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IPL 2020: Why specialist umpires are absolutely necessary for monitoring no-balls

Advait Rao

2019 IPL Final - Mumbai v Chennai
2019 IPL Final - Mumbai v Chennai

The 2019 season of the Indian Premier League was easily one of the most competitive yet. Out of the bottom five teams in the points table, three of them ended up having equal points.

In fact, all of the five teams could have had the same number of points if it weren't for the rain that plagued the Rajasthan Royals vs Royal Challengers Bangalore match, which resulted in each team being awarded one point.

In spite of all the electrifying action on the field though, the umpiring during the tournament came under the scanner once again. The IPL boasts of some world-class umpires, but the standard of umpiring is a topic that has come up multiple times since the inception of the league in 2008.

IPL 12 in particular will be remembered as the year of no-balls. To be more precise, it will be remembered as the year of no-balls that weren't called. And these errors in umpiring were especially consequential considering how close all the teams were on the points table. 

Mumbai Indians' first win of the season came against RCB. The side, led by Rohit Sharma, had lost their first game of the season (as usual) and were looking for a win. 

Lasith Malinga
Lasith Malinga's no-ball against RCB stirred quite the controversy

After scoring a decent total of 187 in their quota of 20 overs, MI were optimistic of a positive result. However, this was the Chinnaswamy, and the Royal Challengers batting line-up was a force to reckon with.

Some solid performances from Parthiv Patel and the skipper Virat Kohli saw RCB get on track to chase down the total. Then AB de Villiers came out to bat, and in typical AB fashion he smashed the potent Mumbai bowling attack all around the park.

By the end of the 19th over, De Villiers had scored 68 from 39, with 16 to get in the final over. That final over, bowled by death-bowling legend Lasith Malinga, came down to the last ball, with 6 runs still required.


Malinga bowled a perfectly executed yorker, and the match was wrapped up. Mumbai had won. Or so they thought.

Just before the post match presentation began, the big screens showed that the last ball of the match was a no-ball. If the no-ball had been spotted, the batsmen would've crossed and De Villiers would have been back on strike, with four runs to win.

What hurt the sentiments of fans even more, is that had RCB won that match, they would have qualified for the playoffs.

RCB captain Virat Kohli
RCB captain Virat Kohli

Kohli wasn't happy at how the match had ended, and the controversy led to the discussion of the issue at the IPL Governing Council meeting on 5 November. A proposal has been floated to have specialist umpires for no-balls, which would help reduce crucial errors.

However, the move will first have to be tested at domestic tournaments, and it remains to be seen whether it will be implemented at IPL 2020. "We will discuss it further and see how it goes," a BCCI official was quoted as saying.

My hope is that for the next season they come up with a clear-cut protocol in the case of a dispute over a no-ball. Then maybe MS Dhoni won't have to storm the field, like he did in the CSK v RR match in 2019. 

Checking a no-ball is not too difficult to check and verify with the help of technology. It should fairly easy to monitor as compared to something like ball-tracking or UltraEdge.

As the IPL grows in popularity, the margin for error becomes smaller - whether you're a player, umpire or even a member of the support staff. It is imperative that the administrators implement safeguards against those errors as soon as possible.

Also see – Mushtaq Ali Trophy points table

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