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    January 09, 2008

    The outcome of Sydney 2008

    The outcome of the events at Sydney last week, where pathetic umpiring and a charge of racial abuse marred a superb game, will hopefully make international cricket better, for administrators, players, match officials and fans/spectators.

    After the game, a chat with Ganesh, went like this:
    14:24 me: i see a few benefits coming out of this entire test:
    14:25 1. icc could do something about umpiring standards

    2. icc could clearly define what constitutes a racial abuse and what doesn't - is bastard racial, for e.g?

    3. teams will swear to not agree to ponting's gentleman agreement on catches

    14:26 4. players will stop walking [esp. if #1 isn't handled]
    Among these, if the ICC can ensure #1 and #2, then a lot of the problems could be solved. Good umpires will refer to the third umpire at the right time and take decisions on the field at the right time. They will get a higher %age of decisions right. Continuing with my tirade against the ICC's repeated claims to umpires getting 94% of their decisions right, the Sydney game was a classic example of what happens when umpires get 100% of all irrelevant decisions right and 0% of all critical decisions wrong.

    It is fairly obvious that Symonds and Hussey benefitted significantly from umpiring errors [Symonds went from 30 to 162 while Hussey went from 45 to 145], Ponting had the best worst of both worlds while Dravid and Ganguly suffered significantly.

    To my mind Hussey not being given out in the second innings when he edged RP Singh down legside having scored 45 perhaps had as significant an impact on the outcome as the other umpiring cock-ups. It is strange that his let-off is not discussed as widely as Symonds' or Ponting's.
    53.4 Singh to Hussey, no run, a big noise, huge appeals for a strangle down the legs, India think they have their man and replays suggest that he did press the face of the bat on to it
    It is high time the ICC clamped down on:
    1. Umpiring standards: The ridiculously poor umpiring can & should be fixed by expanding the panel and ensuring that the workload is distributed evenly across four qualified umpires rather than the situation currently where two umpires slog it out in the sun and are under tremendous pressure, with the other two enjoying the comforts of an air-conditioned box and called upon only every now and then [especially the fourth umpire!] to do some work. In addition, there must be something done to increase the accountability of umpires. They can't just say sorry to players for bad decisions and get away with it. Players are dropped for poor performance. Why should umpires be handled with kid gloves?

    2. Walking: The act of a batsman walking insults the collective intelligence of umpires, teammates and spectators. It is a great tool to be (ab)used [and there are several instances where it has been] either by players walking selectively (after they have scored a lot of runs, but not if they're on a pair, for e.g.) or by players appealing to the umpire's conscience for the umpire could assume that the 'walker' player's appeal for a catch/lbw was valid since he was inherently honest.

    3. Pre-series agreements on taking the fielder's word for catches: This sort of agreement is total rubbish and I have no idea why Kumble agreed to it when several other captains (Vaughan & Fleming, to name two) have disagreed with Ponting's suggestion. Ricky Ponting got enraged at the post-match press conference when it was suggested that he had actually grounded the ball after 'catching' Dhoni in India's second innings at Sydney. He was affronted enough to take the query as an question about his integrity and advised that the journalist should not even be in the room [I take it that no-one who has any questions about Ponting's conduct should be in the press conference henceforth]. In fact, he held up his conduct in the first innings [where he didn't claim a catch that Dravid had edged since it had bounced] as an example of how he plays the game. It sort of reminds me of the 'walking' business where a player's conduct could be used by umpires to influence their decisions in his favour. That is exactly what seemed to happen with Ganguly dismissal. Clarke caught the ball and rolled over. Ponting asked Clarke (he who edged to first slip and didn't walk) if he caught it. The umpire asked Ponting if Clarke caught it. The umpire took Ponting's word for it. Mr. Ponting is an honourable man. Didn't you see the way he did not appeal after Dravid's edge fell short in the first innings? Thank us for small mercies. Ponting's argument perhaps goes like this: "I didn't appeal for that catch. This shows how I play the game. Hence if I appeal for a catch, it is always a valid appeal and the umpires are duty-bound to adjudicate in my favour."

    4. Sledging/Abuse: There should be a total ban on any sort of sledging, including banter. There's no saying when a comment becomes offensive, and there is a huge difference in the way people see barbs aimed at them. Sad as it might seem, it means that witty & creative comments obviously also become a victim of the tough measures to prevent situations from boiling over.

    PS: Steve Waugh, in his column, wrote about the things that Australian cricketers hate.
    On the other hand, Australian teams can't stomach time-wasting and perceived manipulation of the rules, including calling for runners, over-appealing and the alleged altering of the condition of the ball.
    So let's see how Australia's players fared at Sydney.

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    Thus spake Jagadish @ 6:10 PM |
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    6 sledge(s):

    "Expanding the panel"

    These umpires you're discussing have been judged the best available in the world. I'd be cautious about expanding that pool too quickly or you'll just make it a bigger muddier pool.

    "...and ensuring that the workload is distributed evenly across four qualified umpires."

    This is going to be difficult from a consistancy perspective. Bad umpiring is bad. Inconsistant umpiring is worse.

    Clamp down on walking? How? I agree that the idea that batsmen should walk should be dismissed, what individual players do is up to them. Gilchrist wants to give himself out? Fine. But noone should expect any other player to do anything short of stand still and wait for the umpire's decision.

    Umpires / referees are humans, not machines. In every sport ever, players have been trying to influence the umpires to decide in their favour. To suggest that Australia do this and India don't is just plain wrong. The complaint seems to be that Australia do it better.

    Ban banter? Come on, 'trash talk' has been around longer than trying to influence umpires. Longer than umpires themselves! Insults and challenges are what started most sports to begin with. There's a pretty clear line on what's acceptable and what isn't. Causing someone discomfort is the point of sledging -- insulting people on the basis of their race, ethniticy, or religion is a special case. I shouldn't need to explain why. There are grey areas based on cultural differences -- which is why Harbhajan was given a warning last time. If he said it this time, he crossed that line.

    Your PS is entirely a strawman. Time wasting is intentionally bringing out the wrong gloves with minutes to go in the second innings of a match, not waiting for an (albiet obvious) umpire's decision. Over-appealing is claiming LBW when the ball pitches a foot outside off (Warney - I'm looking at you). Hayden is in doubt for the 3rd test based on his injury.

    By Blogger Reto (10-Jan-2008, 4:04:00 PM)  

    I think cricket as turned into a major religion now, people respected the sport earlier but today they worship it, I mean look at India-pakistan matches,the intensity of the players in an Indo-Pak match would put Galdiators to shame. I wait for months even years to see an Indo-pak match and cant wait for the next one, BTW here is a cool indo-pak cricket game for fans, really cool.

    By Blogger Darks3id (10-Jan-2008, 11:53:00 PM)  

    As a purely hypothetical question; I wonder what would happen if umpires directly ask a batsman if he had edged it?

    Also I think that the plans to expand the number of Elite Umpires has been said quite a lot before this series even. However, standards will probably drop before they improve.

    By Blogger Libero (11-Jan-2008, 11:27:00 PM)  

    Who do you think is gonna sit this one out. They cant ask Sehwag to warm the benches and Karthik hanst done too badly himself in this practice match. I think it wont be a cardinal sin if they asked Yuvraj or Jafer to take a break and sort things out.

    By Blogger Bhaanu (15-Jan-2008, 4:24:00 AM)  

    Pasting Stu's comments on my original stupidly called 'Sydney 2007'. I deleted it that post and pasted the contents as 'Sydney 2008'.
    A few points in response if I may...

    Firslty, caught behind down leg side - clearly the hardest decision to make as an umpire. There is so little to go by - you can't spot deviations, and there is so much that can make a noise there, it's guess work at best. This is why the "Hussey decision" receives less attention than the other "cock ups".

    Secondly, no top order batsman would "prefer" to bat with a runner - its hard work, confusing, and stats will show, rarely last for very long. Hayden will most likely miss the next test, I doubt he's doing that just to cover up a time wasting charge from the previous test!

    But most importantly, I can't help noticing a double standard with the "Gentleman's agreement" over catches. How does it work? The agreement was to take the fieler's word on catches, yet as soon as Anil Kumble had a chance to do so, HE broke the agreement. Not Ponting! Ponting gave his word, Kumble doesn't accept it. So what's the point of an agreement, if you're not going to take the guys word. If you don't trust the guy, don't make the agreement, if yo udo trust him, then for goodness sake, trust him. I think blaming Ponting for that is backwards.

    By Blogger Jagadish (25-Jan-2008, 3:34:00 PM)  


    1. Which is more feasible - expanding the panel or reducing the amount of cricket? I'm fairly skeptical about the quality of umpires on view right now. I don't think expanding the panel will worsen it significantly. Asad Rauf and Bowden have been equally horrible in Perth and Adelaide. They couldn't count six balls in around 3-4 overs. If umpires reckon that increased technology would end up making them cap/sweater hangers and ball counters, then tough luck. They can't even do the ball counting job properly! The number of poor lbw decisions (those given & those not given) is really staggering. Far too much of the focus has been on Bucknor the individual. He has been incompetent for a while [NOT biased!]. But the others are set to out-do him. The ICC needs to do something about the umpiring standards, and really fast!

    2. Clamping down on walking: Anyone who walks should be charged with having undermined the authority of the umpire and considered to have expressed dissent. The appropriate code of conduct clause would apply.

    3. The moment there are grey areas around what's acceptable and what's not (bastard, for e.g.), people are bound to take advantage around the inconsistencies. Which is why the way out is to ban _any_ sort of nonsense talk.


    1. I guess it was because it was Hussey. Ponting was declared not out although he'd tickled it down leg. That attracted a lot more criticism and debate.

    2. Hayden was playing booming drives and all sorts of shots and [to me] seemed under no sort of discomfort. His missing out the second test does not mean that he was completely unfit in his innings. The fact that he nearly made it to the 2nd test possibly implies that he probably didn't need a runner!

    3. The problem with the gentleman's agreement on catches is that the Indians would find it hard to trust Clarke's word, given how he'd stayed rooted to the crease after getting out first ball edging to slip. The other problem is that a batsman taking the fielder's word is one thing, there was no reason the umpires needed to take the fielder's (or the fielding team captain's) word that he'd caught it.

    By Blogger Jagadish (25-Jan-2008, 3:44:00 PM)  

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