A hair raising issue
The ICC has been bold enough to recall the services of once banished (or sent in for rehabilitation) member of their elite club Darrell Hair back in to the fold and let him bat on.
However amid all this pow-wow and speculation his central contract with his employers is scheduled to expire seven days hence, and by then ICC’s elite-elite – Ranjan Madugalle, Michael Holding, David Lloyd, Dave Richardson and CEO Malcolm Speed may have taken stock of who would serve as the next lot in their panel of elite umpires for the next few years.
|Hair and Billy picking the seam against Pakistan
Darrell Hair may have known all the rules in the manual and would have also known how to interpret them. However there was one basic fault in his huge anatomy. Darrell Hair like New Zealand’s Billy Bowden had a craving to be noticed in the middle and unlike the latter, who normally relies on a clown like act, Darrel chooses to take on some players or teams and make a terrible hash of a situation. Ironically both his most famous incidents have involved cricketers from the Asian region.
First he took on the Sri Lankan off spinner (may be with some unseen backing) Muttiah Muralitharan on the fateful boxing day Test match in 1995 and then went on to interpret the law from his own book against Pakistan and for the first time in Test Cricket history they forfeited the match, and thus cooked his own goose which also involved the ICC and its own working mechanism. Subsequently under tremendous pressure from the Asian camp he was sent into hibernation only to be brought back as a fresh Jack-in-the-box.
From the day Hair was sent into oblivion, the former colonials were sniveling on his behalf often paying wonderful poojas and praising what a competent umpire he was and how the world of cricket was missing the services of such a competent personality. As he is living in England at present the Englishmen also invited him to be an umpire representing their country. May be that they chose to extend that invitation so that they could nominate him into the elite panel as one of their nominees.
Well…. The ship has sailed and the Hair is combed and in by all indications Darrell will be there in the elite panel in the next lot too. However as mentioned in the international press how he is going to interact with Asian cricketers – especially against Pakistan and Sri Lanka is worth pondering. Generally a well calculated wrong decision can turn a match on its head and still go in as a genuine mistake or a so called human error.
In the recent past there has been a few glaring human errors committed by umpires which has led to huge controversies that has even ignited other branch issues. The most glaring among the lot is the famous or can we call it infamous Symonds let off in the second Test between India and Australia. This was the first spark of a chain of incidents that made the series one of the most controversial ones in the history of Test cricket. May I take the liberty to ask the authorities as to what happens to an umpire who indulges in incidents of this nature habitually?
What takes it to make a good umpire? Is it that he has played the game at the highest level? As things are that may help, but it is not the absolute solution to this complex issue. For instance Australian umpire Simon Taufel has been ranked as the best umpire in the world for the past few years, but, he hardly has played any cricket at any level. At the same time South African umpire Rudi Koertzen who also has not played cricket for its salt’s worth, but has managed to elevate himself into the elite position, but in competency behind and square of the stumps he is miles behind the show that Taufel brings into the game. Then the argument that you needn’t have played the game to be a good umpire does not hold much water.
At the same time the two Pakistani umpires Aleem Dar and Azad Rauf who have gone on to the level of representing the Pakistan Railways which takes part in one of the most recognized tournaments in that country have saved the grace for the elite panel and have stood the time of testing better than most of the others – especially Aleem Dar.
Then a while before there were two gentlemen from India and Sri Lanka in the ICC elite panel of umpires who had played the game at the highest level. They were – former Indian captain and legendary off spinner Srinivas Venkatraghavan and Sri Lanka’s own leg spinner cum batsman Asoka de Silva.
Both these gentlemen were once in the ICC elite panel of umpires and all of a sudden both were asked to pack their bags to make way for some others who are still in the panel without a change some time now. However it is no secret that neither of these umpires were ever embroiled in an issue the way that Hair was in the middle twice or was the originator of a diabolical series like the recently concluded one in Australia.
Ironically when these gentlemen were asked to leave the elite panel there was no one to take on the challenge and beg for mercy in either country across the Palk Straits. It is also interesting that since then no umpire has been invited to join the elitists from either country.
Venkatraghavan since then has branched off to other involvements in cricket in his homeland that keeps him occupied with dignity. Asoka de Silva is still an umpire involved with ICC and keeps helping them out whenever it is necessary, but, must be awaiting the day that the authorities decide to make the sheet clean once again.
Yet again the grouse is that the ICC must have taken steps against de Silva and Venkat on some issues, but it must be said that they were not so huge like the ones that have come to light in recent times. So far umpires Darrell Hair and Steve Bucknor from the West Indies have been sidelined, but not deleted. Then some other umpires have been taken off certain series on the requests of certain aggravated countries, but still nothing has happened. But, Asian umpires are taken off the hook and they stay unplugged for years on end.
However in a few days time the ICC panel of judges are to decide on a new elite panel. Sri Lanka fervently hopes that they at least will have one gentleman from Sri Lanka standing at one end.