Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Umpiring goof-ups and .. ...


A couple of decades ago ! for Pongal tests, people would go early in the morning to capture vantage points – and after waiting for more than 2 hours, when the Umpire’s hat is seen moving, the stadium would erupt ! ..  .. could remember that one particular harsh decision against an Indian player, stadium started chanting ‘Siva sankara aiyah -- --  some nasty words’ ! ~ my father said – ‘Umpires are human too’ !! 

In another instance, while playing beach cricket, when the bowler just delivered, there was a loud shout of ‘No’ ! ~ those were the days, when the Umpire would be from the batting team and that caused a furore – a little later, it was realised that the non-striker had intentionally shouted and when asked he slyly said, I just told my partner that I will not come for a run, being the last ball of the over.  At International level, in recent times, have observed the failure of Umpires to spot out no balls, only to be found out at a later stage when there was a referral to the Third Umpire for a decision.  It was the basic duty of the Umpire to observe and signal over-stepping – that way, the recent decision of ICC (in use during the present India / WI ODI T20 series) that front foot no-balls were decided by the 3rd Umpire and not the on-field official was a welcome initiative.

Away, a blunder from a Pakistani journalist during Sri Lanka's customary press conference after stumps on Day 2 of the 1st  Test in Rawalpindi has been making waves. Sri Lankan cricketer Niroshan Dickwella, who had arrived to talk to the reporters after the end of day's play  was mistaken for his teammate Dhananjaya de Silva - not once but twice. Dickwella's surprise and reaction to the blunder left everyone present in splits.
The journalist began his first question by saying "you played well..." before Dickwella interjected by saying: I’m Dickwella actually. I’m not de Silva. Dickwella had, in fact got dismissed after scoring 33 in his team's 1st innings while de Silva was still unbeaten at stumps having scored a fighting 72. Dickwella's clarification, however, failed to register with the journalist as he continued with the same line of questioning.

The game has ofcourse has come a long way – from the decisions made in the middle only by those 2 white-coated gentlemen.  From two to three, it was a quantum jump.  The third Umpire debuted in Test cricket in Nov 1992 at Kingsmead, Durban in the South Africa vs. India series. Karl Liebenberg was the third umpire with Cyril Mitchley the on-field umpire, referring the run-out decision of Sachin Tendulkar, whose milestones added this insignificant event of becoming the  first batsman to be dismissed (run out) by using television replays, given out by the Third umpire.

Perhaps none beat the comedy or callousness or goof-up by this Aussie third umpire.  There are only two buttons ~ and this man pressed the wrong one.  The man referred to is Bruce Oxenford -  he had all the powers — ability to check replays from different angles, slow-motion replays, and latest technology like Hot Spot/Hawk Eye etc. before making his decision. According to some reports in the media, umpire Oxenford  apparently claimed that the “error was on the part of the technology” where the wiring may have gone wrong or even a software error could have occurred. To add to the confusion, the technicians claimed to have checked and tested the system and could not replicate the error to prove it as a technical glitch.  It was so bizaree that even MS Dhoni lost his cool.

It was on a Sunday (Feb 19, 2012)   Mike Hussey, the game changer, was declared out — stumped — by the third umpire. Slow-motion replays showed that it was a close call, and the common belief was that the benefit of doubt would go to the batsman — as the rule demands. Then came the decision that took everybody by surprise — the electronic scoreboard showed that the third umpired had adjudged Hussey out. But the drama had just begun! The on-field umpires, who were communicating with the third umpire, hurriedly stopped Hussey in his tracks and told him that he could continue batting — the scoreboard was not showing the right decision! The reversal got Mahendra Singh Dhoni worked up like never before in his international career, while the tragic-comic decision was debated animatedly off the filed by spectators, commentators and fans.

The unpalatable fact is that Oxenford has a serious history of poor calls behind him when it came to making decisions as a third umpire.  Besides that blunder, there were to be more.  Andrew Symonds scored a blistering hundred when Australia was clearly struggling on Day One of that Test. Symonds scored an unbeaten 162 in the first innings with four reprieves, thanks to some poor decision making by the umpires — on-field as well as the third umpire — which clearly turned the match in Australia’s favour.  The other incident happened when Dhoni appealed for a leg-side stumping against Symonds off Harbhajan’s bowling.
File photo of  legend Srinivasan Venkatraghavan who made no mistakes -

Downunder, the stoppage came from a new cause ! Heavy smoke denied Sydney Thunder a Big Bash League victory over Adelaide Strikers, with their chase halted in Canberra after 4.2 overs because of concerns about air quality and visibility. The ladder-leading Thunder, set a target of 162, reached 40-1 when umpires stopped play at Manuka Oval. The match was abandoned soon after, meaning the points were split. The Thunder already had enough runs on the board to be declared winners, but BBL rules dictate a minimum of five overs is required in the second innings to constitute a game. Thunder captain Callum Ferguson, who finished 27 not out, fumed when umpires Paul Wilson and Sam Nogajski told him they were halting play during Rashid Khan’s opening over. Air Quality Index (AQI) data and players’ visibility was discussed at a pre-match medical briefing but officials decided conditions were good enough to play.

Now comes this interesting news of ‘confusion reining in BBL as Umpire raised his finger, but it was later clarified that the act was to scratch nose ! Umpire Greg Davidson caused a furore at Marvel Stadium on Sunday night when he changed his mind midway through what looked like he was signalling a wicket from an lbw decision. Adelaide Strikers spinner Rashid Khan thought he had trapped Melbourne Renegades batsman Beau Webster in front, and Davidson began raising his index finger. But the umpire instead scratched his nose, sparking confusion amongst players and the 20,089-strong crowd. 

Replays showed Rashid’s delivery would have hit the wicket, however, it was Davidson’s belief that the batsman had nicked the ball. “It was one of those things, heat of the moment,” Davidson told Channel 7. “I started to think and then got a second noise through my head, so I decided to change the decision halfway through and gave it not out.” Both teams were quick to move on after the match and Strikers opener Phil Salt dismissed it as a simple human error.

Renegades coach Michael Klinger could not recall seeing a similar incident in professional cricket, but praised Davidson’s courage and quick thinking. “To be honest, I like it,” Klinger said. “I think he felt he made half a mistake and he thought that Beau hit it. I think it’s gutsy for him to change it halfway through, so I commend him for that. I actually think it’s the right call whether it happened for us or against.”

Interesting !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
30th Dec 2019.

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