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Friday, August 12, 2011

Umpires In Cricket - Has there been bias ? - Darryl Harper retires

De mortuis nihil nisi bonum is a Latin phrase  !!

Cricket is gentlemen’s game and players perforce have to accept the verdict of the white coated gentleman called Umpire.  Whilst in most sports, it is referee who calls the shots, in cricket it is the Umpire.  There are two – on field to make decisions – one at the bowler’s end behind the stumps and the other generally at leg side – called leg umpire in common parlance though he might stand in the off side. The Umpire is on such a high pedestal that even if he errs on the no. of deliveries, there used to be no procedure for correction.  In recent years, we do have a  Match Referee also – but his role is totally different and makes no decisions affecting the outcome of the game – his is more of administrative and penal role in disciplining and in the conduct of the game.  With the advent of technology, there is the third umpire or TV Umpire to whom some decisions are referred to be decided after watching the TV replays.

There were days when people used to say that ‘beaten by pace and taken by the keeper – Umpire would rule out in Australia’.  In Test matches in Australia and England there have been occasions when Indians have been at the receiving end.  When India toured Pakistan in 1982-83 there were some rank bad decisions against Indians.  There have been similar instances at Sri Lanka also.  For long time, it appeared as if Indians were always at the receiving end – probably it largely had to do with the status of the Team and the reputation of the player also !!!!

Lot changed in the recent two decades.  Neutral umpires were introduced and came the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires in 2002 by ICC.  Earlier  ICC established the  International Panel of ICC Umpires in 1994 .  After Srinivasan Venkatraghavan, who was known for some great decisions and VK Ramasamy, presently there are two in the panel : - Amish Saheba  &  Shavir Tarapore

There is news that  Umpire Daryl Harper has withdrawn from the third Test between the West Indies and India in Dominica that begins from July 6, 2011. Harper is to be replaced in what was to be his final outing as a member of the elite panel by Richard Kettleborough.  It is reported that Harper has decided to step down "in the wake of some unfair criticism," according to ICC general manager Dave Richardson. Earlier  ICC dropped Harper from the 2010 ICC World Twenty20 due to "general performance reasons".  His decisions in the recent Kingston Test had also attracted some criticism with MS Dhoni saying that "if the correct decisions were made, the game would have finished much earlier and I would have been in the hotel by now."  Daryl John Harper born in 1951, an Australian  stood in 95 Tests, 174 ODIs and 10 T20Is, making his international ODI debut in 1994 at Perth and his Test debut in November 1998.

Perhaps lot has changed from the days, when Indians were at the receiving end even during Home series.  During 1983 in  a Test at Ahmedabad, Clive Lloyd made aspersions on the Umpire and the next day saw some decisions handed out in WI favour.  So when technology is available now, it makes sense to use it though  BCCI has been a rigid opponent of ball-tracking technology and some strange interpretations as borne out during the WC 2011 -  the 2.5 M rule was in for rude criticism.  

In the latter part of the last century, there were times when Indian Umpires were sort of mentally overpowered by the visiting teams to get decisions in their favour.  There were some meek persons and then there was this stout man who was known to the cricketing fraternity – Swaroop Kishen is unfortunately no more.  Born in Srinagar, he played for Delhi University, was a lawyer and worked in AG’s office.  He stood in 17 Test matches between 1978 and 1984, equalling the Indian record set by B. Satyaji Rao in 1979, but subseuqently surpassed by VK Ramaswamy (26 matches between 1985 and 1999) and Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan (73 matches between 1993 and 2004). All of the Test matches he umpired were played in India. His bulky white-coated body and habit of chewing tobacco made him instantly recognisable.

The IPL was a jackpot for the Umpires as was the players and a no. of them had opportunity to be in the thick of action.  The IPL Umpires panel included : SK Tarapore, K Hariharan, AV Jayprakash, SN Bandekar, SD Ranade, AY Gokhale, CR Mohite, R Radhakrishanan, Sudhir Asnani, MSS Ranawat, Ravi Subramaniam, I Sivaram, VN Kulkarni, Sanjeev Rao, HS Sekhon, KG Laxminarayanan, Suhas Pahdkar, SK Sharma, P Bhanuprakash, PS Godbole, MS Mahal, K Murali, RY Deshmukh, S Dendapani, A Bhattacharjee, S Laxmanan, Balwant Sharma, Sanjeev Dua, SM Raju, MG Mandale, Rajiv Risodkar, Anil Chaudhary, VD Nerurkar, Nandan, NRS Prabhu, RM Deshpande and MS Pathak.

In March 1987, in a tense nail-biting situation, Sunil Manohar Gavaskar was given out caught at slip by Rizwan Uz Zaman off Iqbal Qasim for 96 – that turned out to be the last innings of Gavaskar. Pak won the game by 16 runs and there were comments that the result would have been different, had the Umpire been different.  

De mortuis nihil nisi bonum is a Latin phrase which indicates that it is socially inappropriate to say anything negative about a  deceased person.

In Cricket, as in life, decisions need to be fair and game needs to played in good spirits on the field and if technology could help in arriving at correct decisions that must be welcome.  DRS should be a right step towards that.

Regards – S. Sampathkumar.

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