DARRELL Hair's book "Decision maker: an umpire's story" has one distinction -- it is the first book to render its writer liable to be charged with violating the ICC code of conduct. It has also helped people to realise that the code is a lame duck; no provision exists to punish an umpire who is found guilty of any such charge!!!
Hair has written the book for just one reason -- to make money. Else there was no reason for him to come out with a book at this time. Apart from the alleged throwing incident, there is little meat in the book. Hair is a babe in the field and one cannot compare his efforts with those of Dickie Bird; Bird was an institution and he wrote the book after he retired, a time when people normally consider writing their life story.
Hair, on the other hand, saw the time was ripe to capitalise on his having called Muralitharan in 1995-96 and found a willing publisher. I doubt, though, that too many discerning people will buy the book though they may read it due to the sensational media reaction to it. One point about his account of the Murali saga deserves mention: he cites people who both agreed and disagreed with him but omits to mention that of the other umpires who called Muralitharan that season, Ross Emerson did so when the bowler was delivering leg-breaks! This is glossed over. It has to be; else, it would weaken his case against the "diabolical" action, wouldn't it?
The juxtaposition of topics is interesting. Soon after the opening chapter on (what else?) the Muralitharan affair, Hair confesses to having made wrong decisions in the Adelaide Test against South Africa in 1993/94. Good timing; he must remind the reader that he is a fair bloke, one who never claims he is right all the time, mustn't he?
Hair accuses the Australians of being whingers, and suggests that South Africa learned this trait from Kepler Wessels who played for both countries. The way he puts it is that when either of these two sides are bowling, then everything they appeal for is out but when they are batting nothing is out!
Hair has few kind words for Allan Border, revealing that he and many of his colleagues used to call Border "the third umpire". There is a lot of praise for Mike Atherton and also some good words for Richie Richardson. One gets the feeling that he has used the book to get back at people whom he feels have slighted him on the field or off but has avoided criticising the Australian board; he knows full well that he who pays the piper calls the tune.
There are suggestions about changes in laws: one is that a no-ball should earn the batting side 10 runs, not one. This is implying that the bowler does it on purpose and nothing could be more ridiculous! One can understand a more severe penalty for repeated bouncers but a no-ball??? Come, come, it's time to get real. The other suggestion pertains to leg-byes which Hair feels should be eliminated altogether as he says nobody should be rewarded for using their pads when they are meant to use their bats. But then what about the genuine leg-bye, the one where the batsman attempts to genuinely play a stroke, misses and gets the ball on his pads? Hair does not bother too much about detail; the raison d'etre of his book has long been over and chapters such as these are just the cargo which one needs to make the book bigger.
At the end of the book, one is left knowing very little about Hair the man. What kind of a background he came from, his personal status in life, what he does for a living -- no, they are irrelevant. Or so runs his reasoning. Had the Muralitharan incident not taken place, this book would have never been.
A book by any cricketer normally provides career stats. But umpiring stats? Who wants to know where he umpired? The memorable (by his definition) Tests and ODIs have already been mentioned in the book and so have the total Tests/ODIs he has stood in. Hair has the arrogance to feel that the stats of his career to date are worth publishing and this probably says more about the man than anything else.