The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Both Hair and the ICC are to be blamed
- Other top-quality umpires would have handled the situation very differently
Guest Column

Rameez Raja

Yet another black chapter found its way into cricket history. The saddest part is that it was a needless and totally avoidable controversy.

I blame Darrell Hair and the ICC for what happened on Black Sunday at The Oval. Hair, because he went only by the book, and not the spirit, in interpreting the laws. And the ICC, for being naïve in continuing to appoint Hair in matches involving Pakistan despite knowing fully well that there is no trust between the two parties.

Firstly, Hair didnít issue any warning to the Pakistan team before penalising them for an offence as serious as ball-tampering. By labelling them cheats, Hair has challenged the honour of this God-fearing, religious team.

Secondly, before abandoning the Test and thus ruling that Pakistan had forfeited the game, Hair didnít care to sort the problem out.

Iím hundred per cent certain that other top-quality umpires would have handled the situation very differently ó with communication and grace.

A total breakdown of communication was the root of the problem. All Hair needed to do was walk over to the Pakistan dressing room and ask the captain whether his side was willing to continue before taking the bails off for the final time.

Had he done that, the umpire would have known that the Pakistan team was only protes-ting against the slur of ball-tampering.

Even if his ego prevented Hair from talking to the Pakistan captain, the Australian should have allowed for breathing space while interpreting the laws.

Had Hair been a little more sensitive to the Pakistan playersí sentiments, he wouldnít have considered it as a refusal to continue. And there is a provision for lost time to be added on in such cases.

Iím not trying to say that umpires should turn a blind eye to the laws while dealing with sensitive issues. Yes, the laws have to be adhered to, but the interpretation has to be done sensibly.

Thatís precisely what Hair didnít do. The way he manages teams like Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka suggests that Hair doesnít understand the culture and sensitivities of Asian nations.

What also is beyond my comprehension is why the ICC keeps posting Hair for Pakistan games after knowing the history of mistrust.

When a strong decision is taken by the umpire in such a volatile atmosphere, there is bound to be a head-on collision between the parties concerned. The ICC should have pre-empted that by appointing anyone else from its panel.

I support Inzyís decision to protest by not taking the field after tea. The Pakistanis had every right to feel aggrieved. They must have sat down during the break and discussed the consequences and ramifications of the charge slapped against them before deciding on the form of protest.

Personally, I wish Inzy hadnít led the team out on to the field at all, even at a later stage.

I know for sure every Pakistan fan is now looking forward to Inzyís team being absolved of the ball-tampering charge. The ICC has a very weak case because not one of the 26 cameras Sky Sports was using for its coverage picked up any Pakistan bowler or fielder scuffing the ball. How can you pull up an individual or a team without any evidence'

I will sign off with a couple of thoughts.

First, Pakistan must play the ODI series because the ECB was in no way to blame for Sundayís fiasco. More important, the ICC needs to immediately review the ball-tampering laws so that no umpire can take a Draconian decision before issuing a warning to the team supposedly in the wrong.

Rameez Raja, a former Pakistan captain, is in the UK as part of Sky Sportsí star spangled commentary team

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