IPL 2018: Spotlight on umpiring standards
For what is life if we do not move on, for what is experience if we do not commit mistakes, learn from them and then make an effort to iron out the flaws.
Perhaps, in this day and age of incessant scrutiny and unlimited trolling, mistakes become glaring and not for nothing is cricket equated with life; the season of the Indian Premier League zipped past us, and now when the euphoria has subsided we look back and take an account of what hit us in those 60 days.
‘Umpiring howlers’ hogged several headlines, the many ‘mistakes’ flooded television and debates floated around all over the place questioning the very existence of the umpires.
Virat Kohli, a man who loves to leave it all out on the field was involved in several animated discussions with the umpires and the tonality was far from pleasant.
For all the flak the BCCI keeps getting for several reasons, they tried to infuse local flavour and give the Indian umpires plenty of opportunities to test the mettle this season, but as the season hurtled towards the conclusion, there was this common notion that the Indian crop wilt under pressure and are susceptible to mistakes, so much so, that it even evoked a sense of hollow anticipation whenever two Indian umpires walked out to officiate in matches.
Now, in an age when social media has made everyone vociferous and no one really likes to curb his opinions, there was and perhaps there will be this general feeling that umpires are no good, they fail to pick even the basic mistakes on the field and commit blunders which even a layman picks up while watching it on the television.
Is this judgement hasty, is this judgement on point, is this judgement even a judgement?
For Pranab Roy, former India and Bengal first-class cricket who forayed into umpiring and then was also a BCCI-appointed match referee for Ranji Matches this verdict is a harsh one, which is bereft of any sane logic.
“To be very frank, I am not all buying this statement that the umpiring standards have been poor. I have worked with almost all the Indian umpires in Ranji Trophy and they have been brilliant, absolutely professional,” Roy opines.
“I have been hearing this a lot, the umpiring standards have been below par this IPL, well, you have technology at your disposal, if the decisions are not up to the mark, go take help of the many tools available, why is there so much problem,” he further adds.
Shahbaz Nadeem, Jharkhand and Delhi Daredevils spinner defends the umpires and states facts which are really hard to bypass.
“Well, I have been playing for around 12 years now, and I have only seen umpiring standards improve. Like even six to seven years ago when we played, there were no cameras, whatever the umpires decided we had to follow. Now, with so many cameras, so many angles we jump at almost anything which the umpires say or do on the field, which is unfair,” Nadeem believes.
Roy once again stresses that any human will "make a mistake" when confronted with high-pressure situations and that's the sole reason for backing technology.
“Do not forget that these IPL matches are high-pressure affairs, well, it might be a domestic tournament, but having said this, the pressure on the players and the umpires go through the roof, it is much more than what one feels in many International matches. When the stakes are so high, any human will make a mistake, and which is why there is technology,” Roy makes a pertinent point about pressure.
The Decision Review System was brought in the fold to shunt out the howlers, but over the years with the advancement of technology and with cameras perched at almost every corner of the ground, it has become a double-edged sword for the umpires.
There is a sense that the umpires are forever under the pump and they officiate with a sense of burden, and perhaps, mistakes creep in owing to the invasive nature of broadcasting.
“Back in the day when there was no DRS or even neutral umpires, the decision of the on-field umpires was binding and final. Yes, there were mistakes, but players accepted it and moved on. There was no hue and cry, it is after all human tendency. Imran Khan advocated for neutral umpires and even then mistakes happened. It was not recorded and thus no one talks about it. I do not know why the media is raking up this issue and putting more pressure on the umpires today,” Roy adds.
Nadeem too seems to agree with too much pressure being put on the umpires.
“See, we are so quick to say that a player had a bad day, but why don’t we have the same judgement about umpires, even they have a bad day, but as a player if I compare the standards have definitely increased,” the left arm spinner adds.
“I should also add this here, if the overseas umpires make a mistake, it is easily swept under the carpet, but if our Indian folks make even a small mistake everyone jumps up and down,” Roy further elaborates.
What matters when the smokescreen is cleared that the men responsible take an account of whatever is going on, take criticisms in their stride, acknowledge the few good positive words and make a move.
A new season awaits the umpires, perhaps even more scrutiny!