Over the past decade or so, poor umpiring has been a key challenge facing the game of cricket.
It has marred many good cricket contests. Fans have been deprived of many great matches.
Some teams have lost matches that they'd have won. Perhaps there have been some great knocks, too, because of poor decisions.
The issue has been discussed at length by several cricketing pundits without much headway. This article is an attempt to bring out some of the important points that need to be discussed and resolved.
Standard of Umpiring
The obvious reason for the (apparent) decline in umpiring standards is the advancement of technology and its reach to a global audience.
However, I'm of the opinion that in spite of technology, blowing up the most minute of errors, the overall standard has definitely deteriorated.
While close calls in LBW, caught-behind and caught-by-close-in-fielder are unavoidable and can certainly be condoned, there have been innumerable instances where the errors have come out due to the ineptitude of the umpires.
LBW decisions given when there are big edges, or when the ball clearly goes down the leg are a few of the often-repeated mistakes.
Poor umpiring is not restricted to decisions leading to batsmen's dismissals. There have been many occasions when umpires have tended to err on the side of caution.
In the process, many "plumb" outs are not given in the pretext of "benefit of doubt going to the batsman" when there was no doubt in the first place.
Given the intense media scrutiny that the game is subjected to, and the constant criticism that comes with it, it is hard to find fault with the umpires as well.
Solution: Assessment of Umpires?
Perhaps the umpires should be subjected to a continuous appraisal system. If the umpire does not maintain a particular standard (maybe measured as a percentage of "correct" decisions), over a certain period of time, he should be demoted.
A larger pool of "ICC Elite Panel" will certainly help. Umpiring, as a profession, needs to be, to use the marketing term, "positioned" more attractively to get more young people interested.
A training school which exposes potential umpires to the finer aspects of umpiring may be of use.
Use of Technology
The whole world, save the men who matter, have access to images and technology aids. This seems rather strange and defies logic.
So can things be improved if we arm the on-field umpires with technology?
If yes, then for what decisions can they be allowed to access technology?
Maybe they can have a hand-held device that can show them the replays perhaps without Hawk-eye or tram lines. Or should they have access to those aids, too?
If the on-field umpire has all the tools, is he perhaps not required to stand there in the first place? Maybe no balls can be detected automatically.
Is technology 100 percent foolproof? There are several run-outs which cannot be given for want of a frame between those split seconds. Hawk-eye at times does not make sense.
There are a whole lot of questions that arise when this topic is broached. There isn't enough space to write everything here. But I hope this brings about some good discussion.
On a closing note, I'd like the community to ponder about this point:
- Will use of more technology and hence greater accuracy make cricket more enjoyable and interesting?
- Or should cricket be left as it is: as "the game of glorious uncertainties"?