Aussie skipper Ricky Ponting on Thursday described beleaguered cricket umpire Darrell Hair as one of the best in the world, in the wake of reports he will officiate at next month's Champion's Trophy in India.
"There's been a bit happening over the last month or so with Darrell but I have always considered him to be a very good umpire," said Ponting, who is in Malaysia for a triangular limited-overs tournament. "It will be good for him to get back on the horse again."
Hair's career was widely believed to be over after a major controversy arose last month when he accused Pakistan of ball tampering during a test against England at the Oval.
Pakistan refused to take the field for the final session in protest and Hair awarded the match to England, the first forfeit in the game's 129-year history.
The decision triggered a major crisis, with Hair later offering to quit the International Cricket Council's elite panel of umpires if he was paid US$500,000. Hair, an Australian, later apologized for demanding the money and withdrew the offer.
Ponting defended Hair's abilities as an umpire, saying he has to be good since he has been chosen by the ICC for its panel.
"It is important to have the best umpires umpiring international cricket. Obviously the ICC considers him to be one of those. Otherwise, if he wasn't, he wouldn't be there in the first place," said Ponting.
"If he is one of the best umpires in international cricket then of course he should be umpiring," he said.
Australia's Courier Mail newspaper on Wednesday quoted Hair as saying he has been asked by the ICC to officiate at next months' Champions Trophy in India.
"Yes, I am down to umpire in the Champions Trophy and I expect to fulfill that appointment," Hair was quoted as saying by the Courier Mail. "I'm not sure what matches I'll be doing but... I'm looking forward to it."
The ICC has not confirmed the report. But if true, Hair's appointment is sure to anger Pakistan, whose cricket board has urged the ICC to keep Hair out of international cricket.
The ICC is scheduled to hold a hearing on Sept. 27 and 28 into the actions of Pakistan captain Inzamam ul-Haq, who has been charged with ball tampering and bringing the game into disrepute.