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Hair caught tampering: Psst! Gimme $500,000 and let me go

London, Aug. 25: Darrell Hair, the Australian umpire who found Pakistan guilty of cheating, had demanded what will be widely interpreted as a $500,000-bribe to step down from his post.

The disclosure was made in London by Malcolm Speed, the chief executive of the International Cricket Council, who seemed at pains to defend his fellow Australian.

“Darrell Hair was under great stress… and I am confident that Darrell Hair had no dishonest, underhand or malicious intent — he was seeking to find a solution in the interests of the game,” said Speed, who added that the charges against Pakistan would not be dropped.

Pakistan today said it would take part in the one-day series. This comes after threats from the England Cricket Board that it would meet Pakistani blackmail by inviting either the South Africans or the West Indians to fill the vacuum created by a possible pullout.

Even in a controversy with many twists and turns, Hair’s demand has come as a shock and will undermine his friends in Australia who have argued the umpire always tried to do an honest job in difficult circumstances.

In his letter sent on August 22 via Doug Cowie, the ICC’s Umpires and Referees Manager, Hair outlined his outrageous deal. The amount specified by Hair works out to Rs 2.3 crore.

Hair wrote: “Doug, just to firm up what we discussed earlier this evening. I appreciate the ICC may be put in an untenable position with regards to future appointments and having taken considerable time and advice, I make this one-off, non-negotiable offer.

“I am prepared to retire/ stand down/relinquish my position on the elite panel to take effect from 31st August 2006 on the following terms:

“1. A one-off payment to compensate the loss of future earnings and retainer payment over the next four years which I believe would have been the best years I have to offer ICC and world umpiring. This payment is to be the sum of [US dollars] 500,000 — details of which must be kept confidential by both parties. This sum to be paid directly into my account by 31st August 2006.

“2. ICC may announce the retirement in any way they wish, but I would prefer a simple ‘lifestyle choice’ as this was the very reason I moved from Australia to settle in the UK three years ago.

“3. No public comment to be made by me as to possible reasons for the decision.”

After the letter had been made public by Speed, Hair quickly reversed his decision — something he has been reluctant to do over Pakistan’s alleged ball tampering.

Hair said in a statement that he had not really meant what he had written. “This correspondence was composed after a very difficult time and was revoked by myself two days later after a period of serious consideration.”

He went on: “There was no malicious intent behind this communication with the ICC. I am anxious that the code of conduct hearing takes place as soon as possible so these matters can be resolved and allow me to move on with my umpiring.”

Speed was advised by lawyers to inform the Pakistan Cricket Board of the letter as it was relevant to the disciplinary case against Inzamam-ul Haq, the captain. Having informed the PCB, Speed then felt compelled to go public.

Speed said no action has yet been taken against Hair, but refused to rule out the possibility. “I have said to him that he is not sacked, he is not suspended, and he has not been charged. I also said to him that I didn’t guarantee that each of those three positions would be maintained indefinitely.”

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