Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Fall of the Umpire

Is it me or is the standard of umpiring around the globe falling? Dharmasena was crap in Australia while Erasmus in England made some of his decisions with a degree of hit and hope, as opposed to an arbitrator from the Cape of Good Hope. Billy Bowden thinks he is bigger than the game, so with the lack of alternatives on the circuit, is it time to turn to one per country again?

Bowden...showman or show pony?
A quick scan of the Emirates Elite World Panel shows us that the vast majority of those on the panel are either English or Australian. In fact, only five candidates from this so called 'elite' panel could officiate in the Ashes series due to them originating from neither country. Aleem Dar, Kumar Dharmasena, Marais Erasmus, Tony Hill and Billy Bowden were the gents involved and that was only after Bowden was sacked and brought back. So why are the umpires not coming through from other ICC playing countries? Asad Rauf has other things on his plate after being accused not only of spot fixing, fraud, illegal betting and if that is not enough to contend with, a model from Mumbai accusing him of pitching it inside the line of her leg stump for his own immoral purposes. I am also aware that the city of Liverpool doesn't produce many umpires either as they are never sure who has 'nicked it' but in other parts of the world, where are the modern day Steve Bucknors or Rudi Koertzens?

Back in the day, the role of the umpire was a person of serious respect. Maybe I am looking through 'rose tinted glasses' but they seemed much better in years gone by. I'm sure the fantastically named West Indian, Wing Gillette, who stood for five Tests between 1948 and 1958, was certainly the best a man could get. The famous Cornish umpire Jack Crapp was definitely more accomplished than his name suggested, New Zealander Albert Jelley was firm in his decision making and Toby Rollox (I kid you not, Google him) would erm, rarely make mistakes! The same could be said for Mahboob Shah, who didn't make many boobs or the wonderfully named Indian umpire Piloo Reporter, who was certainly more fair than many members of the British tabloid press have been in recent years. I'm not sure however, if the former Nottinghamshire player Peter Hacker ever officiated or even had a form of telephonic communication with the Indian?

The loveable Shep

They seemed to all have an avuncular joviality about them in the olden days; think Dickie Bird when he retired, to not a dry eye in the house of a packed Lord's, think David Shepherd hopping about on Nelson like Michael Flatley on ecstasy. Hmmm, Kenny Palmer on marijuana anyone? Not all were remembered fondly though, and the Pakistanis didn't have such an optimistic view of David Constant, after what they perceived was a Jack Crapp decision that went against them in 1982, and followed it up with allegations of a far more sinister nature. I'm sure the current President of the Marylebone Cricket Club, a certain Michael William Gatting, will remember Shakoor Rana fondly either after the Pakistani umpire called him "a cheating c**t", for changing the field as the bowler was running into bowl. No English batsman in the mid eighties enjoyed a tour to India, where the rotund figure of Swaroop Kishen would eat into as many English batting averages, as he looked like he ate into samosas. Maybe he spent too much time in the Mervyn Kitchen?

New Zealand was no place for the faint hearted either back in the day and Colin Croft had enough and barged an umpire there, whilst even the ice cool Mikey Holding booted down the stumps once. If you ever meet Phil Tufnell, feel free to ask him about Australian umpires and their theories of lbw's to slow left armers, and West Indian officials such as Douglas Sang Hue caused as many riots as your average armed Met Police copper in Tottenham. Maybe they weren't as good as the modern day, younger official, where the likes of Taufel are outstanding and rarely get it wrong? The again, Aleem Dar, one of the better ones in recent years gave Stuart Broad not out. Umpires of yonder definitely had it easier with honest players walking, whereas the modern player walks with the fluency of Christopher Reeve and Douglas Bader on a five mile hike.

"No Mr Gatting, we can get another over in before lunch"

These days though, these blokes don't even look down for front foot no balls. What is that all about? Then you have people like Bowden thinking he is the reason we shell out a hundred quid for the privilege of watching a day at the cricket. Poor decisions from the umpires both on the pitch and from behind the screen, bad decisions from DRS, sloppy snickos, and then you have the rules for bad light. Chuck in a million different camera angles showing up your decision process and all of this increases the pressure on the poor bloke in the white coat. Dickie wouldn't be able to cope in this day and age, as he nearly burst into tears when Constant was manhandled by a pissed up MCC member during the Centenary Test at Lord's in 1980, after ten hours were lost from the tedium of a bore draw.

An OBE for Dickie

Is it time to go back to each country putting up one umpire per match with the third umpire being neutral? Is the third umpire on borrowed time with India opposing the DRS? Is it time for other countries in the world to get their house in order and start supplying the elite panel? Many questions abound and I'm not sure how the future will pan out.

One thing, I do know. The role of the umpire is changing by the year. And not all change is for the better.

1 comment:

  1. The standard outside of England and Australia is poor. Aleem Dar is the best of the rest but he is by no means the standard he was. Losing Simon Tauffel to retirement at an age that makes him look like a young pup compared to the ages that Bucknor and Venkat took their careers to.
    As many have said recently, with the elite panel it is time to do away with the necessity for 2 neutral umpires. This will allow the ashes to have a standard of umpiring it has lacked these past couple of series.