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    November 21, 2007

    Umpires can get away with a 'sorry', the players can't

    There've been far too many instances of incompetent umpiring, especially in the last couple of years. Yet, the ICC holds the umpires accountable only during their annual review.

    The officials who were in charge of the World Cup final in the West Indies were not on duty in the Twenty20 World Cup since the ICC had suspended them for their inept handling of the final when bad light stopped play.

    Yet, the same officials have handled other assignments. It was just that they were suspended for an ICC event. Presumably the ICC thinks that it is ok for incompetence to be shown in Australia v Sri Lanka, South Africa v Pakistan or India v England test matches.

    Yesterday, Koertzen apologized to Sangakkara for wrongly giving him out. Two years ago, during the first Ashes test at Lord's, Koertzen did his apology thingy, saying sorry to Kevin Pietersen for declaring him out lbw to a fulltoss from Lee.

    During India's recent tour of England, Taufel said he was very upset at ruling Tendulkar out wrongly. Ian Howell was consistently poor in the same series.

    In 2005, the West Indies Cricket Board complained to the ICC about the decisions that were handed out during the team's tour of Australia. Yet, the ICC responded saying that its umpires got 94.8% of their decisions right in 2004, a number that Dave Richardson keeps bleating about.

    In 2004, Billy Bowden apologized to Sehwag.

    In contrast, spare a thought for the players. Yuvraj Singh was given out wrongly, with the game poised to go either way, and he was fined for showing dissent. Salman Butt made some comments about the umpiring in the series against South Africa and he was pulled up. During the 2007 World Cup, McCullum was fined for 'dissent'. Graeme Smith and Kevin Pietersen suffered the same fate in 2006.

    All these players apologized for their actions. Yet, they were penalized monetarily and immediately.

    The umpires had erred too. They too apologized for their decisions. Yet, they continue to get away with it, and in all likelihood, given the scarcity of good umpires available, will continue to be contracted to the ICC. They can then make more poor decisions and apologize for their actions, completely oblivious to the fact that their poor decisions could have impacted the outcome of a match (or series) or even a player's career for that matter.

    If the ICC is shielding their contracted umpires, then individual boards should be shielding their contracted players. Maybe the ICC should consider penalizing players only at the end of the year, not during/immediately after the game. Even then, the responsibility should perhaps lie with the board. After all, the players are responsible to the cricket board, not the ICC. If a cricket board has not handled the situation well, then this is something the ICC should take up with the board.

    PS: Going back to the ICC's comments on the percentage of decisions the umpires got right, it's not too tough to get 95% of your decisions right. In a typical test match, you'd probably have an appeal every over. Assuming that the game lasts the distance, that'd mean 450 appeals. To get to the ICC's benchmark of 95%, the umpires would need to get 428 decisions right. But that means they get 22 decisions wrong, a lot of which could potentially be match impacting. Ok, so 450 appeals in a game could be an exaggeration, but the arithmetic doesn't work out.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 2:03 pm |
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    4 sledge(s):

    The thing is, there's a difference between an umpire making a mistake and a player showing dissent.

    Umpiring mistakes are a part of the game, and poorly performing umpires should be reviewed in a similar manner to poorly performing players. Play enough bad shots and you'll be dropped -- make enough bad decisions and you'll be dropped.

    Player dissent is not the equivalent of a poor umpiring decision, it is outside the laws of the game. A better comparision would be an umpire who made a decision he knew to be wrong at the time, or who is not being impartial in his decisions. Some accused Hair of this in the abandoned test, and you'll note that the action taken there was swift and severe.

    I do agree that the quality of umpiring has been poor lately, and faster action needs to be taken to sort it out.

    By Blogger Reto (21-Nov-2007, 4:20:00 pm)  

    That wasn't the point, Reto. Players dissent and they apologize. They get hauled up immediately. Umpires give poor decisions and they apologize. They only _probably_ get pulled up at the end of their review cycle.

    Umpiring mistakes should _not_ be part of the game. I don't know why it is acceptable for umpires to give poor decisions. Especially given the high stakes involved, poor decisions are unacceptable.

    If umpires are totally stressed out, rotate them properly. After India's last tour of Australia, I had a suggestion to use all four umpires (two who're right now on-field, the third umpire and the reserve umpire) in a balanced rotation to ensure that fatigue does not cause them to give poor decisions.

    By Blogger Jagadish (23-Nov-2007, 11:40:00 am)  

    "I don't know why it is acceptable for umpires to give poor decisions..."

    Because they're human? The difference is choice. A player makes a choice to show dissent, a bad umpiring decision is an unintentional mistake(like a but stroke or a no-ball).

    Poor decisions are a part of the game. The only way to illiminate them completely would be further introduction of measures to override a poor decisions (players ability to refer to the 3rd umpire, more technological solutions, etc).

    Your idea on ways to lower fatigue, like the 4 umpire rotation, sounds like excellent though.

    By Blogger Reto (23-Nov-2007, 1:00:00 pm)  

    Dissent can _also_ be unintentional. It is almost always an instinctive reaction which typically goes "What the )@#!, you blind oaf!"

    By Blogger Jagadish (26-Nov-2007, 2:25:00 pm)  

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