ICL: Indian Cricket League

Umpires must put up if players are to shut up


If the ICC made films it would turn material for a 20-minute documentary into a four-hour epic, judging by how they manage to escalate on-field incidents into diplomatic rows.

In the last two years we’ve seen Pakistan’s 2006 forfeit at The Oval erupt into a controversial court case in London, and Harbhajan Singh’s suspension for an alleged racial slur end up in an acrimonious judicial hearing. The Pakistan case is still bubbling away with their board now looking to overturn the match result and I’ll be amazed if there aren’t repercussions in the aftermath of the SCG incident.

Most of the animosity and anger that occurs on a cricket field can be traced back to poor officiating, and the ICC has a diploma in the art. Ricky Ponting will need all his leadership skills to ensure that the anger Australian players are feeling over the ICC’s bungled sentencing of Harbhajan’s appeal doesn’t spill over onto the field.

For the ICC’s part, the CEO Malcolm Speed says a “paper will be prepared for the ICC board on the issues arising from the case.” If the ICC is serious about clearing up “the issues” then the paper needs to contain an introspective chapter to address the ICC’s part in the problem.

The ICC has failed miserably in its efforts to curb the increased amount of on-field chat in the game, and left unchecked, this banter was always going to lead to trouble. A look at the videotape of the SCG incident between Andrew Symonds and Harbhajan clearly indicates what has happened as a result of the ICC’s inaction.

Harbhajan gives Brett Lee a friendly pat on the back side and jogs to the non-striker’s end. Symonds yells out to the offspinner from his position at mid-off. Stationed at the bowler’s end, umpire Steve Bucknor is standing between the two players when this happens. Harbhajan makes a sign with his gloved hand that indicates he has heard Symonds. Despite the unmistakable warning that trouble could be brewing, Bucknor does nothing at the end of the over when, from the batting end, Harbhajan motions to Symonds and then walks towards him. In coming together the two players are on the same side of the pitch as Bucknor, who moves to take up a position at square leg.

So what does that tell us? That placing a hand on an opponent is no longer a no-no in the game. That umpires aren’t perturbed - or at least not raising an awareness antenna - when a fielder yells at an opponent from a good distance away.

That when the player who has been yelled at motions to the fielder who called out, it still isn’t time for the umpire to intervene. Why are cricketers chattier than a guest on Oprah’s television show? Players know what they can get away with, and because the ICC hasn’t taken steps to curb on-field chat, it is now seen by the cricketers as “part of the game”. By their inaction the umpires are condoning the practice.

Once on-field chat is accepted as part of the game, players will look to expand the parameters and that increases the likelihood of something personal being said. The ICC will now have a tough job arresting a disease they’ve allowed to spread like a cancer.

Why are international umpires happy to do a passable impersonation of the - no pun intended - three wise monkeys by hearing and seeing no evil?

The on-field umpires have gradually had their authority eroded by the ICC. They now refer decisions to a third umpire, and referees handle disputes; so the on-field umpires are becoming less inclined to make judgments.

The umpires also know from the experience of Darrell Hair, and now Bucknor, that the ICC won’t back them if a situation erupts. so they keep a low profile in order to avoid trouble. It was painfully obvious in the just concluded series between Australia and India that the umpires had little authority on the field. In Adelaide they came perilously close to losing control of the match. The ICC needs to act quickly so that at least the good umpires can regain their on-field authority and respect.

Empowering the on-field umpires would help the game enormously and that could be closely followed by a mature attempt to restructure the ICC. However, that is another story and a long one at that; maybe something like the Tolstoy epic, with less emphasis on the war part and more concentration on the peace.

Source:Cricket News

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    One Response to “Umpires must put up if players are to shut up

    • 1
      Indian Premier League
      February 5th, 2008 12:45 GMT

      I agree. I don’t what is the mandate for umpires but the way act as if they don’t have any powers and are tools in hands of the that bullies harder seems a sad reflection on roles of umpires. When Dickie Bird the respected English umpire said that the umpires should have stepped in the Sydney Test to prevent the escalation of problems. But, what do you do when the umpire is part of the problem :-(

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