At the post-match press conference on Saturday, MS Dhoni raised an interesting point related to umpires wearing earpieces. The on field officials would be better off without their gadgets, he felt. Dhoni had reasons to be irritated.
Umpiring standard in the high-octane India-Pakistan Asia Cup fixture was below par. But we would come to that later. To start with, this is how Dhoni drove home his point: “One thing that should certainly be done is all the umpires have a walkie-talkie and an earpiece in the ear… Effectively, it means they are all umpiring with just one ear.
Because, one ear is stuffed with the earpiece… So they can’t hear and when it’s so loud; I think it’s a very difficult job. So definitely they need to consider this thing. At least have both ears around, no point having an earpiece around, when you know when a bowler is bowling, you don’t use the earpiece. So at least use the ear to listen to a lot of things that may happen on the field.”
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The sharp dig followed an on field incident, when Dhoni had lost his cool and took his protest to umpire Sharfuddoula. The error was silly enough to ruffle him. But he was ruffled.
It happened in the fifth over of the match. Khurram Manzoor moved across his stumps and tried to scoop an Ashish Nehra delivery past the ‘keeper. He could only manage a bit of the bat handle and some glove to Dhoni. The Indian players appealed but Sharfuddoula was unmoved. At a very noisy Sher-e-Bangla Stadium, the 39-year-old Bangladeshi umpire had missed the wooden sound.
Another umpiring howler at the back end of the Indian innings denied Virat Kohli a well deserved half-century. He had a big inside edge to a Mohammad Sami inswinger but Sri Lankan umpire Ruchira Palliyaguruge didn’t pick it and adjudged the batsman leg before. On Sunday, an ICC mail informed that Kohli had been fined 30 per cent of his match fee for “showing dissent at an umpire’s decision (Level 1 of the ICC Code)”. But the decision, too, was appalling.
Not the first time
At the WACA last month, Dhoni had spoken about 50-50 decisions not going in India’s favour. His team had suffered in that ODI because George Bailey was given not out despite gloving a Barinder Sran delivery behind the stumps.
“There are a lot of 50-50 decisions that are not going in our favour. We are at the receiving end more often than not. Are you indirectly saying that we don’t get decisions in our favour because we don’t use DRS?” Dhoni had asked then. Not using DRS, however, is the BCCI’s prerogative, but umpires using earpieces has now been standardised.
And the India captain doesn’t seem to have too many backers as he voiced his disapproval.
“Look, to be honest I don’t know how this earpiece works. If it helps, then they should keep it on. If it doesn’t help…One got to understand that umpires are humans. Sometimes they do make mistakes. With all those technologies available, people are still making mistakes. Even technology is making mistakes sometimes. So I think you got to live with all those mistakes which sometime occur. I don’t know whether it would work by taking the earpiece off or putting it on. I don’t know if Dhoni knows that if it is not there, it would be working or not. But I feel these human errors are always going to be part of the game and you got to live with it. It has always been there. It will always be there,” Pakistan coach Waqar Younis told The Indian Express.
Absolute implementation of technology could be a solution, but Nigel Llong’s DRS bungle in the day/night Test at the Adelaide Oval put the whole Decision Review System under the scanner. Nathan Lyon had been given a reprieve even after he had started to walk off. Third umpire Llong ruled him not out because replays were inconclusive. Australia would have been 118/9 with the dismissal. They recovered to win the Test.
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“Are you telling me, when there was no DRS, the game was played fair and square and there was no mistakes? Technology helps minimise errors and my personal view is that it’s better to have it rather than not to have it. Yes, DRS is not 100 per cent, but if you don’t have it, there are more chances of making mistakes. The broadcasters have a duty to the fans and when technology is available, one should use it,” said Waqar.
In the past, during the 2007 world cup for example, ICC had tried hooking up the umpire with stump mic to supposedly help them hear edges better. But it was a disaster, causing more harm than help to umpires who protested.
“All kinds of sounds keep coming in. After we come out of a match we are stone deaf,” an elite panel umpire had said then. “We have this asinine situation where the batsmen are marking their guards, wicket-keepers thumping their gloves, close-in fielders adjusting their boxes and helmets, all types of words and encouragement to fellow fielders and it becomes a real pain. Indeed, there is so much sound coming from the stump microphone that you can’t really pick up the so-called faint edge,” he elaborated.
Now, Dhoni has spoken about another disadvantage of having earpieces. BCCI match referee P Shastri confirms that after the failed experiments, on field umpires use earpieces only to communicate with their colleagues in the TV room and the device is not connected to the stump mic. “No, earpieces don’t help pick the edges, it’s about umpires communicating between themselves and it will stay that way. Umpires have to adapt. A lot depends on quality. Good umpires can easily strike a balance, and modern-day cricketers are too smart to pick the difference.”
It would be interesting to see if the ICC reacts to Dhoni’s complaint/proposal in its next meeting. For the moment, however, the governing body of world cricket remains tight-lipped. “The ICC has no comment to offer,” it said via a mail.
Meanwhile, Rohit Sharma sustained a left toe injury after being hit by a Mohammad Amir’s yorker. A precautionary X-ray was done this morning and according to a team source, he still has “a bit of soreness and doing his rehab under the medical staff of the team”. The team management, however, expects him to be fit for India’s game against Sri Lanka on Tuesday.