ICC World Cup 2019: Umpiring howlers leave Windies baffled, furious
Jason Holder conceded after the match against Australia that umpiring wasn’t the reason West Indies lost, but sharply criticised the decisions.Updated: Jun 07, 2019 23:40 IST
West Indies skipper Jason Holder tried to laugh it off but Carlos Brathwaite was dead serious as he questioned the umpiring after their loss to Australia here on Thursday, calling it ‘frustrating’ and something that ‘sent ripples through the dressing room’. ((ICC World Cup 2019: Full Coverage))
He conceded that umpiring wasn’t the reason West Indies lost, but sharply criticised the decisions. “I just think I’d like for West Indies, we don’t have to use all our reviews and that some of the other teams get a chance to use theirs because every time we get hit on our pad the finger goes up. When we hit the opposition on their pad, the finger stays down. So, we have to use our reviews and it’s always missing, and then we have to use our reviews when we are batting as well and it’s always clipping,” he said after 15-run defeat to Australia at Trent Bridge.
Emotion probably got the better of Brathwaite, hero of West Indies’ 2016 World Twenty20 triumph, but there is no doubt Thursday’s umpiring has left International Cricket Council to seriously go into the standard of supervision. The laws of the game require cricketers to toe the line and not criticise umpiring but Brathwaite had had enough.
“I don’t know if I’ll be fined for saying it, but I just think that the umpiring was a bit frustrating. Even when we were bowling we thought a few balls close to head height were called wide. And obviously three decisions in one over as far as I can remember being dodgy, it was frustrating and sent ripples through the dressing room. To lose Chris in a chase of 280, who can probably get 180 of them himself, broke the start we wanted. But the umpires do their job, they try to do it to the best of their ability; we as players go out to do our job as well, so there was no confrontation between the players and the umpires,” said Brathwaite.
That is as comprehensive a complaint as you can come across. While the harsh calls on wides has left bowlers embittered for long—there were 35 wides on Thursday, 24 conceded by West Indies—umpires are on thin ice for missing no-balls. Had Chris Gaffaney called Mitchell Starc’s big no-ball, the next delivery that led to Gayle’s dismissal would have been a free-hit. West Indies’ anguish and protest thus is legitimate. That brings us to the question why umpires are getting basic decisions wrong despite technology easing their burden. “Just saying again... another umpire on the ground standing behind the non-striker… he is just there for No-Balls. Umpires miss up to 6 no balls a match I reckon,” former Australia batsman, Dean Jones, tweeted.
The least an umpire can be expected to do is monitor every delivery to see if it is legal. It’s split-second for no-ball, but there is slightly more time to judge a wide. And if it’s a wide based on height, it is the square-leg umpire’s call. All other decisions can be taken with the help of the third umpire. In this setting, is it too much to ask of the umpires to keep a tab on no-balls?
With technology dominating every facet of cricket, maybe it’s time to see if the basic decisions too can be double-checked to avoid embarrassment. A fast bowler takes around a minute to return to the top of his mark, which gives enough time for the TV umpire to check and tell the on-field umpire if he has gone wrong. A spinner operates faster, but there is time nevertheless. To adopt this measure however would mean the human umpiring becomes redundant, something cricket is striving to avoid. But should it be at the cost of grave errors like the one that cost Gayle his wicket? Probably not.
While the Starc no-ball has snowballed into a major controversy, there also is no justification why batsmen had to review five decisions in an innings. Michael Holding has a theory: umpires are intimidated into making decisions. “For one, even when I was playing they were not as strict as they are now,” the Windies pace great said during commentary. “You are allowed to appeal, (but) you do not appeal two, three, four times to the umpire. That is the first thing. They are being intimidated; that means they are weak. This has been an atrocious bit of umpiring by both.”
The Decision Review System (DRS) has been the bone of contention for a lot of teams, especially India. BCCI didn’t agree to use it in bilateral series till some time back. While it has provided clarity, and uniformity, it hasn’t necessarily emboldened umpires who still feel the benefit of doubt must go to batsmen. A reverse of sort happened on Thursday though as Gaffaney and Ruchira Palliyaguruge were each pressed twice into giving decisions against batsmen. Gaffaney’s third decision, though referred by Gayle, was not reversed as DRS deemed it as umpire’s call.
Jason Holder was incredulous. “I will just say I just found ourselves a bit unlucky to be on the other end of all the decisions. I guess honest mistakes from the umpires, I don’t want to get into the officiating part, but it’s just ironic. I don’t even know what to say, but it is a funny situation where all of them went against us, and then we had to review them; but I guess that’s part of the game again. I saw it on the screen in the dressing room, and I just laughed, man. I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
Good umpiring is the basic requirement for a properly fought cricket match, and players, current or past, have reason to feel alarmed after Thursday. If ICC doesn’t address this quickly, more errors could crop up, potentially match-altering ones. Technology back-up will always be there. But the onus is on umpires to ensure they don’t become ‘coat-hangers’, as put by the great former English umpire Dickie Bird, but remain respected supervisors of the game.