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Darrell Hair... confrontationist attitude.-AP

Darrell Hair deserves his day in court. Everyone has that right. But his argument will fail. He could have been discreet. Instead, he chose to be confrontational. It is a luxury the game cannot afford, writes Peter Roebuck.

Darrell Hair has returned to the headlines with his threat to take legal action against the game's ruling body and the Pakistan Board. Apparently, he believes he has been treated unfairly due to the colour of his skin and not because he is an elephant in a delicatessen.

Doubtless, sympathisers will continue to wear black armbands and agitate on his behalf. It is an unworthy cause. Hair lacks the common sense needed to run a game of international cricket.

Hair's re-emergence as a contentious figure coincides with an outpouring of nonsense about the state of the game. Cricket has its problems but that is hardly surprising.

Ten nations are deemed fit to play the game to Test standard. Amongst them, India and Pakistan suffered mutual slaughters on the day of their birth, and still fight over Kashmir.

Sri Lanka continues to endure a civil war in its northeast region. Australia and England are engaged in a war in Iraq opposed by other nations. Zimbabwe is governed by a tyrant. Bangladesh is impoverished. South Africa has only just started treating black inhabitants as equals. Save for cricketing purposes, West Indies does not exist. New Zealand is the only peaceful place.

Moreover many of these countries are newly defined and passionate about cricket. Many give the game of bat and ball a weight it can scarcely hold. Emotions run high. Sometimes patriotism clouds judgement. Accordingly it's hardly surprising that arguments break out.

Indeed it is remarkable that any cricket is played. Yet India and Pakistan often meet upon the field, and the Lankans have been playing superbly. Several coloured players have secured places in the South African team and one has served as captain. Oh yes, and West Indies is led by a black man. There are many reasons to be hopeful.

Consider the state of the game in its supposedly idyllic past. Not until the 1990s were the majority of South Africans allowed to represent their nation at cricket. Alas the game did precious little about that. Nor did cricket play a role in Frank Worrell's appointment as the first official black captain of the regional team. George Headley had deserved the job decades before but no one was going to give it to him. Happily Worrell emerged as the game's greatest figure. Alas he died much, much too early.

In these supposedly halcyon days, the game remained impoverished and patronising. It could not last. Sub-continental cricketers were not forever going to remain deferential. Sooner or later they were bound to exert their power.

Now India has insisted upon playing home series at the height of its season. Before going to Australia in December, they will host the Sri Lankans. Cricket's most populous and powerful nation ought to stage proper series at appropriate times on its own grounds.

Recently the usual crowd has objected to Sharad Pawar's campaign to become president of the ICC. Astonishingly, one old school critic bleated about the death of democracy. India has the clout and the votes. That is democracy. Anyhow, Pawar is a proven leader. His work as former chief minister of Mumbai was notable for its integrity. He is also a substantial politician.

Darrell Hair deserves his day in court. Everyone has that right. But his argument will fail. He could have been discreet, could have changed the ball for any reason, or informed the fielding captain about his concerns, could have allowed the game to resume when tempers had cooled. Instead, he chose to be confrontational.

It is a luxury the game cannot afford.