Denis Lindsay’s decision to ban Ridley Jacobs from the second Test against Zimbabwe later this month will be remembered in the years to come as a turning point in the attitude and effectiveness of match referees in international cricket.
They started out as ‘old fart’ appointed school chums on a freebie holiday with a generous meal allowance a decade ago and, barring a couple of exceptions, they deteriorated thereafter.
In nearly a decade of international cricket South Africa have encountered two – yes, TWO – effective pieces of match refereeing. On the 1997 tour of Pakistan former Sri Lankan captain Ranjan Madugalle fined Pat Symcox 50% of his match fee for a series of over-zealous appeals and several displays of obvious dissent.
As Symcox came close to boiling point at the obstinacy of the umpires he lowered his head to the stump microphone and said: “Are you watching this Mr Match Referee – what are you going to do about it?”
Madugalle calmly asked the umpire to pass his walkie talkie to Symmo: “Yes, I am watching Mr Symcox, and if you carry on you will lose the other half of your match fee…”
Then, last year, Waqar Younis was banned for a game for persistent ball-tampering in the one-day triangular in Sri Lanka featuring SA, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The official was former New Zealand batsman John Reid.
Otherwise, the ‘refereeing’ has been insipid and feeble. How about former England captain Mike Denness’s response to the time-wasting tactics of Mervyn Dillon and Dinanath Ramnarine at the end of the third Test against the West Indies in Barbados three months ago?
“If a lad tells me he has an injury, then what can I do?” Denness said, shrugging his shoulders. Pathetic.
By banning Jacobs, and more significantly, issuing the first ever press release to include the word ‘cheat’, Lindsay has sent a message to all the other match referees that it is OK to take firm action. He has also sent a shiver down the spines of several would-be cheats in the international game.
Ridley Jacobs, ironically, is one of the cleanest, humblest, nicest guys playing the game in world today. He has an unblemished record at every level and has never cheated before. He did not appeal for the botched stumping and is devastated by the punishment. That is unfortunate, but injured Zimbabwe wicket keeper Andy Flower, who was commentating at the time, had this to say:
“He was carried away by the appealing of his team-mate and before he knew what was going on the square leg umpire had raised his finger and given the batsmen out. But he (Jacobs) knew he had not made the stumping. He KNEW it. If you break the wicket without the ball in your gloves then it’s not out and you call the batsman back, it’s as simple as that. What he did was cheating.”
First time offender or not, we should all be glad to see cheats punished. It won’t stop them all, but it will stop a few.
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