London, Oct 9 (UNI) Darrell Hair took the cricketing world by surprise by dropping his racial discrimination case against the International Cricket Council (ICC) before a local court here today.
The controversial Australian umpire was suspended by the ICC from its elite umpires' panel after the 2006 Oval Test flasco.
He took the ICC to an Employment Tribunal here as no action was taken against Billy Doctrove, the West Indian co-umpire at the Oval.
''Darrell Hair withdraws unconditionally his allegation of racial discrimination against the ICC Board, members and staff,'' Hair's lawyer Robert Griffiths told reporters.
ICC confirmed Hair has withdrawn the case and hinted that the 55-year-old Aussie, who has stood in 76 Tests, could still return to umpiring at the highest level. It is also understood that no financial pay-off was made to Hair by the ICC.
''Hair has undertaken to work with the ICC management over the next six months in accordance with a rehabilitation programme to be devised by the ICC in consultation with the umpire's manager,'' ICC said in a statement.
''At its scheduled ICC meeting in March 2008, the ICC Board will consider the result of the programme and then consider when, and if so, on what terms Darrell Hair can return to umpiring Test matches and full member one-day internationals.
''In the mean time he will umpire in associate member matches, if selected,'' the statement added.
ICC president Ray Mali said he welcomed the move. ''We are pleased the issue has been resolved. We had no option but to defend these serious allegations,'' Mali said.
ICC CEO Malcolm Speed also expressed happiness at the unconditional withdrawal of the case.
''I'm very pleased that this claim has been unconditionally withdrawn. I think in six months we'll have a better idea (about his future as an umpire), it's a matter for the board, which is a very diverse group generally with strong and differing groups, so a lot will depend on the rehabilitation programme and his attitude towards it.
''For the next six months he will umpire matches at Associate level,'' Speed said.
The chain of events that ended up with Hair being stripped of his position began at the Oval in August last year when he accused Pakistan of ball-tampering and awarded England five extra runs.
Pakistan, who were in a reasonably strong position at the time, initially played on until the tea interval but their captain Inzamam-ul-Haq refused to take his players out for the resumption of play.
After a delay, Hair removed the bails and awarded the match to England by default.
At a meeting of the 10 test-playing nations in November last year the ICC said they had ''lost confidence'' in Hair and that he would be excluded from the umpires list until his contract expired in March 2008.
No action was taken against Hair's co-umpire at the match, West Indian Billy Doctrove, leading to Hair's accusation that he had been singled out because he was a white umpire.
Inzamam was cleared of ball tampering by the ICC but banned for four matches for bringing the game into disrepute.