After the weekend, the HairBallGate debacle resembles that second-last scene in a Shakespeare tragedy where all the characters have gone mad and it only remains to see how they all kill each other. The major protagonists are:
1. Darrell Hair: If you haven’t seen the headlines, umpire Hair’s career is over. After submitting a letter to the ICC offering to resign in exchange for a payout of US$500,000, Hair’s employer dropped him faster than a Monty Panesar outfield catch by releasing the letter to the media, helpfully defending him against anything resembling “dishonest, underhand or malicious intent”. The Australian veteran is now friendless and, in an irony he probably won’t appreciate, his refusal to back down and his subsequent isolation leave him resembling no other figure than Big Sulking Inzy.
2. The International Cricket Council: The ICC has never enjoyed the respect or authority of, say, FINA or FIFA, and this is why. It’s hard to think of a less classy way to shaft an employee than ICC CEO Malcolm Speed’s dibber-dobber press conference. Speed claims the decision was based on legal advice, but given that it was Speed who personally failed to convince Hair to overturn this forfeit ruling at The Oval he couldn’t look more disloyal if he had been filmed lighting a Hair effigy in Karachi.
3. Pakistani cricket, generally: It’s hard to know where to begin. First, there’s the ball-tampering: whether or not any occurred last weekend, this furore has opened up old rumours and grievances (here’s just one example). Everyone, from Inzamam and his team to coach Bob Woolmer and Team Manager Zaheer Abbas to the Pakistan Cricket Board, has had his propriety called into question by one commentator or other. Then there are statesmen such as Ramiz Raja and Imran “mini-Hitler” Khan, making the Pakistan cricket community sound crazier than Greg Matthews and Kerry O’Keeffe combined. Rule one of spinning yourself as a victim: don’t act madder than your tormentor.
The final scene promises to be bloody. Hopefully the game of cricket itself will be able to sneak out stage left, bruised but alive.