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Saturday, May 28, 2022

India tour of Australia: Umpire strikes back

Dhoni and Co begin to warm up to DRS after crucial umpiring decisions go against them.

Written by Bharat Sundaresan | Brisbane |
Updated: December 22, 2014 12:15:09 pm
While Shikhar Dhawan was dismissed by Mitchell Marsh fair and square in the second Test, he was hard done in the first Test. (Source: AP) While Shikhar Dhawan was dismissed by Mitchell Marsh fair and square in the second Test, he was hard done in the first Test. (Source: AP)

It’s not every day that you get to see a reindeer in the middle of an Aussie summer, bang in the middle of a major city. How about two then? On Sunday, there were three in fact on Queens Street in Brisbane’s central business district. Two in flesh and blood and one as a blown-up doll. This is Christmas season after all. And Brisbane has been warming up for the festive season in a big way. We’re not even talking about the plethora of ‘50 per cent off’ signs flashing out of shops selling everything from clothes to furniture.

Celebratory fireworks have been going off at South Bank Parklands — the city’s manmade beach — every evening since last Monday. In nearby Stanley Street, locals have been selling their wares in the Christmas market all week. The otherwise heavily commercial locale of King George’s Square was turned into a mini-Bethlehem with a large procession, which included the reindeers and numerous baby Jesuses, cutting across the avenues lined with sky-scraping towers. Thousands poured out onto Queens Street, including around a 100 Santa Clauses, many in their summer wear.

Holiday in

The Indian team spent the first weekend of the holiday season in the confines of their hotel, mulling over another Test defeat. And wondering why they couldn’t have been shown some Christmas spirit by the two umpires officiating at the Gabba, if not by most of them who had stood in matches involving them. For, a day after they showed signs of accepting the DRS formula, even if only on their own terms, the Indian camp still sounded betrayed in terms of not getting the rub of the green in close calls. They were also stubborn in their view about being at the receiving end of an unofficial bias against them by umpires around the world.

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On the final day of the second Test, skipper MS Dhoni had in his own ambassadorial fashion raised doubts over the standard of umpiring in the series so far by saying, “it could certainly improve”. But sources within the team have confirmed that the management isn’t really chuffed about decisions going against them.

Two instances in particular that reached contrasting ends on Saturday have irked the visitors the most. Steve Smith was adjudged not-out by umpire Marias Erasmus after the Australian skipper had shouldered arms to a length ball from Umesh Yadav. The ball had smashed into his pads half-way up. The Indians appealed with gusto. The wicket could have brought them back into the game. It could have given them a sniff. DRS-themed replays showed that the ball would have kissed half a bail. Even if the decision had been referred to, the umpire’s call would have stood.

Earlier in the day, MS Dhoni had been sent on his way after stepping out of his crease to Josh Hazlewood, missing a straight ball, and getting hit on the pads. When he was hit, the Indian captain was a few yards out of his crease. Replays showed the ball kissing half a bail. Again in a world where India and DRS were on the same page, Dhoni would have remained out. For Erasmus had decided that despite having to travel a significant distance, the ball was headed towards the stumps.

“If Dhoni could have been given out despite being so far ahead of his crease, it was strange to see Smith given a reprieve even after he was hit when within his crease. Again even if DRS was used in its present form, both decisions would have stayed as the umpire’s call would have been justified,” said a source.

“Way too often we end up getting a raw deal in terms of close decisions. It’s the howlers though that need to be avoided. And that’s what DRS needs to ensure and not end up justifying whatever decision the umpire makes ,” he added.

Plenty to frown upon

There have been close to half-a-dozen decisions that the Indians could genuinely frown upon over the first two Tests of this series. There was also an instance of an umpire denying India runs after a batsman had ducked under a bouncer. While the batsman claimed to have been taking evasive action, the official was of a different opinion and stuck with it.

The Australian media came down hard on the visitors, ridiculing what they claimed was a ‘victim’ mentality that Indian cricket was not just suffering from but thriving on. It’s been a long-held belief that’s been simmering in the Indian dressing-room. There had been murmurs about it in England as well. In the last few days, it has just begun boiling over just like the build-up to Christmas Down Under.

Paper View

MS Dhoni decked in Iron Man garb, with the headline reading ‘Whine Man’. ‘Pitch and Moan’ read another as the Australian media decided to ridicule the Indian team and their captain’s string of reasons to explain the loss at the Gabba. It started with the unevenness of the practice wickets, the unavailability of vegetarian food at the stadium and inconsistent umpiring. And the local papers have spared no hyperboles to enhance the visitors’ tendency to apparently give ‘excuses for their defeats.

On Sunday, sources in the Indian camp insisted that the practice wickets were indeed so poor that the Australians had stayed away from them, and only time they did was when the support staff was giving them throwdowns, under-arm. There was also a feeling among the Indians that they had been unfairly handed fines for behaviourial issues in the first Test.

—Bharat Sundaresan

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