August 26, 2013

Horse 1535 - Let the Umpires Umpire.

Australia 492-9d & 111-6d drew with England 377 & 206-5

The Fifth and final Test between Australia and England has ended in a draw and it appears that there are several people who aren't happy with the result; this after a series which was full of controversy surrounding the Decision Review System.
Let's think this through properly shall we. I know that I've written about this sort of thing before but again we come back to one of the fundamental questions of umpiring: To what degree do we allow the umpires to do their job?

It is totally appalling that they can put regulations like this together without fully thinking through the likely consequences.
Neither is this bad-light ruling the only one. The other is the one that concerns runners. You could have a situation where a team needs 10 runs to win the Ashes, and a batsman with an injured hamstring cannot come to the crease because he is not allowed someone to run for him.
This sort of thing must never happen again - a full house, a terrific finish unfolding, and the umpires being forced to bring it all to a crashing halt. It's just not acceptable.
- by Jonathan Agnew, BBC cricket correspondent, 25th Aug 2013

Why Aggers, why? You don't happen to like the result, so why isn't it acceptable? I've seen it plenty of times in football where a penalty has been given where it shouldn't, where they probably should have been given and haven't and where far too much time has been added on.
Specifically, what was so unacceptable about the result to this match?

The umpires who, having been charged with the duty of overseeing the match have acted according to what they see fit. Arguably the most important law in all the laws of Cricket is Law 3 which states that:

Before the match, two umpires shall be appointed, one for each end, to control the game as required by the Laws, with absolute impartiality. 
- Law 3 of the Laws Of Cricket.

Take note of those two words "absolute impartiality". The umpires whose duty it is to control the game must do so without showing any favour to either side. At parish, church, district and club cricket level where one player from the batting side must sometimes act as an  umpire, there is an obvious internal conflict of interest but at international level where neutral umpires are appointed, this is not the case.
If we actually bother to look at the facts surrounding the decision taken on Day Five of the Fifth Test by Aleem Dar and Kumar Dharmasena, we'd find that their decision to stop play due to bad light with four possible  overs to play, was taken precisely in that spirit of "absolute impartiality". 

3.5.3 Suspension of play for adverse conditions of ground, weather or light.
b) If at any time the umpires together agree that the conditions of ground, weather or light are so bad that there is obvious and foreseeable risk to the safety of any player or umpire, so that it would be unreasonable or dangerous for play to take place, then they shall immediately suspend play, or not allow play to commence or to restart. The decision as to whether conditions are so bad as to warrant such action is one for the umpires alone to make.

That last sentence is of note: "The decision... is one for the umpires alone to make". Remember, on the Second Day of the same Test Match, play was also called off because of bad light but in that circumstance, the light was actually better. For the umpires not to call it off, would have been to make a mockery of their own decisions previous; so this decision was therefore consistent with what had already taken place.

Really this boils down to a matter of timing and perception. To be totally blunt, Michael Clarke's decision to declare for 111 was quite frankly idiotic. Kevin Petersen proved the idiocy of that decision to declare by coming out and smashing his 50 from 36 deliveries which was in start contrast to his very pedestrian display in the first innings. Clarke's decision put the smell of meat in the air and England came prepared to have a banquet.
Okay, so had the match gone on for just four overs more, would England have won? Possibly, but does that make the decision by the umpires to apply the laws with "absolute impartiality" any more or less acceptable? If the margin had been a mere 2 runs or a massive 400 runs, would the level of outrage be different? 

I think that particularly in an age where "monetisation" of sport seems to be so much more rampant than it used to be, the level of respect given to umpires and officials is falling. Even if they do happen to be paid to do the job of umpiring, an absolutely partial audience isn't exactly the most reliable judges of the judges. Being an umpire, a judge or a referee of any sport is a thankless task and with a lot of decisions you make in administering the laws and rules of whatever sport it is, you alienate half the viewing audience. 
Umpiring shouldn't be about delivering a spectacle or even the entertainment of the public. The task given to an umpire is the administration, application and judging of the game under the laws which govern it. Why must we continue to argue with the umpires, who are doing their job as they see fit?

Let the umpires umpire.

No comments: