Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Rock Star Wannabe


As has been pointed out by many recently, every time an Asian cricketing nation feels aggrieved, the R-word usually accompanies the criticism/complaint/rhetoric that follows the incident. In such an environment where folks complain about other folks complaining, it is only natural for some to water down their views, for fear of sounding extremist.

However, the more I think about the ball tampering incident, the more inclined I am towards believing that there is some element of racism in this situation. I don't think it is simple whinging and wining over spilt milk to scream about racism with the latest scandal in world cricket.

Let me preface all that I will opine here by saying that in my "glass half full" view of the world, most umpires are as fair as they can be and any mistakes they make are a result of a momentary lapses in concentration (ie. Simon Taufel & Aleem Dar) or pure incompetence (ie. Steve Bucknor, Asoka De Silva, Rudi Koertzen and countless others). However, I am of the firm opinion that D Hair is not incompetent. He is an average umpire with a grudge - against players from the subcontinent. The Pakistan incident is merely the latest manifestation of his sentiments.

Hair's day job, before he became an "elite" umpire, was that of a lawyer. In short the guy is not stupid. One can only assume that he knew exactly what he was doing and he knew exactly what the consequences were likely to be. What confounds me, given his learned background, is his state of mind while going through the various processes that would've led to the abhorrent series of decisions.

This sense of utter disbelief is not limited to the ball tampering incident alone. I would also like to know what he was trying to achieve by calling Muralitharan for chucking. I am the first to admit his action his not the purest and has been downright "diabolical" (to borrow one of Hair's terms) at times. For mine, Murali's action didn't change from the first ball he was called on, to the last. Why weren't the balls in between called by Hair? You cannot simply pick and choose when you want to be straight down the line and when you feel like doling out a little leniency. Just like the latest incident, he could have made better choices. The question begs itself, why does he always fail to make these better choices when he is umpiring teams from the subcontinent?

I have never considered Hair to be the greatest umpire (in fact before Taufel I would've struggled to name an Aussie umpire who would have waltzed into the "Elite Panel"). It is one thing to 'call it as you see it' and a totally different matter to be an attention seeker who craves the limelight. He would fit into the same category of people who audition for Australian Idol dressed as chickens or Big Bird from Sesame Street or any other farm animal you would care to name. He's a rock star wannabe.

If Hair believes he was acting in a sane and 'clear-headed' manner when he alleged ball tampering, his contract should be immediately terminated. If he was under stress (over and above the usual pressures of the job), then he should be offered help and stood down until he is fit and well again. Under any circumstance, he should not officiate in another international cricket match, because he has clearly demonstrated that he has another agenda that is based on his personal sentiments.

In this day and age where players lose their livelihoods, and commentators their contracts, for muttering a timid syllable against the endangered species that are our esteemed "Elite Panel" umpires, we should and do expect more from the said officals than acts based on whims and questionable agendas. They should be accountable for their actions and the ICC should show the resolve necessary to ensure that the men who protect the flame of the "Elite Panel" are of the highest moral ilk.
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