ICL: Indian Cricket League


Third umpire referrals in the interest of Pakistan, Asian cricket

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asif

By Asif Iqbal Former Pakistan and Kent cricket captain.

I am surprised to the point of being speechless by the reported statement of the PCB chief to the effect that Pakistan will not support the proposal for referrals to the third umpire in the ICC meeting next month.

I am convinced that over the years the Asian countries have consistently had the short end of the umpiring stick. The appointment of the so-called elite panel of umpires has not changed the situation — in fact, if at all there has been any change, it has been for the worse. Eight out of ten of the elite umpires are westerners with only two Asians when the population of the Asian cricket playing countries would be about ten to fifteen times that of the western cricket playing nations. Yet, this is not even remotely reflected in the panel.

To argue that the umpires on the panel are the best in the world is a load of rubbish. We have seen some of the most outrageous decisions coming from the panel in which I think pride of place went to the Inzamam run out against England in Pakistan. This was not a question of an umpire not being able to make the right decision when things have happened in the twinkling of an eye with a ball travelling at 90 miles per hour. It was simply a question of a complete failure to interpret and apply a very clear rule which most club umpires would have little difficulty in implementing.

In fact, I do not think that the number of howlers has in any way decreased since the appointment of the elite panel and with no umpire yet being removed from the panel as a direct result of poor performance, I do not see how things can be expected to improve.

The unreasonable imbalance in the number of decisions that went against Pakistan during their last tour of Australia prompted my former Kent colleague and current Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer to speak out and mention, with no exaggeration whatsoever, that umpiring decisions had broken 29-5 in favour of the Australians. Those who saw the matches on television would agree a hundred per cent with Woolmer, who I know to be as reasonable a man as any. It was almost laughable to see Inzamam-ul-Haq at six feet three inches, being declared leg before to Warne stretching full forward while Ponting, some six inches shorter than Inzamam, getting away with exactly the same situation when facing Kaneria as it was ruled that he had was too far forward for the umpire to be certain!

No wonder then that Australian captain Ricky Ponting wants the system to continue; I would too if decisions were breaking in my favour so heavily. But they are not breaking in favour of Pakistan at all and therefore I have a problem in understanding why the PCB has decided not to support a very reasonable proposal to have a limited number of referrals to the third umpire. It has been claimed that among 35 players, former players and umpires consulted, 33 said they were against the proposal which again has left me speechless.

The reason given by the PCB chief for not supporting this proposal reveals a nostalgic respect for the values of the British Raj and Empire which some may find creditable but which I do not see as being in the interest of either Pakistan or Asian cricket. It is said that referrals to the third TV umpire will damage the authority of the field umpire but it is not understood why it is of primary importance to uphold the authority of the field umpire, even when millions around the world know that the umpire has made a bloomer.

That was a value taught by our colonial masters because unless they inculcated that sort of servile discipline in us, there was no way that 300,000 British civil servants would have been able to rule 300 million people. That was then; it is today rubbish to suggest that the authority of the umpires on the field is in any danger, that without that authority there would be fisticuffs on the field of play and that therefore it is important to maintain the authority of umpires. The soccer World Cup is currently going on and even there, where arguments with the umpire are commonplace, there is no apprehension that the ref will be molested.

And even though football has a much more relaxed attitude towards the referee’s authority, it still does not hesitate to take immediate action when the ref makes a visible bloomer. An English referee has been sent back for making such a mistake whereas that has never happened in the history of cricket.

I do not see any reason why the outcome of an international sporting encounter, with so much by way of national prestige riding on it, be allowed to be determined by blunders which, within half a minute of being committed, are visible to millions of people in their sitting rooms but which cannot be rectified because that would embarrass the umpire. Such mistakes can also destroy careers and confidence and to allow all that simply to uphold the umpire’s prestige is in my view totally unjustified. The proposal allowing an umpire to refer such matters to the third umpire would, in fact, take the element of embarrassment out and would allow an umpire to make the decision, not an outsider.

If the umpire refuses to refer to the third umpire, the aggrieved batsman or fielding captain should have the right to ask for a referral, but one feels that eventuality would seldom arise because umpires themselves would make the referral, keen not to be seen to make mistakes in public. One sees even now clear line decisions are still referred to the TV umpire to make sure and one sees no reason why the same considerations would not make field umpires refer other matters to the third umpire.

The provision of referring any matter to the third umpire will, I believe, take the personal element out of umpiring to a great extent. With that, it should be possible to allow home grown umpires to officiate in ODIs and Test matches with the elite umpire, a neutral, sitting as the third TV umpire with overall authority. In fact, I feel that this overall authority should even extend to the third umpire correcting a wrong call even if anyone has not referred the case to him as long as he is satisfied by TV replays that an injustice has occurred.

There is a hugely imbalanced representation of western nations on the elite panel of umpires and the fact that all western nations are not in favour of TV referrals is therefore, to my mind, understandable. What is Pakistan’s interest in supporting these nations is difficult to fathom. It would be extremely interesting to know what the other Asian cricketing nations feel about this.

Source:The News

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This entry was posted on Thursday, June 29th, 2006 and is filed under General.

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