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Chucking crackdown, 20 years too late - Darrell Hair

Published on Tuesday, 14 October 2014 16:16

DarrelHair 410px 14 10 14Darrell Hair, the umpire who famously no-balled Muttiah Muralitharan in a Boxing Day Test, says cricket's crackdown on illegal bowling actions has come 20 years too late, leaving the game with "a generation of chuckers".

The Australian has watched with interest as a succession of leading bowlers led by Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal have been suspended from international cricket or reported in an unprecedented purge.

The absence of Ajmal for the upcoming Test series against Australia in the United Arab Emirates is a huge blow for Pakistan but Hair predictably has little sympathy, instead taking aim at the ICC for being soft on one of the game's most vexed issues for too long. "Whatever they're doing now, they're doing 20 years too late," he said. "They had a chance in 1995 to clean things up and it's taken them 19 years to finally come back and say they want chuckers out of the game.  I can't believe that Saaed Ajmal has been able to bowl as long as he has, and they say he is bending his arm by 45 degrees [the legal limit is 15 degrees] or something. Well, every man and his dog would have known that.

"I suppose what it does show is the general weakness of the umpires over time to do anything about it."

Now six years into international retirement and working with his old club in Orange, the 62-year-old was at the centre of one of cricket's most notorious episodes when he repeatedly no-balled a 23-year-old Muralitharan during the Boxing Day Test between Australia and Sri Lanka at the MCG in 1995. Muralitharan had his action cleared the following May, and then again in 1999 after he was called again by umpire Ross Emerson during a one-day international in Adelaide, and went on to take more Test wickets than any bowler in history.

"People say 'you should be happy with the way things turned out'...with the chuckers being weeded out. But it doesn't give me any personal satisfaction whatsoever," Hair said. "All I was doing at any time was just doing my job and I think I did it to the best of my ability. The fact was that no other ICC umpires were willing to have a go. Ross Emerson was very adamant about his thoughts about chuckers but they soon put him into the background.

"I suppose I was lucky I had a few games under my belt so they didn't want to target me, but they certainly got him out of the way fairly swiftly. It'll be interesting to see how many umpires are brave enough to get involved in it. I said it in the late '90s that if something wasn't done about it you'd have a generation of chuckers on your hands and now you have. They try to emulate Harbajan Singh and Saqlain Mushtaq and Murali and that's the problem. The crackdown should have happened on those players and the ICC should have let it be known that it wasn't acceptable."

After years of administrative inaction and discontent among players, the clampdown followed a key meeting in June of the ICC Cricket Committee, on which former Test captain Mark Taylor and current Australian coach Darren Lehmann sit. There have been questions about the timing, with Pakistan coach Waqar Younis saying teams with suspended players will be hurt badly in the World Cup, but it appears there is no turning back.

"The game had reached a tipping point on this issue, when many groups within the game felt that there were too many bowlers with suspect actions operating in international cricket,"  ICC general manager of cricket operations, Geoff Allardice, told Fairfax Media. "The most prominent of these groups was the ICC Cricket Committee at its meeting in June, when it observed the ICC's reporting and testing procedures were not adequately scrutinising these bowlers. They weren't the only ones talking about this issue, as similar views had been expressed by teams, players, umpires, referees and administrators."

"Since that time the umpires have felt more confident to report their concerns with certain bowlers, and their concerns have been supported by the results of the testing of these reported bowlers."


Last Updated on Monday, 20 October 2014 12:15