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Don’t judge umpiring decisions

india Updated: Oct 12, 2008 10:53 IST
Hindustan Times
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What a relief to be watching the gentle, unhurried, yet subtle and skillful drama that Test cricket is. No violent, frenetic pace with batsmen only whacking the ball on designer wickets and made-to-order field placements. No pity for the bowlers, who are not just filling up the numbers but playing a significant part in keeping spectators engrossed.

I know there is a vast majority who will disagree with what I have said but I also know there are still a large number who appreciate the quality of all-round cricket and value the ebb and flow of a long-drawn contest. Not that Test cricket can't be boring. It can spawn yawns if it is played on wickets meant for the slam-bang variety of the game.

The Bangalore Test has so far been an interesting contest, though the Indians are at the moment struggling on a wicket which is of variable bounce, with widening cracks helpful to reverse swing. There will be a lot of analysis done on who played well and who did not, and why Anil Kumble could not take a single wicket in the first innings. Many neutral observers will also debate the one-dimensional leadership displayed by the Indian skipper on the field. That is what Test cricket is all about. It has many shades, going far deeper than the runs-scored and balls-faced equation, which engages our young generation these days.

This match, like any Test especially when India and Australia are involved, will throw up many controversies and already there seem to be murmurs about umpiring. The Australian media is unhappy with a couple of decisions on Day One and the Indians would be complaining on the third day. That Rahul Dravid should have been given the benefit of doubt by the umpire goes without saying. The batsmen had worked hard to reach a stage where he was looking good for many more runs, so he and his fans are entitled to feel disappointed.

But the decisions which Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting got on the first day were even worse. It is important for the Indian fans and media to keep that in mind before passing harsh comments. If you crib about one decision then surely all decisions, regardless of which team benefits from them, should be scrutinised.

After the acrimonious series in Australia, one would have thought the two teams would’ve agreed to the referral system so that poor umpiring did not become a major issue this time. But India's experience in Sri Lanka with the referrals was not a satisfying one and they decided that it was better to rely on the on-field umpires. The Australians, in any case, are no great supporters of referring decisions to the third umpire, so it was decided to trust the ones on the field. Fair enough.

It is also fair to remember that umpires, like players, do make mistakes, but by and large they are more accurate than most of us tend to believe. And if mistakes are made, do sympathise with the players, but please don't see it from the prism of your own loyalties.