Darrell Hair umpiring the one day international between Scotland and PakistanIs it just a coincidence that this was such a weekend of crisis at multiple levels of the game, or do three outbreaks of controversy and dissent within 48 hours tell us something about the current state of cricket?

By far the biggest stoushie, of course, and the one which goes deepest into the fabric of the global game, was the explosion at The Oval, with its uncomfortable echoes of a wider politics. The rapidity with which the Australian umpire who is at the heart of the controversy is accused by some of racism reflects tensions in which cricket is inseparable from its political environment, while the long-running association of Pakistan with ball-tampering in many people's minds is indicative of a certain degree of cultural stereotyping.

We will have to wait to see what basis the on-field umpires had for the award of five penalty runs to England, the root cause of Sunday's unpleasant confrontation. But Darrell Hair (shown right, umpiring the recent one day international between Scotland and Pakistan) must surely have realised what the reaction to that decision would be, even if he didn't anticipate the precise form of demonstration it would trigger, and he must have known that if the allegation didn't stick his career would end in ignominy and disgrace.

What followed is a text-book case of incompetent crisis management. The Pakistanis may or may not have been wise to delay their return to the field after tea, but somehow or other Hair seems to have been placed, or to have placed himself, in a position where the match couldn't continue without the on-field authority of the umpires being undermined.

And it's the on-field authority of the umpires which is a common strand in all three incidents.

Meanwhile, in Aberdeen, an Intercontinental Cup match between Scotland and Ireland was erupting in its own kind of mayhem, and again there are two levels to the argument.

Once again, we'll have to wait until the official procedures have been carried through before we can reach any judgement, but it's a sorry situation when players are alleged to have abused ground staff, or a team is alleged to have systematically pressured an umpire who was supposedly perceived as vulnerable to such tactics.

The first of these allegations is ugly, but it's the second which really threatens to subvert cricket's high-minded devotion to ‘The Spirit of the Game'.

We all have experience of players who launch appeals they know to be unjustified, and we may suspect that there are teams whose appeals are cynically based on a belief in the law of averages.

But to target a particular umpire in this way would be plain cheating, just as much as tampering with the ball or claiming a catch you know didn't carry. If the allegation against Ireland were to be sustained, it would be incumbent upon the ICC to take the strongest possible action to stamp out such behaviour.

Behind both the Aberdeen episode and that at The Oval there's another common factor, and that is the ICC's policy regarding the appointment of umpires. Darrell Hair's involvement in the England-Pakistan series has been controversial from the outset, and you have to ask whether it might not have been sensible quietly to avoid asking for such trouble.

The role of the Associate and Affiliate International Umpires Panel in appointments for Intercontinental Cup matches is a trickier area, since the ICC understandably sees umpire development as an integral part of its global strategy, and officials from outside the Test countries are only going to improve if they gain experience of these fixtures at a higher level.

Maybe that means that, without the benefit of the technology which both supports and makes life more difficult for umpires in the goldfish bowl of Tests and most ODIs, there will be more mistakes made than one would like. But that just puts greater onus on the players to abide by the Spirit of Cricket, to walk when they know they're out, not to appeal when they know an opponent isn't, and not consciously to make the umpires' job more difficult than it need be.

By comparison with all this, the events at Saturday's Hoofdklasse match in Rotterdam may seem like very small beer, and if they were isolated they might be. But the challenge to the on-field authority of the umpires is exactly the same, and the fact that players with first-class and international experience were at the centre of the incidents makes the situation all the more unsavoury.

Umpires will make mistakes, and players will take advantage of them. The players may even believe that all they're doing by not walking is evening up the score, since they will certainly have been given out in the past when they weren't. That's frustrating when you're on the wrong end of it. But the Laws are absolutely clear on dissent, and the fact is that no matter how glaring the error, you just have to accept it and get on with the game.

The challenge is now the KNCB's, just as it's the ICC's in the other two cases. In the domestic sphere, where the procedures have not really kept up with the changing pressures of the game, disciplinary measures can be cumbersome and prolonged. But with a not dissimilar episode in the Eerste Klasse the previous week, it's clear that the KNCB needs to take firm, transparent and timely action if its authority, like that of the umpires, is to be maintained.