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|October 23, 1999||
Nothing to Crowe aboutDilip Vengsarkar
Just last week, I happened to read a syndicated column written by former New Zealand captain Martin Crowe. In this, he mentions that the umpires in the sub-continent make more mistakes than those in other cricket-playing countries.
Possibly Martin was compelled to write as he did because he felt that Sachin Tendulkar should have been given out LBW off the first ball he faced in the Mohali Test. Maybe he thought the batsman was wrongly given the benefit of the doubt, more so as Sachin went on to score a century and helped put India in a commanding position on the fourth day.
Coming as it did from Martin, though, the comment was rather surprising. He has played so much international cricket himself, and has been the recepient of umpteen benefits of the same doubt as far as LBWs are concerned, particularly in his own country. Casting aspersions on sub-continental umpires was therefore uncalled for.
During my time, I have played in quite a few Tests and ODIs in New Zealand, and found that the standard of Kiwi umpiring, as also that of Australia, was poorer than what we have in the sub-continent. Over there, they not only blunder, but do so blatantly. Glenn Turner for instance scored a lot of runs, but every opposing team had, more times than not, had to get him out at least twice in each innings, which was frustrating to say the least. Sure, human error can occur, but not in almost every Test innings he has played at home!
Indeed, the umpiring in New Zealand has been a nightmare for touring teams, and there are cricketers who secretly dreaded touring there because of it. Remember that famous picture of Mike Holding kicking the stumps out of the ground in sheer frustration when the umpire refused to give John Parker out caught behind? And what about Colin Croft deliberately running into the umpire and shouldering him, out of sheer frustration at finding the official favouring the batsman again and again?
Why, when we toured that country in 1981, Dilip Doshi was seen a number of times virtually pleading with the umpire when the batsman repeatedly tried to sweep off middle stump, and were rapped on the pads in front of the wicket. But no, the umpires consistently gave the batsmen not out, much to our dismay.
New Zealand, over the years, has come to be associated with poor umpiring. So much so that visiting cricketers believed that it was better to get a batsman out bowled, for winning an appeal was close to impossible. To recall another incident, when Bhagwat Chandrasekhar bowled a batsman out, he appealed to the umpire. When the puzzled umpire told him the batsman was bowled, Chandra -- never one to lose his cool, but here frustrated beyond endurance -- shot back, "Yes, I know he is bowled, but is he out?"
Martin Crowe needs to think a bit before pointing a finger at the umpires in the sub-continent -- the New Zealand umpires are, frankly, nothing to write home about.
I must also mention here that I liked the way in which Kiwi skipper Fleming fought it out on the last day to save the Test for his team. With him playing bat and pad close together while defending against the likes of Kumble and Joshi, I am sure he must have been satisfied with the way the umpires handled the number of tight appeals. Any other umpire would have wilted under the pressure of constant appealing -- which, I must add, I do not approve off -- but the two who officiated in Mohali did a marvellous job.
Take it from me, umpiring in the sub-continent is a rather difficult job. With spinners operating most of the time, and if the wicket is turning, the ball bouncing more than normal, and the fielders going up for everything, umpiring can be a nightmare.
Ask Dickie Bird, the most respected umpire during his time. He will vouch for the fact that it is easier to umpire in other countries where the noise level is low and bat-pad decisions are easier to make, than in the sub-continent.
So let's spare a thought for the two gents officiating out in the middle. They are, after all, the ones who are criticised when they err (or sometimes even when they do not err), but seldom receive a pat on the back for a job well done.
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