Umpire bashing

It’s really not the life it’s cracked up to be. Apart from Business Class air travel, five-star hotels, a generous daily allowance and an excellent salary in US dollars, the life of an international umpire can be a lonely existence. Shame.

The amount of time away from home is genuinely stressful, that can’t be denied. Even for those of a generation with children who have grown up and fled the nest, the relentless travel can wear very thin.

But then again, it’s not as though they don’t have a choice. They perform on the international stage as much as the players, in many respects, and the reviews they receive should be no less robust simply because they aren’t batting and bowling.

“In the heat of the moment” and “spontaneous combustion” are recurring themes in test cricket. Despite a pace of play which has non-cricket lovers drifting into a deep sleep, tempers do flare and accidents do happen when the ball is travelling off the bat or out of the bowler’s hand at 140kph. Match referees aren’t given much leeway with the ICC Code of Conduct, but they do try to take the context of an indiscretion on board.

The third umpire, of course, has no reason to be acting hastily or rashly. Quite the opposite, in fact. He has the benefit of time on his side – whole minutes of it, in some cases. Especially Billy Bowden’s. Nothing the crooked-fingered Kiwi enjoys more than taking his time. He likes to be methodical, think of all the permutations, call for different camera angles – and then watch them all three times each.

So to come up with the wrong decision, based on the operating instructions rather than evidence, was unforgivable. To crash a car because a tyre explodes or there was a brick in the road is one thing. To drive it into a wall because you didn’t know where the brake was is quite another.

The ICC described his embarrassing error in giving Jacques Kallis out lbw when the appeal was for a catch at short leg as “an honest mistake.” In which case, there should be an honest repercussion. Players are fined, or banned, for making “honest mistakes”. Unless the ICC reckons all their mistakes are “dishonest?”

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