Cricket umpiring has a long, bitter and contentious history. Visiting teams would never trust home umpires and would always complain of bias in favour of the hosts.
It was not just Pakistan which was supposed to be the most partisan when it came to ruling in favour of the home team, even Indian umpires were never trusted. India too would always find fault with umpires away from home and finally Imran Khan’s initiative forced the authorities to introduce the concept of “neutral” umpires to avoid growing protests over “unfair” decisions.
The sport itself has a highly complicated and complex set of laws which are given to subjective interpretation, because of which it has never been easy to satisfy everyone, even if those officiating are highly skilled and honest to the core.
In umpire we trust
In such circumstances it is a wonder that the present-day umpires get a decision correct almost 95 times out of hundred. Many factors have helped in this, not just the ability of the umpires but also the assistance they get from the TV cameras.
The world over, the need and desire to embrace technology to minimise umpiring errors is growing so much so that except for one, every other cricket-playing nation is using the DRS (Decision Review System) and believes it has been of help in trying to reach that dream objective of 100% accuracy. Sad to say, the one country against its use is the “home” of cricket — India.
Unlike the rest of the cricket world, which understands that the technology in use is not foolproof but still believes it is the way forward, the Indian board has been stubborn in its stand. It wants a100 % error-free system to assist the umpires and till that happens, it is “willing to trust” the umpire. No amount of criticism, no amount of players’ support for the DRS is making it budge from its mulish negation of technical assistance.
Not even Sachin Tendulkar’s finally coming out in its favour has prompted a rethink. Instead, it is still busy planting stories in the media that the majority of players are against it, though no report now can quote sources to say Tendulkar is one of them.
There could be many arguments against the DRS, especially when there are two to three competing and expensive technologies in use, not all of them foolproof. But no one doubts that it has been of help in increasing the number of correct decisions and in almost eliminating horrendous errors, like those committed against the Indians in the Sydney Test of 2008.
The Indian board and the players, on evidence of the same technology whose use they oppose, created mayhem and even threatened to pull out of that series in protest against those umpiring “errors”.
Today when that technology has evolved and is being used to give a greater sense of fair play, it is baffling that the Indians are still not convinced.
What if India are at the receiving end of some glaring umpiring mistakes in England next month? Will the board keep its mouth shut? That is unlikely, given the fact that no other cricketing nation cribs about umpiring decisions as much as India does. I think India should make up its mind whether they want commonsense or hypocrisy and business interests to influence their decisions.