Sport

Bad umpiring, in Broad daylight

By Antoinette Muller 14 July 2013

The first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge has had all kinds of action, and it’s only been going for three days. On Friday, there was the tender subject of not walking and, of course, poor umpiring. How such howlers are still happening with a wealth of technology at umpire’s disposal is dumbfounding. BY ANTOINETTE MULLER.

What’s  a day of cricket without a bit of controversy? There certainly has been enough of that for a whole year’s worth of debates in the first three days of the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge. It happened again on day three, when Stuart Broad edged a ball off Ashton Agar which subsequently went flying into the paws of Michael Clarke. It was clearly out. The only way it could have been more out is if the ball had smashed the stumps and then grown a pair of teeth to eat it for extra effect. Australia were so convinced that he was out that they didn’t even appeal. Not until Aleem Dar didn’t give Broad out.

Broad didn’t walk. He just casually walked to the middle of the pitch to have a chat with his batting partner Ian Bell. Australia was outraged. There is no other way to describe the situation than as cheating, and not subtle cheating, either. Blatant, broad as daylight cheating.

Whenever a batsman stands his ground, hypocrisy is immediately assumed. A kind of “they wouldn’t walk either, so why should he” or “well, they did it in the past so why does this matter?”. It’s a naïve approach which deviates from the subject entirely. Broad cheated, there are no ifs and buts about it, whatever somebody did before him becomes irrelevant when the current subject is discussed. To compare it to previous situations subdues the impact of the current one.

What it also deviates from is a subject far more important. The current state of umpiring in world cricket. One doesn’t have to look further than this same Ashes Test to see just how bad it’s become. There have now been three horrible decisions in the space of two days. Two of those decisions were bad even with the assistance of technology.

It’s almost as if the luxury of having technology at their disposal has made some umpires lazy. The rest just don’t know how to use it properly.

The ICC have done what they can to ensure that a certain standard is maintained. When umpires are good, they are promoted to their “elite” panel and once in a while, a few are relegated. Seemingly, though, nothing is done to police and control the performances of umpires while they are on duty.

It might happen behind the scenes, but there is nothing in the public domain about how their performances are reviewed. When a poor decision plays out, like for instance the Jonathan Trott dismissal on the second day at Trent Bridge, the ICC doesn’t comment.

Trott had been given out by third umpire Marais Erasmus after Australia reviewed a decision originally not out. Despite not having all the technology available (the side on Hot Spot camera was not working), Erasmus chose to overrule the decision of the man on the pitch.

The ICC themselves said that they have no public statement to make because “it was an umpiring decision”. When a company of esteemed magnitude has employees who falter publicly, it is usually commented on.

Dave Richardson, the ICC chief executive, had contacted the chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Giles Clarke, to apologise for a breach in protocol following the incident, though, but that’s where that discussion ended.

The issue was a technology issue and Erasmus worked with what he had. The front on Hot Spot showed no edge and, without Trott having hit the ball, he was plumb in front of his stumps. It looked like there was a slight deviation of the ball, but based on the majority of evidence, Erasmus deemed that Trott was out.

The umpire himself might not have been aware of protocol. Not only does that protocol need to be reviewed as a result, bit it also needs to be improved. The umpires can communicate with each other. Erasmus and Dar could have had a discussion as to why the on-field man did not see it fit to give him out.

Dar and Erasmus are not alone in making poor decisions lately. It almost seems as if though the introduction of DRS has caused umpires to slack in their observations.

Everybody makes mistakes in their jobs. But that mistakes are still happening with a wealth of technology at the disposal of those who make important decisions is appalling. There are so many ways to get the technology to work in favour of those who play, all it will take is a little bit of logic to implement it.

While waiting for logic to dawn on those who govern the game, decisions need to be talked about by those who are caught in the thick of it. Players aren’t even allowed to comment on decisions on press conferences post-match and nobody bothers to send an umpire to face the press when something happens. With such an archaic approach to things going wrong, it’s hard to imagine it getting better in the near future. DM

Photo:  Australia’s Michael Clarke (L) is given out after a review during the fourth day of the first Ashes cricket test match against England at Trent Bridge cricket ground in Nottingham, central England, July 13, 2013. REUTERS/Darren Staples

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