Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The umpiring debate

Guardian has an interesting debate on the issue of Umpire's authority. Dickie Bird speaks against the new ruling, while Bob Woolmer backs it. Bird's criticism is along the age old 'the machines will take over' line, trying to kick up the nostalgia of the times when 'mistakes were integral part of the game'
In the past, if an umpire made a mistake people talked about it. That was part of the game. The central role of the umpire has been essential to the game's fabric throughout its history and not allowing them to make decisions is a loss to cricket.
Dunno about you guys, but in the 20+ years that I've followed cricket, the only 'talking' we did about the mistakes, especially the ones against our players, are hardly suitable to be published in this forum! Sure it was part of the game, like almost every non-perfected aspect of our life in their respective pre-technology era, but thats hardly convincing enough to stop trying to make things better. And as to the other traditional argument, always raked up in such debates -
I know people argue it is important to eliminate human error when so much is at stake in today's Tests and one-day internationals, with players' careers at stake and so much money in the game. But I'm still a great believer that bad and good decisions even themselves out over the course of a Test.
- I just have two words 'prove it'! And I also find his closing argument hard to believe
People pay a lot of money to go to watch Test matches and the human element in big decisions is part of the entertainment. If you ask the crowds, they will say it should be left to the umpires to make the decisions because it's part of the game and they don't want it any other way.
I don't think people want the human element (i.e. umpiring mistakes at crucial moments to) to remain in the game. From what I've gathered from people's opinions, in forums like these, they all want as much accuracy as possible. Sure, the element of time is crucial, but really, what do you think the crowd would love - a game where they knew the best team won, and they had to sit for that half hour or so extra, or a game where they were left eternally wondering 'what if the umpire had got that one right' ?

Meanwhile, we can always trust Woolmer to instill some new life into any debate. For example, this point he makes is quite a new angle, for me, to look at the rules. And quite a valid one too
The planned new rules will put pressure on the batsman to be truthful because, if he is actually out, then the team loses one of its three "wild card appeals". I know what my reaction would be if a player used up a challenge needlessly. As far as the fielding side is concerned, questioning a not-out decision, it will put an added burden on the captain, who alone may challenge.
The bottomline, as he tries to iron out the unnecessary wrinkles from this whole debate, is that this is an attempt to make the game as fair as possible for all involved parties, including the umpires (who are being increasingly pressurized by tv images and hard-fighting players).


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