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Since 1st March, 1999
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Hair plucked out of panel
- Match Referee Procter’s role to be probed; Ban on Ata-ur Rehman to be lifted

Mumbai: The controversial Darrell Hair has been plucked out of the International Cricket Council’s (ICC’s) Elite Panel of umpires. The world body has done this ‘surgery’ itself. Exactly how his contract, which runs till March 2008, is terminated will be decided after the ICC brass has “interacted” with him.

The world body chief, Percy Sonn, made this announcement (at the end of the two-day Executive Board meeting) on Saturday evening. Till then, there had been speculation that a 7-3 vote sealed the burly Australian’s fate.

However, according to The Telegraph’s sources, no voting took place. “Only Australia and England came out in Hair’s support, on Friday, while the eight other Test-playing nations (including New Zealand) wanted him out,” is what one source revealed.

“The Executive Board has lost confidence in Mr Hair... He has been informed of our decision and, now, the chief executive (Malcolm Speed) and general manager, cricket (Dave Richardson) are going to speak to him... We owe the courtesy of discussing his future with him,” remarked Sonn.

He didn’t let out anything more, though. In fact, at one time during an interaction with the Media, the ICC chief “barred” Speed from taking a question and attempted to lecture newspersons.

Sonn didn’t cut an elegant picture.

While umpires have, in the past, been quietly removed from the Elite Panel (after low assessments), nobody has quite got the boot. Hair, who set poor precedents on the field, is right at the centre of one himself.

It’s to be seen whether he takes legal action.

Significantly, Mike Procter (Match Referee in that dubious history-creating Oval Test) will now be subject to a ‘probe’. Belatedly, Speed and Richardson are going to prepare a “paper” evaluating and reviewing his role, which will be placed before the next meeting of the Chief Executives.

The other on-field umpire in that match, West Indies’ Billy Doctrove, however, has got away without even a rap on the knuckles. He’d gone along with everything that Hair did and ought also to have been taken to task.

Then, the ball tampering issue, which led to Pakistan’s forfeiture of that Test, is going to be referred to the Cricket Committee, chaired by our very own Sunil Gavaskar. It will, clearly, be a sensitive assignment.

Among other decisions, the Executive Board okayed the “reinstatement” of Ata-ur Rehman, banned for life for match-fixing, from May 2007. He was punished six years ago and had sought the world body’s “permission” to play league cricket in England.

In keeping with protocol, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) moved an application for Rehman’s reinstatement. It first went to Speed, who wasn’t convinced of the merits of the case. An “official inquiry” was then conducted by ICC Code of Conduct Commission chairman Michael Beloff and two members — the venerable Richie Benaud and Ajmalul Hossain.

The inquiry recommended that the ban be lifted. Sonn, of course, clarified that a precedent hadn’t been set and other banned cricketers need not begin to sleep easy. “Each case is going to be treated on merit,” he pointed out.

As for the controversial Members’ Participation Agreement for all events conducted by the world body from after next year’s World Cup till 2015, the “differences” have been sorted out. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had the strongest misgivings and there had been much rancour.

The BCCI, incidentally, withdrew its bid for the broadcast rights from 2007-2015. That’s because the ICC obtained legal opinion which said there would be a “conflict” of interest. In any case, it had been a bizarre step.

In yet another decision, Zimbabwe’s Test status will be “restored” from November 2007. Some conditions, though, have been placed.

Greece, by the way, won’t receive any funding after it fielded players (in the Europe World Cricket League’s Division-II) who weren’t eligible and, then, refused to play. The monetary penalty is going to be in place for a year. Additionally, Greece has been demoted.

The world body has, following a request from the United States of America Cricket Association, extended the deadline for elections under a “new constitution” till March 2007. No further extensions will be granted.

Footnote: Former PCB chairman Shaharyar Khan, who was among the first to call for action against Hair, has expressed “happiness” at the ICC’s decision. Khan, who arrived here shortly before Sonn went public, observed: “He had to go... I’m not with the PCB any more, but the feeling is one of happiness...” A former foreign secretary, he’s looking to teach “international relations” at a premier institution in Lahore.

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