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By Manish Madhusoodan
umpires

Most often it’s the players who are in the spotlight, lets shift the focus on the umpires who play an important role in the outcome of the game. I haven’t seen any sport or a game where the umpires are bound to take the spotlight for the wrong reasons. The last thing you want in a high profile series is having one oblivious bad decision changing the course of the series. Cricket is one game that treats umpires as sacred and they are never under scanner unless they start faltering too much.

It is high time cricket official’s start treating umpires like players and not any different, they are professionals they must be accountable too. Of-course they are bound to make mistakes like players do, they are humans and should be treated at par. If batsman or bowler falter for too long they know that they are on the chopping board, same rule must be applied to them as well. If a certain set of players from a country are not allowed in one country same rule should be applied to the umpires as well.

Coming back to curbing the on-field errors, ICC did came up with 3rd umpire who had all the powers to amend the mistakes. But seems like his importance is only felt during the run-outs and stumping, he is more in the role of ask-and-you-shall-receive. He is like the citizen who sees crimes and choose to shut his eyes, I mean he see blunder created on the field and is rather forced to ignore it.

Citing a problem without a possible solution is mere ranting; before we all jump into DRS lets step back and take a look what umpires can do. Let’s at least pick up from what players do when they falter, go back to videos and replay or talk to experts about possible flaw and repairs and look for common error he is committing and attempt to mitigate it. Surely ICC has umpires who are willing to learn and improve every sports person does.

Most common umpiring blunders or howlers which can be mitigated are

a. off-spinner’s lbw against left-hander from over the wicket and its vertical mirror – pitched out side leg stump ?

b. bouncy track tall fast bowler short of length ball and raps on the pad – too high ?

c. in-swing from wide of the stump to right hander raped on the pad middle-stump visible

d. Batsman body language in case of a edge – though it might not be accurate but could serve a yard stick

All the above sounds like common sense, which is not that common anymore but can be made common. One suggestion is to mimic what companies do, positing guidelines or best practices either on wallpapers or some notice boards of the obvious mistakes employees commit so that it could be mitigated. Alternative would be for the two on-field and TV umpire to work in unison; give more powers to the TV guy. We have already seen TV umpire used during the front foot no-ball query every time the batsman is out or during a not so clear catch that is taken. In all these cases TV umpire is just passive and reacting to on-field umpires who resorted to this measures when they repeatedly missed the no-balls.

Also the whole idea of respecting umpire’s decision even if it’s wrong is a flawed one, because we are disrespecting the correct decision. Cricket is bigger than any player or even the umpire, on-field umpires should be assisted by the TV umpire and there should be decision reversal if he sees any, surely 2nd level of defense can’t do any harm. Wouldn’t it sound better when the commentators say he was out rather than saying he was given out.

With great power comes great responsibility this holds good with DRS, the whole question should not be what should be part of DRS package, but when and who should evoke it. Some claim that it should be in the hands on the umpires and they should evoke it in case of doubt. If they think there is an edge then there is no way they will be in doubt. Counter argument of batman evoking it is equally correct and baffling at the same point. He could mostly be right only in case edge to keeper or inside edge for lbw but could start using for everything and every time.

So the way to go is have 2 unsuccessful reviews for each of the batting team and bowling team as ICC had devised, additionally add 2 reviews to the umpires per innings. This sounds a lot of reviews and lot of time, but it is worth when weighed against the noise it creates. Now batsman can challenge the umpire’s decision, bowlers can appeal in case they are unsatisfied and umpires can also use it in case they feel the need; because if it’s obvious then either of the team would evoke it. This would keep umpires challenged and would bring the best out of them. And since we have 2 reviews per innings players need to use it diligently.

And hope one day cricket would just about a contest between bat and ball and not with fate.

 

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