Monday, August 28, 2006


"Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you."
It’s a great shame the author of that little gem is “Unknown”, as it’s really worth a nod of acknowledgement. Following the unfolding comedy of errors after last Sunday’s Test Match Bad Hair Day, this phrase kept coming into my mind.

It is very difficult to “know” what people are really like when you see them on TV or read about them in the newspapers, but I cannot believe Darryl Hair is a devious man. But the events of last week, involving his e-mail spat with the Cricketing Mafiosa have done his case no good at all.

The upper echelons of the bodies which run cricket are packed with legal eagles and career Diplomats. They would all say this is inevitable, but the simple issue of making cricket interesting and exciting for fans across the world rarely seems to sit at No. 1 on their agenda. Consequently, we look with morbid fascination at the saga of the e-mails which were released by the ICC last week, and cringe.

I would imagine that the furore after last Sunday came as a genuine surprise to Hair, as I suspect he is also a bit naïve, and not at all streetwise in the wider ways of the world.

The “authorities” however, are not like this. To them, politics and international diplomacy are centre stage. So what we’ve seen is a set of e-mails intentionally made public, when I am in no doubt Darryl Hair expected the private nature of them to be respected. I suspect they would have remained so, if it had suited the ICC’s case. When are people going to realise that they should equate the “Send” button on an e-mail with reading it out on News at Ten? Ask Jo (September 11 Good Day to Bury Bad News) Moore - my guess is that she would probably agree with this.

One can only assume that Hair did talk to a lawyer before firing off e-mail No.1 – some of the words of the e-mails can only have come out of the mouth of a lawyer, not a cricket umpire. If, as I suspect, Hair had just seen the rather daunting enormity and inevitability of what was facing him, and decided that his card was now totally marked, it is very understandable that he would want to seek a reasonable way out.

What a pity his lawyer didn’t insist on conducting what were clearly going to be sensitive negotiations in a different and much more subtle way. This could have been done without leaving any obvious trail. But it was not to be, and the ICC has now been handed a sitting duck opportunity to find a political way out. I doubt we will ever know “the truth” now.

This was a major, major error on Hair’s part. Until that point, think what you like about his decisions, no-one could doubt his position on the top of the moral high ground. When the ICC gave out the e-mails for inspection, this blew him off that moral summit immediately. From the ICC’s point of view, how extremely convenient was that!

When you read them, it is quite clear that significant discussions had already been held between ICC Officials (and high-up ones at that) and Darryl Hair. One construction which could be placed on it is that someone has been playing “Good Cop, Bad Cop” with him to get it all down in e-mail form and inevitably into the public domain – this being followed by a whiff of moral indignation and Malcolm Speed’s abrupt rejection. You do find it a bit difficult to believe that the boss of the ICC could not have known what was going on. You might say that, on probably the biggest issue of his Cricketing Year, if the CEO didn’t know, and hadn’t been involved, then he jolly well should have been. If he did know, well, you fill in the gaps …….. .

So, what now? The One Day Matches will go on – so that’s sorted the money side out. The hearing will go on after them, and I suspect now that Pakistan will not be found guilty. Hair’s career will end, and - Which way’s the Sunset?

Cynical, moi?

How sad.

Anyway, always leave them smiling - I know it’s irrelevant, but I did grin a wry little bit when I noticed the ICC’s lawyer’s name is Pannick - “Double N” said Malcolm Speed at the Press Conference. On the basis that there should be a joke in every speech, I think that was his.

Actually, having just read that again, I don’t find it at all funny.

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