Pro Kabaddi League 2017 Season 5: Horrendous refereeing decisions spoil third day of Sonepat leg
The mammoth Pro Kabaddi League Season 5 is in its seventh week and spread over three months and featuring 12 teams from 11 states across India, it is the largest competition of its kind in the history of Indian sport. It has won over audiences across the country, overtaking cricket in TV ratings, garnering record numbers in revenues and providing fans with the highest quality of kabaddi action, featuring the best players in the world.
The new season has consistently provided memorable moments of supreme quality -- individual skills, excellent comebacks and clinical team performances. However, one issue that has cropped up consistently as well is the quality of officiating, with officials being criticized for making errors that could have easily been avoided.
The referees have come under a barrage of criticism, from players and coaches for questionable decisions that have altered the course of games. Balwan Singh, the Jaipur Pink Panthers coach, Telugu Titans raider Nilesh Salunke and Bengaluru Bulls star Rohit Kumar have all been critical of the officials at post-match press conferences.
It is understandable that referees are humans as well and can make errors, especially given the tiny margins and high speed that come with kabaddi. As a result, there are video umpires who can assist the on-field officials and their decisions can be referred so as to ensure that with the help of technology, the correct decision is made.
But what if the video umpire starts making huge gaffes? Is that even possible? Well, if two decisions on Day 39 are anything to go by, it seems like even after slow motion videos, the officials are having a torrid time making the right call. Let's consider the two situations that transpired.
Match 71 - Bengaluru Bulls vs Puneri Paltan
The first match of the day saw a horrible error made by the video referee, that eventually had a huge impact on how the game transpired. With a little less than 10 minutes to play and the match evenly poised, Pune raider Rajesh Mondal went in to raid in a do-or-die situation.
Mahender Singh and Preetam Chhillar, the Bulls defenders, came in with a powerful dash from the right side of the court but the raider got his hand across the midline just in time, which is why the on-field referees ruled it in his favour. The situation was touch-and-go, which is why the Bulls chose to review the call.
After looking at the slow motion replays, it was clear that Mondal's foot was in the lobby while his hand crossed the line, which meant that the referee's initial call was right. However, quite inexplicably, the video umpire overturned the decision. It was a hammer blow for the Puneri Paltan as what was two points and two important opposition defenders off, turned into their key raider going out and the Bulls getting a revival. The Pune side would eventually go on to lose the match.
Here's a screengrab of the incident:
Match 72 - Haryana Steelers vs Telugu Titans
While there is still room for debate in the first one, the second howler of the day is absolutely inexcusable. It happened early in the second half but like the first, it did not have a major impact on the result of the match.
The second half began with the Haryana Steelers down to three men on the court, two of which were Wazir Singh and captain Surender Nada. On the other hand, the Titans were playing with their full set of seven on the mat and were first to raid, having won the toss and chosen court.
The first three raids were blank ones -- by Rahul Chaudhari, followed by Wazir Singh and then by Nilesh Salunke. For the next one, stepping in was defender Surender Nada, which meant that he would not risk getting caught and play on the next raid, which would be a do-or-die for the Titans and a super tackle chance for Haryana.
As he went back, Titans raider Mohsen Maghsoudlou charged at him in a pursuit and Nada retreated hastily into the left corner. As he did so, there were concerns about whether he stepped out of bounds, which would have meant that it would be a point for the Titans. However, the on-field officials deemed him in and during the raid, a super tackle was completed by the Steelers.
The Titans immediately challenged the call and asked for a review. The referee asked what their claim was and Rohit Rana clearly told him, "pursuit ke baad self out." (Self out after pursuit)
The on-air commentators were also curious about how the situation would play out but what happened was beyond explanation and left the viewers befuddled, along with the commentators. The footage that was reviewed by the umpire was the wrong one -- it was from the time the defenders began to charge in on the raider and not from the pursuit.
At first, it seemed like a genuine error and audiences waited for the correct video to come up but it never did and the referee awarded the decision in favour of the Steelers. Here are few screengrabs to explain:
The Pro Kabaddi League, in all certainty, has changed the way the sport is viewed and has taken it to across the nation and the world, making the players household names. It has added a great degree of professionalism to the sport as well, but incidents like these have a hugely detrimental effect on the league and threaten to undo all the good work that has been done over the last few years.
Here's hoping that these incidents are actually looked into and it is ensured that atleast the video umpiring is spot on. While it is understandable that referees can make mistakes, the degree at which these errors have kept coming in surely worrisome and something that needs to be addressed at the earliest.
(All screenshots have been taken from Hotstar and the credits for the same belong to to Star India)