that their national honour had been upheld. Had it heck.
The now apparent agent provocateur of the protest was Waqar Younis, convicted cheat. We shall leave that ironic little twist alone.
Pakistan were last caught cheating back in the murky past of… December 2005, when they last played England. They were turning pirouettes on the wicket during a crowd disturbance as I recall.
But where was the brave and noble Izamam ul-Haq? When the press conferance began he was down to speak immediatly following Hair, but without warning he morphed into another head office man.
Why didn’t the vindicated man of honour come forward? Either he was hidden by the PCB who didn’t want him to face uncomfortable questions about disreputable conduct, or he was just too cowardly to step up.
And speaking of cowards, where the hell was Billy Doctrove? We know he was at the hearing, but as every decision taken on the day was as much his as Hair’s you would expect him to, if not come under equal fire, then at least be there.He has shown a reprehensible lack of support for his colleague throughout this mess, and has done as much as anyone to cause this crisis.
Pakistan have only been able to overturn the authority of the umpires by isolating Hair and smearing him with claims of racism. Had Doctrove physically stood shoulder to shoulder with Hair, does anyone seriously think this would have happened?
In truth, Hair will probably never umpire a test again. He won’t be sacked, the ICC cannot be that decisive, but he will be quietly put out to pasture in a few one day games in the world cup then left to the county championship next summer.
First to dance on his grave has been Geoffery Boycott. In his column in the Times this weekend, he accused Hair of bringing about the whole crisis.
He rubbished both the decision to call ball tampering (no mention of Doctrove, who was probably never their in the first place come to think of it) and the decision to award the match to England when Pakistan would not play.
He accused Hair of having an “enormous ego” and of “playing God”. This is GEOFFREY BOYCOTT we are talking about. The man Ian Botham once “dressed-up” as by simply painting “I love me” on his chest. A man whose penchant for self-aggrandisement used to make Fred Trueman grimace.
A man who has also never umpired a Test, never had any experience of swing-bowling or ball tampering, a man whose opinion is of no discernible value whatsoever. And yet he speaks, and speaks and speaks.
We can only hope that when Hair has finished the inevitable book, Sky will give him a microphone. If there is one thing Richie Benaud has taught us, it is that a dignified, professional Australian is far preferable to a braying Yorkshire windbag.