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Hair headache for India
- ICC cancels meet, Champions Trophy poser lingers

London, Aug. 28: The International Cricket Council (ICC) today abruptly cancelled a meeting of its executive board, which was due to have met in Dubai on Saturday to discuss the future of the controversial umpire Darrell Hair and the cheating charge brought by him against Pakistan.

This will increase the uncertainty for the Indian cricket authorities who want the issues resolved in time for the 10-nation ICC Champions Trophy to be held in India in October and November.

In particular, India has to decide whether it wants Hair to stand during the 21 matches due to be played by 10 teams — including Pakistan and England — at four venues in India between October 7 and November 5.

Without a solution, the trophy, which means a lot to India, could be thrown into chaos, cricket officials predicted.

Pakistan’s view is that the controversial Australian umpire shouldn’t stand but Malcolm Speed, chief executive of the ICC, has said: “I hope that we can find a way for Darrell Hair to continue as an umpire. He is one of the top two, three or four in the world. We will have to let a little time pass.”

Ahead of the meting in Dubai on September 2, Pakistan was canvassing India and other sympathetic members in seeking Hair’s ouster from the elite panel of umpires.

But cancelling the meeting at short notice, ICC president Percy Sonn said: “I sent each director a note last Friday and will telephone each of them over the next couple of days to further explain what has happened over the past week and ensure they understand the process from here onwards.”

“There has been much speculation over the past few days about whether the executive board has the power to overturn a properly laid charge by the umpires,” he continued. “The original intention was to seek legal advice concerning the executive board’s powers but I do not believe it is necessary to obtain that advice. We have processes in place to deal with Code of Conduct matters and we should not seek to interfere with it.”

Hair’s position has been weakened — beyond repair, many say — after the disclosure that he had sought $500,000 as the price for his silence.

“Pakistan has held discussions with some other (ICC) member boards on this issue and are confident that after the Hair demand for money, it would be able to move a motion asking for the Australian’s removal from the elite panel,” an official of the Pakistan Cricket Board was quoted as telling a news agency today.

The issues facing the ICC — and India — were spelt out today by one cricket writer, Simon Wilde, who wrote: “The ICC’s line yesterday was that Hair would still stand in the Champions Trophy, although Speed admitted that further water needed to pass under the bridge first. It is hard to see it happening. Apart from anything else, Hair’s safety probably could not be guaranteed. It may never be appropriate for him to stand in international matches anywhere, but India in October is surely too soon and too close to Pakistan for comfort.”

Another writer, Denis Campbell, suggested that Hair “is likely to be paid off but to be banned from talking about the affair. Insiders believe the International Cricket Council may continue to employ Darrell Hair until his contract ends in March 2008, but not let him officiate at any matches, in an attempt to defuse the game’s biggest crisis in years.”

He added: “Hair’s widely criticised decisions during the (Oval Test) match, and extraordinary suggestion of such a hefty payoff, may yet mean the Australian is charged by the ICC with breaching his contract and dismissed. But senior sources say the organisation is likely to honour Hair’s contract to stop him discussing the events of the past week until spring 2008. With his annual retainer of £30,000-£40,000 and additional fees for ‘standing’ in Test matches and one-day internationals, Hair earns £60,000-£70,000 a year from the ICC, which would have to pay him around £100,000 to buy his silence.”

It is perhaps ironic that the winner of the Champions Trophy stands to collect a cheque for $500,000 — the money Hair had demanded.

Sharad Pawar, the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, has said: “The BCCI is very excited to be hosting this prestigious event that will bring all the major cricket-playing sides together in India for the first time in 10 years. The ICC Champions Trophy is an important event for world cricket and we are looking forward to working in partnership with the ICC to deliver an exceptional tournament.”

Yesterday, Vic Marks wrote in a Sunday paper: “The chances of the burly Australian standing on the world stage again must be remote.”

But if Hair insists — and is backed by Speed — things may yet be messed up for India.

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