In Defence of Darrell Hair
Russell Degnan

I'll confess at the start, that I have always been an admirer of Darrell Hair. He has consistently been one of the better umpires in general decision making for some time, and is rightly perceived as such by the ICC. In spite of the controversy that often surrounds him, he has carved out a long career on the international circuit.

As a decision maker, he is confident and unflustered. But most importantly, he is a literalist when it comes to interpreting the laws.

To read the comments on Will's site many commentators think Hair is either biased, arrogant, narcissistic or merely undiplomatic. I disagree. As an umpire Hair is employed to interpret and apply the law, as written. Many, nay all, of the controversies revolve lie in the difference between Hair's strict interpetation and the looser interpetation, steeped in politics, negotiation and outright threats that certain nations want to engage in.

You may disagree with the role the umpire should play, and no doubt, a calm and approachable unpire is better, but when it comes to the laws of the game, I believe, strongly, that first and foremost they should be applied. To do otherwise it to invite chaos. If someone has an issue with the rules, then they can apply to have them changed, but that is a different thing.

Hair has been consitently correct in his actions, and deserves credit for doing so. For reference, here are the four most significant decisions he has made:

1. Calling Muralithatan

Law 24.2
[...] the ball must be bowled not thrown [...] If either umpire is not entirely satisfied with the absolute fairness of a delivery in this respect he shall call and signal 'no ball' [...] [emphasis mine]

This law has been changed since 1996, but that was what was in operation when Muralitharan was called. Note the emphasis. There is no "close enough is good enough" in that statement, no "he seems like a nice chap, let's not ruin his career", no "this is a big occasion". If an umpire is not "entirely" satisfied that a ball is bowled then it is a 'no-ball'. The onus is on the bowler to be fair. Hair was right to call him. He was wrong to call him less often than he did. As were all the other umpires who "expressed doubts" and didn't make the call.

2. Giving Jimmy Adams LBW

Law 36
The striker is out LBW [...] is either between wicket and wicket or outside the line of the off stump, if the striker has made no genuine attempt to play the ball with his bat. [emphasis mine]

This was controversial at the time, as Adams was slowly building a career out of playing spinners with his bat behind his pad. Once again Hair, albeit with a mindset against such a negative approach, applied the law literally. The word "genuine" implies something more than a general waft in the direction of the ball. Despite the impression the commentators like to give, there is nothing in the rules anywhere about giving the batsman the benefit of the doubt. Adams approach to kicking the ball away with his bat safely tucked was given out, and rightfully so.

3. Penalising Pakistan for Ball Tampering

Law 42
[...] The umpires shall be the sole judges of fair and unfair play. If either umpire considers an action, not covered by the Laws, to be unfair, he shall intervene without appeal [...] (c) The umpires shall make frequent and irregular inspections of the ball. [...] In the event of any fielder changing the condition of the ball unfairly, as set out in (b) above, the umpires after consultation shall
(i) change the ball forthwith. [...]
(iii) award 5 penalty runs to the batting side.
(iv) inform the captain of the fielding side that the reason for the action was the unfair interference with the ball.
(v) inform the captain of the batting side as soon as practicable of what has occurred.
(vi) report the occurrence as soon as possible to the Executive of the fielding side and any Governing Body responsible for the match, who shall take such action as is considered appropriate against the captain and team concerned. [emphasis mine]

I quoted this at length for the simple expedient of pointing out to people who obviously haven't read the relevant rule, that the actions taken by the umpires in the current controversy have to follow a set routine.

They don't have to tell the opposing captain they think they cheated, nor do they need to get involved in an on-field altercation over it. Nor do they need to show any evidence, video or otherwise of the player actually tampering with the ball. The regular and infrequent inspection of the ball is there precisely because the law expects the umpire to take action when they notice the ball has been tampered with. If Umpire Hair, after consulting with his partner believed the seam had been lifted then he can change the ball, and apply a penalty.

Neither the match referees, managers or captains need to be involved in the decision, and nor does it need to take all day, or be done later while the fielding team bowls with a suspect ball. Change it, apply the penalty, inform the captain and the authorities. once again, Darrell Hair did exactly as was expected of him.

4. Allowing Pakistan to Forfeit

Law 21
A match shall be lost by a side which [...] in the opinion of the umpires refuses to play. If an umpire considers that an action by any player or players might constitute a refusal by either side to play then the umpires together shall ascertain the cause of the action. If they then decide together that this action does constitute a refusal to play by one side, they shall so inform the captain of that side. If the captain persists in the action the umpires shall award the match in accordance with (a)(ii) above. [emphasis mine]

This is really quite straight forward. As the CricInfo report notes, Pakistan did not resume play, the umpires went back inside to ascertain why, and when Pakistan did not resume playing the game was forfeited. You don't have to like the law, you might even consider it ridiculous and harsh, but don't complain to the umpires for applying it. There has been nothing in any of the reports to suggest that the umpires did anything wrong, including, most importantly, the ICC Press Release:

In accordance with the laws of cricket it was noted that the umpires had correctly deemed that Pakistan had forfeited the match and awarded the Test to England.

In short. If you don't like the laws of cricket then petition the ICC to change the laws of cricket. But don't complain about an umpire, who, throughout his career has applied the law as the wording implies it should. Umpires are not politicians or diplomats, they are unbiased officials. No matter that the outcome of this game was unsatisfactory, we should applaud their efforts to uphold the Laws of the Game as they are employed to do.

Cricket - Articles 21st August, 2006 14:56:42   [#] 


In Defence of Darrell Hair
EXCELLENT post. Umpires are there to implement laws not to "negotiate" them.

aj  21st August, 2006 16:40:37  

In Defence of Darrell Hair
As you say, it really is quite straight forward. Rules that are never publically questioned unless there is a dispute, and someone to enforce them. I think it will be a good lesson to all international cricket players. The only game that you are there for is to play cricket.
Andrew  21st August, 2006 21:07:06  

In Defence of Darrell Hair
Good on Hair I believe. Even if the decision on ball tampering was wrong, Pakistan had no right to carry on as they did, refusing to play. I'd think Hair would have been confident of the ball tampering before he applied the rules - he is an experienced umpire and would undoubtedly have the experience to distinguish between normal wear and tear and deliberate damage to the ball. The forfeit was the inevitable consequence of Pakistan's behaviour and deserved - I'd expect significant financial penalties against the players as well as the loss of the game (but I'd expect the Pakistan board to blame it all on Hair and say their boys were justified).

Hair was right on Murali also. What he does is not bowling and despite all the bastardisation of the laws of cricket it is still not bowling as most cricket followers know it.
Living in Canberra  21st August, 2006 22:13:47  

In Defence of Darrell Hair
The thing that Hair does is to make a stand on how the rules are being let drift. His autobiography makes it clear that his calling of Murali was pre-meditated. "Diabolical" was his description and he set out to do something about it because no one else would.

The same with Jimmy Adams. The definition of a 'shot' was getting hopelessly lax. As long as the bat was in the general area then it gave lazy umpires a chance to give a not out.

I think in this case Inzi is paying for the sins of Tubby Ranatunga. When the Sri Lankans had to be talked into returning to the field after their temper tantrum I reckon Darrell went to his rulebook to look hard at what the rules say about teams refusing to take the field. I reckon he has had that rule up his sleeve now for a decade ready to lay the smack down on a recalcitrant captain.
Bruce  22nd August, 2006 17:36:11  

In Defence of Darrell Hair
AJ, thanks.

Bruce, quite right. Hair even mentions walk-offs in his auto-biography (p161-162):

Gould [Rooster coach] was so incensed when he felt his team was on the wrong side of the penalty count that he sent a message out to his captain to organise a 'walk-off'. What a silly way to make a protest and to my mind it was an absolute disgrace. Trying to publicly humiliate a referee or official must be the lowest act that a coach can dream up. Who was he trying to protect? His team for infringing the rules and conceding penalties? Or was he tryign to deflect criticism away from the fact that his own players were not carrying out his game plan? There is an old saying that the coach cannot actually play on behalf of his team but Gould was doing the next best thing. I reckon a $100,000 fine should have been imposed.
Thankfully this type of attitude is not part of cricket even if some coaches would like it to be.

Darrell seems like the sort of bloke who loves being right too. I bet he's a gun at trivia.
Russ  22nd August, 2006 17:55:18