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'Elite Panel umpires are overworked'

cricket Updated: Jan 12, 2008 12:22 IST
IANS
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Australian captain Ricky Ponting believes the umpires on the Elite Panel of the International Cricket Council (ICC) are overworked, resulting in their making mistakes.

Ponting has called for an overhaul of the ICC umpiring panel by expanding it, to avoid the mistakes that blighted the second Test in Sydney, reports Herald Sun.

He wants the 10-member Test umpiring panel enlarged amid fears that some umpires are making errors because of exhaustion.

After the first Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), the Australian skipper said English umpire Mark Benson told him he had been on the road for four months.

Benson and his colleague, Jamaica's Steve Bucknor, were severely criticised for a series of errors in the second Test that India claimed helped Australia to win. The ICC has dropped Bucknor for the rest of the series as part of a deal to stop India abandoning the tour. New Zealander Billy Bowden replaces Bucknor for the Perth Test.

"I've been talking to the ICC for some time about getting more umpires on the elite panel," Ponting was quoted as saying by the Herald Sun. "We talk a lot as players about how much we're playing. But the same applies to umpires. The umpires could be in Pakistan last week doing a Test match and they'll be in Perth next week doing us, with only a couple of days in between.

"As a player you never know you're tired until you get away and have a week off. That's when you realise just how tired you were.

"I'm sure after four months he (Benson) thought he was as good as gold, but he wouldn't know how tired he was until he gets a break.

"Players notice even when they are five per cent off. It can be the difference between playing and nicking a shot, or hitting it cleanly. I'm sure it is the same for these guys," said Ponting.

Benson's umpiring effort during the first Test in Melbourne was widely praised, but he and Bucknor were heavily criticised after a number decisions in the second Test in Sydney changed the shape and, according to the Indians, the outcome, of the series.

India's team manager Chetan Chauhan labelled Benson and Bucknor's efforts as "incompetent" saying the Indians wanted to do away with the pair for the rest of the four-Test series.

Up to 10 controversial decisions turned the game into a simmering contest that finally erupted with the Australians winning with 10 minutes to spare, and racism charges and a three-match Test ban being handed out to spinner Harbhajan Singh.

The most blatant error occurred when Bucknor ruled Andrew Symonds not out after a strong Indian appeal for caught behind when the Australian all-rounder was on 30. Symonds went on to make an unbeaten first innings score of 162 to change the course of the match.

The ICC is due to review its panel of elite umpires in April. According to one source close to Cricket Australia, there is a growing belief that it is time for the ICC to introduce a third on-field umpire into Test cricket.

Under this plan, each umpire would officiate for four hours each day, rather than the scheduled six.

"It's a bloody good idea because it immediately takes a lot of the pressure off these blokes," the source said.

"Benson and Bucknor must have spent 33 hours out there in Sydney. That's a long time to be standing in the field, concentrating on every delivery."

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