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Hair-rising act

Let us not be too quick to accuse Darrell Hair of racism.

Cricket commentary


August 22, 2006: What all the analysts have agreed on is that it is an unfortunate episode, and some have called it one of the most unfortunate ever in cricket.

Pakistan refused to take the field, in the fourth Test at Oval against England, protesting against a decision
by Darrell Hair, and were forced to forfeit the match. Hair found that the ball was swinging around a bit too
much and was twisted a bit too much. He thought that the Pakistanis must have tampered with the ball and penalised them five runs to begin with. Then he allowed the Englishmen to choose another ball of their choice. 

Analysing dispassionately from a distance, it was not such a harsh punishment, especially because Pakistan would most certainly have gone on to win the match if play had continued. But then, it was the ball-tampering slur that made Inzie and co wince. 

Hair almost certainly was influenced in his decision by Pakistanis’ track record. They were the ones who invented reverse swing and such an unsual swing has always been linked to the shape of the ball or the lack of it. Legendary pacers like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis have been accused of it, not to talk about lesser mortals. 

Our own legend, Sachin Tendulkar was caught on camera picking the seam of the ball and punished for the offence. 

A report in the Daily Telegraph claims that Sunday's ball-tampering row may have been triggered by Duncan Fletcher, England's coach. According to this report, Fletcher may have brought the attention of Mike Procter, the match referee, to the state of the ball before the start of the fourth day's play. So, Hair may not just have been acting on his own suspicion and alleged racial prejudice.

How can Hair punish Inzie’s team without evidence is the next question? Well, when a match referee punishes a team for verbal abuse, what kind of evidence does he rely on? Doesn’t he go by gut feeling and judgment? When a player goes out cursing after a decision he is not pleased with, how do you know whether he is expressing his anguish at his own misfortune or whether is showing dissent against the umpire? 

To Hair’s credit, he has gone by the rule book. While analysts including Imran Khan have attacked him for his fundamentalist attitude of following the rule by the letter and not the spirit, how can we justify Pakistan’s act of showing defiance by not taking the field and thereby holding viewers at the stadium and TV viewers elsewhere to ransom? And why should the country’s President get involved at all with his supportive comments?

As for allegations of racism against Hair, isn’t it also a convenient way of defending yourself? You may say that the umpire was wrong in meting out such harsh punishment without concrete evidence but isn’t it unfair to accuse him of being a fundamentalist?

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