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August 3, 1998


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Donald blasts Kitchen; umpire wants to quit

South African pace bowler Allan Donald could face disciplinary action, following comments questioning the competence of British umpire Mervyn Kitchen, who had a bad five days in the office in course of the fourth Test between England and South Africa.

Speaking on Radio Five Live, Donald said, "I think Merv's realised he had a few shockers, he made a few shocking decisions in that Test match, which swung it.

"He looked to me like he was struggling," said Donald. "For a man to admit that he has made some bad mistakes, and then saying that maybe he should quit...."

Donald, uncharacteristically vocal on the subject, said, "If you lose your concentration, you are playing with people's careers, one wrong decision in the heat of the moment can swing a game. If you are not up to it, then rather get out of the game, than cause yourself more damage," the premier paceman said.

Kitchen himself has been struggling with the aftermatch of a less than par outing at Trent Bridge, where England won to level the series. The 48 year old umpire, who gave both Jacques Kallis and Jonty Rhodes out caught behind when replays showed neither had touched the ball, then went on to give Michael Atherton not out when he had palpably gloved one, and then let a couple of very clear LBW appeals go abegging.

"I looked at the replays later and realised I had made a mistake. I don't feel up to the job any more, I think it will be my last," Kitchen said. The British umpire has been on the receiving end of hate mail following that performance.

The outburst by Donald is liable to increase the pressure on Javed Akthar of Pakistan, who has been flown in to officiate in the final Test of the series, starting Thursday at Headingley.

Akthar has never officiated in a game in England before. However, he has umpired England in Pakistan, before the Sharjah tournament last December. He has also stood for a couple of South Africa's Tests, so he is familiar with both sides.

Interestingly, Akthar was involved in an incident last October, in Rawalpindi, when he turned down a bat-pad against Mohammad Wasim, the Pakistan middle order player, and Brian McMillan, who took the catch, hurled the ball away in disgust while the bowler, Pat Symcox, had a sharp exchange with the umpire which earned him a hefty fine.

The 57 year old umpire, who is also a coach, officially on the Pakistan Cricket Board's roster, will most definitely be under the gun come Thursday -- if only because with both teams tied with a win apiece, with South Africa still smarting at the Trent Bridge defeat and the umpiring errors, the pressures on both officials will be enormous.

Meanwhile South African coach Bob Woolmer, while not directly attacking the umpiring, said that he was in favour of extended use of the third umpire in Tests.

Arguing that there was too much pressure on umpires, Woolmer said he saw no harm in introducing a greater role for third umpires, on an experimental basis to start with.

Woolmer, however, refused to blame Kitchen's inept display for South Africa's loss. "We lost the Tet because we batted badly in the second innings, not because of the umpiring," Woolmer said, adding, "It is terrible to hear Kitchen saying he doesn't want to go on, no one wants to hear that his career is over because of the pressure. We've got to find ways of helping him, helping everybody, because we are all in it together," said the Proteas' coach, pushing his case for wider powers for the third umpire.

Mail Prem Panicker