Tue, Aug 22, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Hard man Hair no stranger to controversy


Umpire Darell Hair, center, talks with England batsman Ian Bell, right, and Paul Collingwood after the Pakistan cricket team left the pitch at London's Oval on Sunday.


Darrell Hair has acquired a reputation as an umpiring hard man since he joined the ranks of international cricket officials in 1992.

The 53-year-old Australian is a big man with a stern demeanor and a strict interpretation of the rules. He rarely smiles or laughs while play is going on, and, with the exception of Sri Lankans, was generally well regarded among players until Sunday.

Now he can add Pakistan to the list of countries where he's not likely to be welcome.

Although he and West Indies umpire Billy Doctrove jointly took the decision on Sunday to sanction Pakistan for ball tampering and then award the fourth Test to England when Pakistan stayed off the pitch in protest, Hair was seen as the main instigator.

Pakistan lost a match they had hoped to win and the team was found guilty of ball tampering by the two on-field umpires, ending a miserable tour of England by the tourists. At least two denials of LBW decisions at The Oval Test were excellently judged and Hair is known for paying little heed to the most hysterical appealing.

Yet he is no stranger to controversy. He made his international debut in 1992 and three years later created a storm by no-balling Sri Lankan Murali Muralitharan seven times in three overs in a Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, saying his bowling action was illegal.

According to the letter of the law, Muralitharan's action, using a bent elbow which results from a congenital condition, is illegal and the International Cricket Council has had to tweak the rules to allow the tiny Sri Lankan to keep bowling.

In an autobiography he later described Muralitharan's bowling action as "diabolical," a view condemned in Sri Lanka and not shared by the late Sir Donald Bradman -- the greatest of all cricketers -- who heaped criticism on Hair for penalizing the spinner.

Hair's actions led to death threats from Sri Lanka and he was not on the first list of elite umpires appointed in 2002. He did not umpire Sri Lanka again until 2003 and Muralitharan did not play in another Test in Australia for a decade.

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