World cricket at Asia's mercy as Hair loses and Rehman wins
by AFP

Player:Ata-ur-Rehman, DB Hair

DateLine: 5th November 2006


Asia took a vice-like grip on cricket's administration after umpire Darrell Hair was sacked and a life ban on Pakistani match-fixing accused Ata-ur-Rehman was revoked.


The extraordinary decisions were taken by the International Cricket Council's Executive Board at its two-day meeting over the weekend here, making Asian nations buoyant and leaving the rest of the cricket world red-faced.


Hair, 54, was removed from the elite international panel of umpires after the controversial Australian official was involved in the ball-tampering row with Pakistan during the Oval Test against England in August.


ICC president Percy Sonn, a South African lawyer, told reporters that the Executive Board had "decided it has lost confidence in the umpire."


But a highly-placed ICC source had told AFP on Friday that pressure from Asia's four Test-playing nations - India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - had forced the Board's hand.


"The Asian bloc comprising India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh tabled a motion at the meeting that Hair be taken off the panel," the source said.


"The motion was put to a vote and was passed by a 7-3 majority.


"The four Asian nations plus South Africa, Zimbabwe and the West Indies voted against Hair. England, Australia and New Zealand wanted him to continue."


Both Sonn and ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed declined to take questions on whether the umpires' integrity had been compromised by Hair's unprecedented sacking or which countries wanted him removed.


Former Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) director Abbas Zaidi told AFP that Hair's removal had vindicated the country's tough stand against the umpire.


"Since we were involved in the standoff it vindicates whatever we believed and advocated," Zaidi said. "We thank the Asian cricket boards, especially India, for the support in the Hair issue."


Australian captain Ricky Ponting said he was surprised at Hair's sacking.


"I'm surprised by it and disappointed for him," Ponting said ahead of his team's Champions Trophy final against the West Indies here on Sunday.


"He's obviously done lots of good things right over a long period of time. He's done what he believed was right at the time for the good of the game."


The ICC lifted the life ban on Rehman, a Pakistani fast bowler who was implicated of hobnobbing with illegal bookmakers by an internal inquiry of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in 1999.


An ICC review committee headed by respected television commentator Richie Benaud, a former Australian captain, had considered 31-year-old Rehman's application to lift the ban so that he could play league cricket in England, Sonn said.


Rehman played 13 Tests and 30 one-day internationals between 1992 and 1996, claiming 31 Test and 27 one-day wickets. He last represented Pakistan in a one-dayer against England in Birmingham on August 31, 1996.


Three former Test captains, Salim Malik of Pakistan, Mohammad Azharuddin of India and the late Hansie Cronje of South Africa were also banned for life in the match-fixing scandal that hit cricket from 1998 to 2001.


The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), which has publicly stated it wants Azharuddin's ban lifted, will be encouraged by the decision on Rehman to press its case.


India is the economic powerhouse of world cricket with five of the ICC's six main sponsors being Indian firms or the Indian branches of international businesses which target the enormous market on the sub-continent where cricket totally dominates all sports.

(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)