Watch out! Umpiring standards have become a joke

Umpiring standards have fallen to abysmal levels in the country. Not a single Indian has really been worthy of a place on the ICC’s Elite Panel. Ever since Srinivas Venkataragahvan retired from the scene, India has not had an umpire of international standard.

There is no point in raging against visiting cricket writers who heap scorn on Indian umpiring. They have a point, especially when Indian umpires were seen outdoing each other in committing crass mistakes in ODIs in competition with the elder Steve Davis from Australia who is very little better at his age than any of them.
To see a batsman being given out leg before to a ball pitching noticeably outside leg stump is a pathetic sight in the game. This is an error that was wiped out long ago. And wherever the DRS is in place, the batsmen would have little hesitation in calling for it if in their opinion the ball was pitching outside leg. The Television mat is a great invention. Sadly, we don’t use it in India.
The cause of Indian umpires is not served by the BCCI’s studied opposition to the decision review system. Indian cricket would not have been half as embarrassed if the DRS were in place. Alastair Cook must have gone home from the Test and ODI series in India believing he had somehow been targeted not only by Indian but also the world’s umpires as they merrily sent him on his way, regardless of whether he played the ball or the ball pitched outside leg stump.
There was at least one full day’s play in the Test series in which the only wicket the Indian bowlers took was the one granted to them by an umpiring error. While that is more a reflection of the bowling standards, particularly that of the spinners, it also showed up what a difficult job it is for the officials in coats when the DRS is not in place. Umpires around the world have had a most interesting history, more so those of our country who have been the butt of jokes next only to the Pakistanis and the Sri Lankans. Indian umpires are well meaning blokes, very sound on theory but when it comes to making a call they tend to get lost in abstract theories rather than come to a clear conclusion on the incident as they see it.
Take a simple test: The batsman has hit the ball back on the full to the bowler who lets it through his hands on to the stumps which are broken with the non-striker out of his ground and the ball carries on to mid on where the fielder takes the catch. Who is out — the non-striker? Wrong — it’s the striker who is out. The rule of first incident does not apply when the batsman in strike is out.
And you can trust an Indian umpire to come to the right decision on this one in a million happening.
Ask the aspiring Indian international umpire to make a call on the likely path of a ball after the point of impact and he would probably lose it in great theorising. No wonder not one umpire has emerged yet who is considered worthy of a place on the international panel even though standards there have dipped too since the salad days of David Shepherd, not to speak of the venerable Dickie Bird once considered so good Imran Khan would have invited him to stand in every Test.
The one way forward would be to have the DRS in place at least in the highest level of domestic cricket like the Duleep and Ranji Trophy finals and the Irani Cup game. At least then Indian umpires can measure themselves up against a referral system and see what it is to make obviously erroneous decisions. This ostrich in the sand act with the DRS is not going to help Indian umpires and the umpiring standards prevailing in the country.

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