Archive for the ‘Umpires’ Category

UDRS Interrupted

August 11, 2010

I’ve been a proponent of UDRS since before it existed. And now that it’s here, I’m saddened to see many struggle to use it wisely, and yet others reject it outright. So, here’s my memo to all the cricket captains in the world.

Do not overthink UDRS. Do not try to exploit it; do not try to avoid it out of fear or your own inability to come to terms with it. Use it for what it is: a way to overturn ghastly decisions, not marginal ones. This means that most LBW decisions do not qualify for a review. Only when one is certain that a decision was wrong should the review system be used. Our current technology may still fail to reprieve you. Live with it. That’s why you have two reviews available per innings; the chances of technology failing you twice in one innings are significantly lower than once. On the other hand though, don’t just use those reviews because the innings is about to end anyways. It’s okay to have unused reviews when the inning ends. If all of you follow these modest guidelines, nearly all really bad decisions will be eliminated. And that is all that everybody wants. I repeat, we’re not trying to change the marginal decisions that could’ve gone one way or the other.

There was an outcry among the Indians during The Sydney Test. It all seems a bit rich now that they’re rebuffing UDRS. And why’re they doing so? Because the technology didn’t work in their favor the last time they were visiting Sri Lanka, which was a couple of years ago. The Indian think-tank has failed to comprehend that the system is not here to benefit anybody, but to justly reward whoever played better. UDRS did not outshow the Indians; the Sri Lankans outplayed them. It made for better cricket. As would have the Sydney test, had the UDRS been in use then. Thankfully, UDRS is not upto the whims of the Indians, and is here to stay. Sometimes I think Sehwag is the only guy in this team with a proper head on his shoulders (and not just because, unlike the rest of his team, he wants UDRS). Hopefully, he can convince the rest of his mates.


Finally, it’s happening…

July 22, 2008

I had first written about it nearly three years ago. It’s been a while, but finally it’s happening. Read all about it here.

Cricket is evolving. And not a day too soon.


January 8, 2008

So, a whole lot has been said/written about the Sydney Test. Enough that it made me come out of retirement to provide a clear, concise picture of it all.

The long and short of it is this: downright incompetent and one-sided umpiring. It’s not the Australians’ fault. They did not play out of the spirit of the game, and Kumble was wrong to say that (is he not always appealing for ridiculous wickets?). There were tons of other events that led to the emotional outpouring, but the only thing wrong with this game was the poor umpiring. If all the decisions had gone in India’s favour, they would have enjoyed it as much as the Aussies did. What do you think is going to happen in the next Test when Tendulkar nicks one, is given not out and stands his ground? Players don’t walk, claim catches they haven’t taken, and so on. It’s not new. It has happened before and will happen again. That’s not what was wrong with this Test.

All this talk about India discontinuing the tour, Aussies being ugly (as much as I hate their guts), or not playing in the right spirit, or bringing a charge against Hogg for using the term “bastard” is nonsense, and it would behoove all parties to not conduct, participate or pay attention to such frivolous and time-wasting matters.

Bad umpiring by itself is not that big a problem either, assuming both sides benefit from it. But this was by far one-sided, suspiciously so. And that’s what drove the Indians’ over the bend (along with the fact that the umpiring changed the complexion of a very crucial game in which they had somehow gotten on top even though they had lost Zaheer Khan). I have compiled a list of all the bad decisions (roughly in the order of gravity):

  1. Symonds’ caught behind given not out by Bucknor
  2. Dravid given caught behind by Bucknor on the last day when the ball clearly hit the pad
  3. Bucknor did not refer Symonds’ close stumping to the 3rd umpire (not whether he was out or not, but that one needed to be referred)
  4. Benson asked Ponting if Clarke caught Ganguly cleanly (rules say he has to ask leg umpire and if both are not sure, ask the 3rd umpire or give batsman the benefit of the doubt)
  5. Benson gave Ponting out LBW when on 55 in the first innings (which negated the decision below)
  6. Benson gave Ponting not out when on 17 in the first innings when he was caught behind (a very thin edge)
  7. Bucknor failed to spot the no ball with which Brett Lee bowled Jaffer in the first innings
  8. 3rd umpire failed to give Symonds out stumped even though his foot was in the air (and all 3 Australian commentators at the time agreed that it was out)

I have not included any LBW decisions because they’re usually in a gray area. I did read somewhere about a nick from Hussey (I think Peter Roebuck mentioned it), but I did not see it personally, so I don’t know what that was about. But the two wrong decisions at the top of the list above were enough to turn the game on its head. The first seized the initiative from India and the second handed it to Australia.

Bucknor has been ruling too much against India over the years for it to be entirely coincidental. I want to believe that he’s unbiased, but a lot of evidence to the contrary has piled up. I can’t recall when he’s made a huge blunder in India’s favor, but I can rattle off a number of absolute stinkers that have hurt India badly in important games. I don’t know what his motivation could be — perhaps he got poor decisions in India in his playing days. Or maybe I am wrong and he’s not really biased. Whatever the case, the Indians should raise an issue, furnish the evidence of his poor decisions against India for the past few years, ensure he never officiates in any of India’s games (or is fired permanently) and move on.

The other thing to do is, obviously, to bring in the appeals/challege system so such injustice cannot be done again to anybody. Downright wrong decisions will be avoided and just that will be a huge improvement. It’s time to usher cricket into the 21st century, and the sooner ICC does it the better. I have no respect for Malcolm Speed, but hopefully he’ll do one thing right while in office. Everybody talks about the appeal system after such poor games and call it the right time to bring in that system. The right time is before such games. I wrote about it a long time ago. Wake up, ICC.

As for the racism charges against Harbhajan. It’s difficult to say since we don’t know what exactly was said. Personally, I don’t think “monkey” is a racist term, but maybe in this case it was, and if that was Harbhajan’s intention he should be penalized. I do, however, think that the penalty given (3 Test ban) was particularly harsh, espeically given that there doesn’t seem to be enough proof to suggest a racist intention. Greg Baum argues the case well here. It’s important to note that, from the tv shots, Harbhajan seemed to immediately apologize. That makes me think he did use the “monkey” term, although the motive might not have been racist (aren’t both of them brown-colored? how can it be a skin color issue then?). Also, Darren Lehmann once called Murali a “black cunt” which is clearly more racist, and he got off with a 5-ODI ban, didn’t he? I am sure Harbhajan and the rest of the Indian team would prefer a 5-ODI ban to a 3-Test ban.

I would like to end by presenting my arguments against certain cases I have seen mentioned in a few places.

1) Didn’t visiting teams to India always get bad umpiring decisions back in the 70s and 80s?
I don’t know about back then, but if so, yes, that would be wrong. That, however, doesn’t mean it’s okay for it to happen now for teams visiting Australia. By this argument, you could say that it is okay for Indians to call racial slurs to other Caucasian teams because it was the other way around back in the day.

India was robbed in this Test. What has happened, has happened and can’t be changed. Australia has retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Let’s look forward to the series later in the year when Australia will visit India.

It’s a Hairy mess

August 22, 2006

I have no clue what’s going to happen next, but Hair better have something to back him up. If he didn’t actually see anybody tampering with the ball, but arrived at the assumption by looking at the condition of the ball, it’s hard not to feel for Pakistan. Accusing anybody of cheating is a big deal, especially in a manner for which there’s no precedent. Hair’s case is further weakened by the scoreline. 230/3 is a good score in any situation, much less with a tampered ball. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

We learn from history that we do not learn from history.
— Georg Hegel

Gavaskar once walked off the field, and that has been his biggest regret in life. Inzy, apparently, doesn’t know that. Pakistan gave up the moral high-ground when they refused to take the field, and deserve the loss. They could’ve registered their complaint in many ways, and would’ve found a lot more support if they’d waited until the end of the day to pursue a proper course of action. Instead, now Inzamam faces an uncertain future.

He wanted to protest, he’s done it. He’s committed the crime, now he must be a man and face the consequence without dragging the rest of the team and his country into it. It would behoove him to quietly accept whatever ban he’s handed. Hopefully, the person making the decision will take the circumstances into account and give him the minimum penalty. Justice should be for all and Hair must account for his actions as well, with severe penalties if found irrational.

The greatest bowler of all time?

July 2, 2006

Were it not for umpires’ tendency to not give batsmen out LBW when they take a stride forward, Kumble could very well have the most tally of wickets in cricket at this point. I’ve noticed this a lot. Kumble gets batsmen out LBW a lot, but only a small fraction of those are given (mostly because the batsman takes a step forward). Kumble’s habits don’t help him much either: he appeals just as vociferously for balls pitching outside leg or clearly missing the stumps, which is just plain ridiculous. Kumble doesn’t impart too much spin or bounce on the ball, so he’s hitting the stumps a lot. On all kinds of pitches, against all kinds of batsmen. While watching on TV, I can tell that; and Hawkeye usually confirms that. So, he has so many valid LBW shouts that aren’t even entertained by the umpires.

Technological assistance will help him, whenever it gets here. Hawkeye’s not going to be offiicial anytime soon, so Kumble might never have the benefit of that technology. But just being able to re-appeal against the on-field umpire’s decisions should help.

Marginally outside off

June 14, 2006

Looking back on today’s play, you get the feeling that it could’ve gone either way. Not because of the players, but because of the umpires. So many appeals, so many close calls, and so many poor decisions. And that is why we need technology. ICC claims that their umpires get about 96% of the decisions right. As Mark Twain once said, there are lies, damned lies and statistics. The only way the umpires are getting 96% of their decisions right is if the ICC is considering all the flat-out ludicrous appeals in their numbers. Anybody who’s seen Kumble bowl knows what I’m talking about. The ball lands a mile outside leg, hits the pads and he starts appealing. Just plain ridiculous — both the appealing and the statistic peddled by the ICC. Let’s look at that from another perspective. Assuming there’s about one appeal every two overs (including the obviously misguided appeals), that makes 45 appeals a day, and 225 appeals in a Test match. Going by ICC’s statistic then, the umpires make about 9 wrong decisions in a Test match. If 5 batsmen in your team are wrongly given out, would you call that a high standard of umpiring?

Anyway, I don’t want to turn this into a war against the Luddites (or the ICC). Apparently, ICC is taking some steps to get more use out of the technology. What concerns me now is that the ICC is now going to have to come out with clearer rules on how to read technology. There were several LBW shouts today which the commentators dismissed as the ball having struck marginally outside off. Well, I beg to differ. If they’re partially outside off, then they are partially on off, right? The middle of the ball might not be on the off stump, but some part of the ball was well within the line of the off stump. And if you think about it, that’s enough to bowl a person out: the middle of the ball doesn’t have to strike the stumps. In any case, there will be a need for clarification on this issue, for “marginally outside off” means different things to different people.

To give credit to the ICC, after my initial scathing critique, they’re ringing in the crucial changes. Apart from experimenting with technology, they moved with surprising swiftness to clarify the whole Lara-Dhoni faux pas of the first Test. There are lots of such gray areas in cricket though, and ICC needs to weed them out rather than waiting for them to create a problem before clarifying on it. And as the game continues to evolve, more of these gray areas will pop up.

Umpires get some help

April 7, 2006

I nearly missed this story on Cricinfo. Three umpires — Mark Benson (England), Billy Doctrove (West Indies) and Asad Rauf (Pakistan) — have been added to the elite panel of umpires, making it 10-strong. So, now there are three Australians (Daryl Harper, Simon Taufel, Darrell Hair), two Pakistanis (Aleem Dar), two West Indians (Steve Bucknor), one Kiwi (Billy Bowden), one South African (Rudi Koertzen) and one Englishman comprising the elite panel. This will bring some much-needed relief to their already-high workload, which was further increased by the retirement of David Shepherd last year.

<whisper> This might also be a good time to pop a pill and fire Bucknor. </whisper>

Umpire Gadget

October 28, 2005

My turn to jump in on the technology debate going on at Cricinfo.

Most of what I would want to say has been covered by S Rajesh.┬ Most surprising to me was Sambit Bal’s (who still remains one of my favorite cricket writers) asinine excuse of life being unfair.┬ Fairness is the one of the foundations of human civilization, and while life may not be fair all the time, we constantly strive to make it so.

Here then is my suggestion of how technology┬ can be used in cricket right away without interfering too much with the flow of the game.┬ The umpire makes all decisions as at present.┬ Any side can appeal (re-appeal?) any decision made by the umpire as many times as┬ they want┬ in a game, so long as the technology favors their stance.┬ If a team ends up twice on the wrong side of the technical analysis, it loses the right to dispute┬ any further┬ decisions.┬ This will keep such re-appeals to a minimum, with it coming into play only when a team is sure the on-field umpire’s decision was wrong.┬ If technology proves to be inconclusive, the on-field umpire’s decision stands.

I am nonchalant about whether the third umpire gets to use Hawk-Eye, Snick-o-meter, and other gadgets.┬ From what we saw in the super series, the third umpire gets the decisions right most of the time without any help from the above-mentioned innovations.┬ This might not be perfect, but should be pretty close to it.┬ And therein I disagree with Martin Williamson that we need to “go the whole hog” were we to tread the techonological path.

I think this is the best solution in light of┬ the concerns expressed┬ on┬ Cricinfo.┬ Let the rebuttals flow in.