Pakistanis today burned pictures of Australian cricket umpire Darrell Hair and dubbed him a “mini Hitler” for his role in the sport’s first ever international forfeit – which awarded a game that Pakistan was winning to England.
The result angered millions across Pakistan, ranging from sports icons to schoolchildren. But to make matters worse, the dispute – which centred on allegations that Pakistan’s bowlers had tampered with the match ball – took on racist overtones.
“Do the white people not like the good performances of our bowlers?” grocer Ali Mohammed said in the southern city of Karachi.
Yesterday Mr Hair, 53, deemed Pakistan’s players to have illegally scuffed the ball to make it move unpredictably in the air during a five-day match being played at The Oval in London.
Hair penalised Pakistan and ordered the ball changed. Play continued initially but Pakistan later refused to return to the field. The umpires then awarded the match to England after deeming Pakistan had forfeited by not resuming – although Pakistan said it had only been staging a protest against Mr Hair’s decision and was about to go back on the field.
“Hair is one of those characters who, when he wears the white umpire's coat, he metamorphoses into a mini Hitler,” wrote Pakistan’s 1992 World Cup winning captain, Imran Khan, in a front page article in The Nation daily newspaper. “It was indeed a farce most sordid.”
Current skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq said his players were insulted at the cheating allegations and admitted they have had past problems with Mr Hair, renowned for having a strict interpretation of the rules.
“I hope the ICC will not appoint Darrell Hair to Pakistan matches in the future,” ul-Haq told Pakistan’s private Geo TV. “There should be no controversies then.”
The ICC later charged ul-Haq with bringing the game into disrepute for having taken his team off the field. The hearing will take place in London on Friday.
Mass circulation newspapers in Pakistan condemned the Australian umpire, and in Islamabad, schoolchildren burned a placard covered with pictures of Mr Hair and chanted: “Shame, shame. We want justice from ICC.”
But despite the public outrage, criticism in Pakistan was not unanimous.
“Umpires have the right to change the ball, and Pakistan players should have controlled their emotions,” said Jalaluddin, a former player in the Pakistan national team who goes by one name. “We see lots of wrong decisions during a cricket match, but does the player walk out or protest?”