Hair kept most of his opinions for his book, Decision Maker, released in 1998. Yet it remains valuable because it is the only detailed account by a no-ball umpire explaining his actions. He discusses, for example, watching Muralidaran in the Singer Cup in Sharjah and describes his appointment to a limited-over international between Sri Lanka and Australia in Sydney on 21 December 1995 with ‘some misgivings’. Hair states that Muralidaran’s action was more ‘pronounced’ in his ten overs than it had been in Sharjah, admits that he should have called the bowler when his action became ‘diabolical’, but did not do so because he preferred the matter to be ‘resolved behind the scenes’. Hair states that he had a long discussion with ICC referee Dowling who made it clear he would not intervene. Hair stresses that Dowling left him with the impression that he would not only act alone on the field but would have to bear any moral authority himself.
The book is curious for both some of its omissions as well as its admissions. Apart from saying that ‘the best place to view most suspect actions was from behind the bowler’, Hair makes no reference to the fact that such an action was uncommon. Indeed, other than Andrew Barlow’s persistent calling of Eddie Gilbert in 1931 and Colin Egar’s two calls against Brian Quigley in 1960, it was the only time it had been done in first-class cricket in Australia in 94 years.
On the admissions’ side Hair writes that Ranatunga’s decision to switch Muralidaran to the other end was ‘extraordinary and inflammatory’ as he was putting enormous pressure on Steve Dunne but he seems to be suffering a peculiar form of blindness here. Hair concluded that Ranatunga should have followed convention by removing his bowler from the attack and cited Richie Benaud’s example with Meckiff in Brisbane in 1963. The problem is that Hair’s knowledge of cricket history is incomplete because in four of the major cases of multiple no-balling in Australia-Marsh by Crockett (1901), Pitcher by Crockett (1911), Halcombe by Buttsworth (1930), and Gilbert by Barlow (1931), the captains had switched their bowlers to the other end at least during the match. In the case of Halcombe by Barlow (1930) the captain had not done so. The trouble with Hair’s argument is that it was he who was breaking convention and perhaps making it difficult for the two umpires to work as a team.
By calling Muralidaran from the bowlers’ end Hair overrode what is normally regarded as the authority of the square leg umpire in adjudicating on throwing. Whatever unenviable position Hair had left himself in he had certainly placed umpire Dunne in one as well. Dunne would have had to break convention to support his partner. It is not surprising that he did not do so.
Hair was described by Age reporter Martin Blake as one of the game’s ‘tough men’ but there is also little doubt that the incident, and especially his recollection of it in his book, reveals him as something of a maverick. ‘I did not call him from square leg (Hair states) as I firmly believed the best place to view most suspect actions was from behind the bowler.’ He then added a little later:
After the tea break I informed the acting captain, Aravinda de Silva, that if Muralidharan [sic] bowled again from either end, I would not hesitate to no ball him. This was by no means the ideal way to finalise the matter but I felt the situation was now farcical as Muralidharan had continued to deliver the ball with the same action that I clearly considered to be very much illegal.
Hair admits he was alone in his views; however, he would have been even more of a maverick if he had made calls from square leg on the second day. Such an action would have removed his fellow umpire’s authority entirely. Hair claims that he had little care for how the press reported the throwing incident but then spends several pages of his book attempting to rebut opinions that disagree with his own. In describing as ‘most laughable’ the article regarding the surgeon’s report on Muralidaran’s bent elbow he surely condemns himself: ‘It was never an issue for me that his arm could not be fully straightened as partial straightening is all that is necessary to constitute a throw.’ When is straight straight? It also contradicts his own stated position about bent arm bowling being legitimate.
At the end of the match the Sri Lankans requested from the ICC permission to confer with Hair in order to find out exactly how to remedy the problem with their bowler. Despite the game’s controlling body agreeing to it, the Australian Cricket Board vetoed it on the grounds that it might lead to umpires being quizzed by teams after every game. In the circumstances the ACB’s attitude was odd and meant that the throwing controversy would continue into the World Series Cup during the coming week. The Sri Lankans were entitled to an explanation and would continue playing their bowler in matches not umpired by Hair and putting other umpires on notice to either support or reject Hair’s judgement.
The immediate aftermath was that in the Sri Lanka-West Indies limited over international match in Hobart on 3 January 1996 Muralidaran was selected and bowled ten overs and took two wickets in a match his team lost by 70 runs. His action was passed by umpires Terry Prue and Steve Davis but the following game two days later would see the throwing saga continue.
Sri Lanka v West Indies (ODI), 5 January 1996
The next calls against Muralidaran for throwing represented a case of unfinished business. The match was the first ever floodlit limited over international at the Brisbane Cricket Ground and was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the first of all one-day internationals. It would be historic for other reasons.
If any throwing calls were going to be made it was expected that the man to make them would be Tony McQuillan whose match report from Sri Lanka’s opening first-class match of the tour against Queensland at Mackay put the focus on Muralidaran. However, it was his partner, Ross Emerson, officiating in his first international match who made the damning calls. Emerson no-balled Muralidaran three times in his first over, twice in his second and twice in his third. It was an identical tally to that called by Hair on Boxing Day and (like Hair) Emerson made his calls from the bowler’s end while his partner stood silent. The main difference was that several no-balls were for leg-breaks instead of the bowler’s normal off-breaks.
In an action which anticipated the umpire’s decision, Sri Lankan coach Whatmore set up a slow motion camera on the mid-wicket boundary as Muralidaran took up the attack. Although large sections of the crowd booed loudly each time Muralidaran was called the decision to continue bowling him was viewed as an act of defiance. The bowler’s active involvement ended in the tour at that point but the prediction that his international career lay in tatters proved inaccurate. Two months later Sri Lanka won the 1996 World Cup and Muralidaran with 7 wickets at 30.85 was a key player for his side.
Throwing fell off the agenda in Australian cricket with the exception of the calls against Queensland spinner Geoff Foley by Ross Emerson in the 1997-98 season, only to be revived by Emerson again against Muralidaran when the Sri Lankans next toured.