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    November 21, 2005

    Afridi's blitz overshadows all but faulty umpiring

    An innings of audacious and unbridled aggression from Afridi, which the likes of Flintoff, Gilchrist and Sehwag would be proud to emulate, stole the thunder from Inzamam, the-batsman-formerly-known-as-Yousuf-Youhana and a shady catch by Ian Bell to dismiss Mohd. Yousuf on the first day of the Faisalabad test. He was aided by some sloppy bowling and Michael Vaughan's fingers, probably buttered from eating toast during the tea interval. As a result of his knock, Pakistan, who had recovered from losing three quick wickets to reach 200/3, ended the first day in control of the game.

    But he really should never have got to the crease at the time he did. Ian Bell, bowling his gentle seam-up stuff, took a very good "catch" low down off an on-the-rise straight drive played by the batsman, Mohammad Yousuf. He, and the rest of the England fielders, went up in appeal. The umpires took a while, conferred and gave Youhana Yousuf out. It was baffling because even at full speed, it didn't seem like a clean catch. The batsman hung around, because he was sure it wasn't out. The slow motion replays certainly indicated that while he had initially caught it cleanly, Bell fell down and broke his crown in trying to balance his fall with his right hand, the ball touched the ground while it was in his palm. The umpires obviously could have referred the decision to the third umpire. They didn't.

    It wasn't a case of the technology being unavailable to them. While the rules do say that it is entirely upto the on-field umpires to decide whether to wake up the third umpire, surely it makes sense to use it when there is doubt about the issue on hand. Clause 3.2.3.1 of the ICC's playing conditions for test matches says:
    3.2.3 Caught Decisions
    The on-field umpire shall be entitled to refer an appeal for a caught decisionto the third umpire in the following circumstances:

    3.2.3.1 Clean Catches
    Should the bowler’s end umpire be unable to decide whether or not a catch was taken cleanly, he shall first consult with the square leg umpire.

    Should both umpires be unable to make a decision, a not out decision shall be given by the bowler’s end umpire. Only if the line of vision of both umpires is obscured shall the bowler’s end umpire be entitled to refer the decision to the third umpire as in Clause 3.2.2 (b).

    The third umpire has to determine whether the batsman has been caught. However, when reviewing the television replay(s), if it is clear to the third umpire that the batsman did not hit the ball, he shall indicate that the batsman is not out.

    The third umpire shall communicate his decision by the system as in Clause 3.2.2 (c).

    3.2.3.2 Bump Ball
    Should the bowler’s end umpire be unable to decide whether a catch was taken from a bump ball or not, he shall first consult with the square leg umpire.

    Should both on-field umpires be unable to make a decision, the bowler’s end umpire shall be entitled to refer the decision to the third umpire to review a TV replay(s) of the batsman’s stroke as in Clause 3.2.2 (b).

    The third umpire has to determine whether the ball was a bump ball or not. However, when reviewing the television replay(s), if it is clear to the third umpire that the batsman did not hit the ball, he shall indicate that the batsman is not out.

    In my opinion, it couldn't have been obvious to either umpire whether the ball had touched the ground or not. Ergo, there was clearly doubt over the dismissal. It does baffle me about why they didn't go to the third umpire! I am not claiming that the third umpire would certainly have ruled the batsman out. But at least it would have ensured that the decision was taken using the facilities available to the umpires. It is totally stupid that the third umpire is asked to confirm if the fielder's robes/body had touched the ropes or not in order to judge if four or six runs should be given to the batsman, but on the issue of a batsman potentially dismissed in spite of the catch not being clean, the issue isn't referred to the third umpire!

    That said, I have to disagree with Rashid Latif's call for Bell to be banned. I don't think Bell was in a position to know that the ball had touched the ground. He was within his rights to appeal. I don't think he cheated.

    Given that, as Warne claimed last week, poor umpiring could finish off careers, it makes even more sense for umpires to be more prudent. I clearly remember an instance from India's first tour to South Africa in 1992/3 when Steve Bucknor obstinately refused to refer a runout (who was the batsman?) to the third umpire, in spite of the fact that the ICC had introduced the third umpire in that series, who could be called on to handle run-out decisions. Then there was a catch by Rhodes in the final of the 1997 one-day triangular series in South Africa when Tendulkar was given out (he walked, in fact, after checking with Rhodes) even though the ball had touched the ground after Rhodes made the spectacular catch. There've been a few other incidents in the recent past, including the recent Super Series games, when the umpires did not use the technology made available to them and ended up with egg on their faces.

    Why do they do this? Are they just trying to convey who the real bosses are? Are they genuinely interested in ensuring that both teams get fair and right decisions? Are they justified in believing that technology will make them hat (and sweater) stands or ball counters? Captains provide feedback on umpires after every series. Appointments for the ICC's panel are made on an annual basis. But players get dropped even if they don't perform in a game or two. Ultimately, it is the players who make the game. If umpires have illusions of grandeur, they ought to stop thinking on those lines. Their job is to ensure that the game goes on in conformance with the rules and enforce control and discipline when required. If it means swallowing their pride and drawing that box in the air, they ought to. After all, players swallow their pride when they're handed out bad decisions, and they can't even complain about the stupid decisions for fear of being fined or banned.

    My co-blogger here is a qualified umpire. Perhaps he ought to have his say on the issue as well!

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 11:41 AM |
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    2 sledge(s):

    The decisions really have gone against Pakistan in the first innings. Without Inzy's run-out (take-cover-out?) and Yousuf's dismissal, Pakistan could be out of sight.

    By Anonymous Geoff (21-Nov-2005, 3:52:00 PM)  

    true geoff. it is just plain crappy umpiring. youhana's decision should have been referred to the third ump. inzi's decision should never have gone there!

    By Blogger Jagadish (22-Nov-2005, 11:33:00 AM)  


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