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Caesar's wife should be above suspicion

Fernando’s case shows that the ICC should have umpires only from teams not figuring in the semifinals, writes Atul Sondhi.

india Updated: Apr 29, 2007 01:05 IST

May be Rudi Koertzen is one of the best umpires in the World. But he is a South African, whose team was to meet Australia on the 25th to make it to the final. He was umpiring the other semifinal between Sri Lanka and New Zealand a day earlier, along with an Australian, Simon Taufel, another great umpire.

Now, had South Africa made it to the final of the World Cup, which opponent they would have preferred? Though they lost to the New Zealanders in group stage, considering their inability to handle Malinga in chasing a small total of 209 at Guyana, they would certainly have preferred New Zealand. Especially with the kind of Mauling Australia and Sri Lanka had given New Zealand in the group stage. On Neutral territories, South Africa have a 12-6 win-loss record against New Zealand, while against Lanka it is only 9-8!
Similarly, Australia too would have preferred New Zealand on these tracks on any day, as compared to Sri Lanka. They did beat Lanka in Group matches, but the Lankans were saving their ace bowlers – Malinga, Vaas and Murali – for the last two big efforts.

Now two critical errors, and one critical decision that these two umpires made in the first semifinal, can be seen in this very light. First Chamara Silva was given leg before by Koertzen to a thick inside edge in the middle overs when Sri Lanka looked like steadying their innings, and then with five overs to go and Sri Lanka on 233, Dilshan was given leg before to a ball drifting down the leg side. This time it was Taufel.

Luckily for Sri Lanka, Jayawardene held firm and they posted a total big enough to put New Zealand in discomfort.

Worse was still to come. With New Zealand precariously placed at 21 for one after 9 overs chasing a target of 290, Fernando was warned twice for running onto the pitch by Koertzen. That virtually took the third pacer away from Sri Lanka’s scheme of things.

Fernando had become a liability for Lanka and 20 runs in the 19th over bowled by the demoralized bowler almost brought New Zealand back into the match, till indiscretion got the better of Styris and Murali came up with some magical deliveries.

This decision may also have ruled Fernando out of the final match of the Cup, with umpires likely to scrutinize his every step now! Sri Lanka can not take a chance by playing him. That will be a pity because while Maharoof, his likely replacement, has taken nine wickets as against Fernando’s four in the tournament, all of them have come against teams like Bangladesh (1), Ireland (4) and Bermuda (4). He will be lucky to click against Australia having given away 52 runs from just seven overs in the group match. On the other hand, Fernando, whose economy was little better at six in that match, has played all his six matches against Big teams in this World Cup, still snaring four victims. Against New Zealand in the group match, he gave a splendid performance giving away just 31 runs from his seven overs. But that was before Rudy stepped in, in the semis.

There could be genuine errors in awarding wickets, or genuine decision on Fernando’s running onto the pitch, but then, the Ceaser’s wife should always be above suspicion. This can only be done by ruling out umpires from the semifinalists teams of the World Cup.

It is certainly not questioning the integrity, but it is just playing it safe. Surely, West Indies, Pakistan and England could have contributed four on-field umpires, competent enough to be on the field for the semifinals. Unless, mistakes from the best umpires (did not British Press once in 2004 called Taufel, ‘’Awful Taufel’’) are more acceptable than the others on the ICC panel!