Pakistan, ball-tampering and Darrell Hair
The chaotic shambles of the fourth Test match at the Oval has been a disaster for cricket as a whole and for Pakistan in particular. Most of the opprobrium seems to have been directed at Darrell Hair, the Australian umpire who famously no-balled Muttiah Muralitharan in Sydney. By changing the ball mid-innings and awarding England five penalty runs, Hair implicitly accused the Pakistan team of tampering with the ball - cheating. Yet by subsequently charging only Inzamam-ul-Haq, the skipper, Hair has conceded that he cannot prove who tampered with the ball.
All these rules have been the subject of exhaustive scrutiny, yet most people are missing the point. The decision was made after 1992, when Pakistan again were the culprits, to make ball-tampering an issue that the umpires could deal with swiftly and non-controversially on-pitch in order to avoid the lengthy delays, arguments and legal shenanigans that the old system brought up. When Hair saw that the state of the ball had materially altered in the fifteen minutes since he had last seen it, he had two choices: to follow the laws of the game and substitute the ball for another of similar quality, or to ignore his suspicions, and thus the laws of the game and do nothing.
Hair may well have been wrong to conclude that the ball had been tampered with, though Doctrove seems to have agreed with him. But the laws emphatically state that it is the opinion of the umpire that matters. Once that decision was made, that was that. In the hearing after the match, the question of the absolute validity of the decision could have been decided, if Pakistan decided to appeal the case. When the BBC witter on about the fact that no individual player is accused, therefore Hair can't prove tampering, they are missing the point: Hair decided that the ball had been tampered with, the question of who had done it was not material at that point.
The walk-out by Pakistan was a gross over-reaction. Once Pakistan failed to appear after tea, and continued to remain in the pavilion after being warned of the consequences, there really was only one choice for the umpires: the rules are very clear indeed. Pakistan say they have an issue with Hair, shrill voices in the Guardian call him racist, but no team can have a veto on who officiates. It is undeniable that Hair could and should have shown more tact; but surely he can hardly be expected to have foreseen that an international team would behave like a bunch of spoiled children?