Whose blame is it anyway?

In a podcast interview I conducted with cricket writer Gideon Haigh, while talking about the use of technology in making umpiring decisions and the Decision Review System (DRS), he mentioned an event from the 2012 Ryobi Cup final, between South Australia and Tasmania.

There was ridiculous situation at the One Day final, the Ryobi Cup, where apparently the rule from Cricket Australia was that only use of the third umpire in domestic game was to be in the event of howlers. That had been the case right throughout the tournament. But, in the final, George Bailey [of Tasmania], towards the end of his innings was given not-out by the on-field umpire and the South Australian players picked up such a fuss that the umpire forgot what they were doing and referred it to the third umpire who over-turned the decision. That just simply shouldn’t happen. But, it’s a fact that the technology exists, is going to encourage the people to seek it out.

Munaf Patel, along with Harbhajan Singh, must be penalized for this behavior

On Monday, April 9, 2012 during the match between the Deccan Chargers and Mumbai Indians, off the third ball of the 13th over of the Deccan Chargers innings delivered by Munaf Patel, the ball went off the inside edge of Kumar Sangakkara’s bat. The bails were dislodged. It was not immediately clear whether the ball ricocheted off the pads of the wicket keeper Dinesh Karthik and then dislodged the bails or Sangakkara was bowled before the ball ricocheted off Karthik’s pads and then hit the stumps again. The square leg umpire, Johan Cloete, believed it was the latter and declared the batsman not out and can be heard on TV saying “Off the [wicket keeper’s] pads” to the straight umpire Anil Chowdhury. Rohit Sharma, the point fielder (and positioned diametrically opposite to Cloete’s position at square leg) can be seen making the “rectangle” sign, asking Cloete to check with the third umpire but Cloete was confident. Patel wasn’t confident in his initial appeal either. Neither was the wicket keeper.

[Video: From YouTube)

Then, the replay was shown. It looked absolutely certain that the bails were dislodged before the ball ricocheted off Karthik’s pads to hit the stumps again. Harbhajan Singh, Captain of Mumbai Indians, and the bowler Munaf Patel, can now be seen arguing, quite demonstratively I might add, with umpire Cloete as to why he would not refer it to the third umpire and get a second look. Cloete was adamant about what he had seen (wrongly, as it turned out) and the ugly scene continued for another minute or so. Eventually, the on-field umpires decided to refer it to the third umpire and Sangakkara was declared out. To his credit, Sangakkara did not make a huge issue of it as he walked off the field, as he truly had been dismissed.

Dermott Reeve, the commentator on air at that time, along with Craig McMillan, said, “Umpires are allowed to make mistakes. That’s the human nature of the game. You cannot force the umpires refer their decisions. You cannot argue like this.”

Why? Why not?

In weekend club games, there are no video replays displayed on huge screens and no matter how egregious an umpire’s decision we as players may think it to be, we learn to move on. You believe that the umpire is doing the best job he can and you live with it.

However, the case here is slightly different. The sensible decision would have been for the umpires to refer it to the third umpire to adjudicate on the decision. We have come to see from umpires that almost all the run out appeals go to the third umpire as the on-field umpires want to err on the side of caution. It was interesting to see that Johan Cloete decided that there was no doubt in his mind that the bails were dislodged off the ricochet, although the possibility of him being wrong existed quite obviously.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Once the on-field umpires after a brief consultation with each other, had concluded that it was not out, the game needed to move on. But the Mumbai players, led by their captain, who felt hard done by the decision, created a fuss, especially after the replay had been shown on the screen. Are the players, in essence, wrong in asking for the right decision to be made? Should they have prolonged the argument as much as they did?

Should umpire Cloete have referred the decision to the third umpire as soon as the replay was shown on the big screen? Certainly, it would have been a tremendous loss of face for him, but umpires more experienced in the international arena have set precedence for him. During the 1st test of India-England series in 2007, umpire Simon Taufel wrongly gave Kevin Pietersen out when the catch was not clean – the ball had bounced just before getting to wicket keeper Dhoni – but recalled Pietersen to bat on after he saw the replay on the big screen.

If Cloete had gone for the referral as soon as the replay was shown on the screen, the escalation of the incident could have been easily avoided. The players, some of them unsatisfied, were getting back to their positions after the initial clarification by Cloete. It was after the replay was shown on the screen that they confronted Cloete more menacingly and aggressively. Most certainly, Harbhajan Singh and Munaf Patel should be penalized, to the full extent allowed under breach of conduct, for their tactless behavior but Cloete could have completely defused the situation. Ricky Ponting was fined 40% of his match fees for visibly remonstrating with a decision taken by umpire Aleem Dar in 2010-11 Ashes. By the same token, Singh and Patel must be penalized as well.

Here is another interesting aspect of this situation. International players have been given the right to challenge an umpire’s decision through the Decision Review System, in tests and ODIs. The players have been granted a mechanism to address situations where they feel hard done by an umpiring mistake. It is now only natural, as Haigh pointed out in the podcast, that the players would look for ways to swing the system their way. If indeed the ball had broken the stumps off the ricochet but Sangakkara were given wrongly out, it is possible that he would have felt hard done but the umpires needed to recall him once they had seen the replay, as that would have been the right thing to do.

Umpires do make mistakes. They are human, after all. Therefore, it makes sense to have the technological tools like video replay and others in place to aid the umpire in making the right decisions. However, this is not to say that technology has to replace the umpires, which is what the arguments about DRS system have skewed to become. Technology can come to the aid of the umpire in situations like the one that transpired in Mumbai. It was an incident too close to call but the umpire decided to anyway. However, when the replay showed that there was an obvious mistake in the umpire’s decision, it needed to be rectified. This is a template for the DRS system that I can truly get behind as well.

The DRS was initially said to be instituted and in place to get rid of “howlers” but it has come to dealing exclusively in the margins of decision making, such as borderline LBW decisions. The blog “A Cricketing View” has dealt on this issue in far greater depth, and makes the distinction between umpiring mistakes and errors. The decision taken today by Cloete was a mistake, as on a second look, and in all likelihood, Cloete would have changed his decision (as it so happened).

The authority of the umpire on the field has progressively been eroding. The statement “umpire’s decision is final” no longer is true in international matches as that convention has been usurped by the DRS. The fall out from that is now being seen even in matches where the DRS system is not in use. This is further compounded by replays on giant screens in stadiums that expose the umpires to second-guessing and persecution.

This has put the modern umpires in an impossible position. As it is, the umpire has become obsolete, LBW wise. It is for cricket (and by that, ICC) to decide what the role of an on-field umpire is in the future. The way cricket, the inclusion of technology in decision-making (rather than, strictly as a helping aid) and the erosion of umpire’s authority on the field has been progressing, soon the umpires will be reduced to just bean counting figureheads.

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19 Responses to Whose blame is it anyway?

  1. Burton DeWitt says:

    Or they can refer it, the video evidence can clearly show the bat was not grounded when the bails were dislodged, and they can still give the batsman not out, as happened in that same match on the penultimate ball on the match. It’s a broken system.

    Then again, really, the only job of the umpire in international cricket now is to check the light and arbitrarily decide it’s too dark to continue with one ball remaining in the day’s play. So I guess you are correct.

  2. Homer says:

    Law 29 (Batsman out of his ground)

    When out of his ground
    (a) A batsman shall be considered to be out of his ground unless his bat or some part of his person is grounded behind the popping crease at that end.

    (b) Notwithstanding (a) above, if a running batsman, having grounded some part of his foot behind the popping crease, continues running further towards the wicket at that end and beyond, then any subsequent total loss of contact with the ground of both his person and his bat during his continuing forward momentum shall not be interpreted as being out of his ground.

    Since the bat was grounded behind the popping crease before the stumps were dislodged and subsequently the bat was in the air at the time when the stumps were broken, by (b) it is not out.

    • GhostkaDost says:

      From your post above

      (b) Notwithstanding (a) above, if a running batsman, having grounded some part of his foot behind the popping crease,

      At no point his foot was behind the popping crease for he had dived full length. Does bat also constitute as 'some par of foot'?

  3. What the Umpire should have done is a separate issue. Should the players have been able to protest the way they did? I doubt it.

  4. Aditya says:

    To the best of my knowledge, all dismissals in cricket are equal. you do not get out twice for getting bowled or LBW.

    Let us consider this – A batsman is given out LBW when there was a clear inside edge, while walking off sees it on the BIG screen, can the umpire change his decision after seeing the replay? Do the rules permit it? If No, why the double standard in the rules?

    People talking that this was BOWLED and hence Sanga shouldn’t be hanging around is utter rubbish. A dismissal is a dismissal whatsoever way it has happened. Sanga was well within his rights to hang around.
    Getting bowled is same as getting an edge through to the keeper. Both are dismissals.

    And of course all the Sanga haters would want to gang up on him for not walking, when in fact their God does not walk!

    • Sudhi says:

      Your LBW example – YES the rules permit a batsman’s recall provided he’s still inside the boundary.

      Of course, I agree on your comments regarding Sanga and walking.

  5. Jonathan Dixon says:

    In terms of what the umpires did, there’s the added complication that there isn’t any provision in the playing conditions allowing the umpires to refer a bowled decision, only for a hit wicket referral to result in a bowled decision. Mind you, the use of common sense is explicitly mentioned.

    Kartikeya, how does the distinction between what you call errors and mistakes work here?

    • If Umpire Cloete sees the replay, it can be reasonably expected that he will reach a different conclusion. Alternatively, if the Third Umpire saw the replay, he can also be reasonably expected to reach a different conclusion from the Umpire Cloete’s (as he in fact did). Hence, Umpire Cloete made a mistake here, not an error.

      • Jonathan Dixon says:

        So seeing it again includes with the advantage of slow motion, different angles, etc. When would you call it an error in this situation? If the video were less conclusive and different umpires reached different conclusions? Is this simply a reframing of your definition of marginal, or do you only talk about errors when it comes to the predicitive part of LBWs?

        • The difference between errors and mistakes – a mistake is one which is identifiable within the same mode of judgment. An error is something that exists between modes of judgment.

          The assumption is, that the mode of judgment used by the human umpire is distinct from the mode of judgment used by a technical system. So when an Umpire looks at another Umpire’s decision, that verification takes place within the same mode of judgment. When a technical system is used to verify and Umpire’s decision, then the same event is being subjected to two different modes of judgment.

          I find this distinction useful when there are two different modes of judgment, and some protocol of their use gives one power over the other (as in the case of DRS – the ball-track is used to verify the umpire’s decision).

          • Jonathan Dixon says:

            That’s what I’m getting at, though – I don’t think the line between same mode of judgment and different modes of judgment is all that clear. The slow motion replay is a hugely significant technical system, and even though the umpire’s eyes are still responsible for any ‘calculation’, he’s looking at quite a different thing. If Cloete could see the same event several times in real time at square leg he might not change his mind at all, then see the replay send him off without a second thought. That would be more like an ‘error’, surely.

          • The significance lies in the discretion available to the Umpire in looking at it.

            Take three systems:

            1. Umpire seeing something in real time.
            2. Umpire seeing something on replay.
            3. A ball-track style device (or a hotspot style device) that is designed to provide significant information that is used in a deterministic way in DRS.

            The point about ball-tracking is that the third umpire does not use any judgment (that’s the whole point of using the ball-track). A trained monkey could do what the third umpire does in the case of a DRS LBW review.

            I agree that the replay is not the same as the real time view. But it allows the Umpire similar amounts of discretion (discretion is determined by the protocol) to that afforded by the real time view.

  6. Jonathan Dixon says:

    I should also say I don’t think any usurping here is all down to the DRS. Taufel’s London reversal came before (and contributed to) the DRS – it might fair to say the precedent would be there to a large exten even without the DRS.

  7. Sudhi says:

    I don’t mind umps as “bean counting figureheads”. they shouldn’t be the centre-figures at all. The more uneventful their role, the better for the game.
    Cloete reminds me of Bucknor in 1991. On the eve of the 1st test where 3rd ump was 1st introduced he bluntly remarked that he wouldn’t be using 3rd ump! Next morn play, an SA batsmen is run-out by a yard, Buck refuses to refer and gives not out and the batsmen makes a ton!!! In this example excitement can be created by players dropping catches or missing run-outs and the batsman makes a century. But I definitely don’t want artificial excitement from cocky umpiring.

  8. anon says:

    so, we are against technology when Sachin doesn’t want to use it. But we are for it when Harbhajan wants to use it. Stay classy and consistent.

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