Last night’s SCG attendance took the total crowd numbers for the current cricket season to around one million, but the record crowds – not to mention the lopsided Australian wins – cannot disguise the repeated, and glaring, mistakes being made by the umpires.
While England and New Zealand have had the worst rub of the poor decisions, Australia has been on the receiving end of some glaring blunders as well.
It is easy for the commentary team and home viewers, with access to replays, different angles, and Nine’s latest but curious technology, to pick up errors.
The umpires have virtually no resource to technology, but every umpire who has stood in the Tests and One Day International matches this summer has been very experienced at the job. And all are on lucrative ICC contracts.
While we have no expectation they will not make mistakes, the mistake rate this summer in a number of Test and ODIs has been troubling. Rudi Koertzen, 80 (Tests) had a very, very average Ashes series by his high standards. Steve Bucknor, the doyen of umpires with 116 appearances, had some very off days.
And in the one day series now under way, there have been some poor decisions that may well have impacted on the outcome of the game – last Friday night’s narrow Australian win over England in particular.
The authorities need to work out why there appears to be so many errors. Is it simply that the use of replays by Nine – shown on the screen at the ground as well – is putting too much pressure on umpires? If we can draw on the experience of rugby league – which uses replays far more frequently than cricket – then that may certainly be the case. Rugby league referees are increasingly “gun shy”, resorting to video replays for tries that are clear cut.
Or is it that the umpires of old – the Lou Rowans, Tom Brookes, Col Egars and the Dicky Birds – got it wrong just as much as the current crop, but that we simply never knew, and nor did the players.
The issue of umpiring has gained additional currency in recent days with Michael Hussey’s (where would Australia be without him?) declaration that he is not a “walker”. As Hussey said, he will cop the bad decisions as well as the good ones. And when the umpires are getting it wrong all too often who can blame him?
But it still raises serious questions the International Cricket Council needs to answer. And one is why is arguably the best umpire in the game – Darrel Hair – relegated to umpiring games in Kenya (yes, Kenya)?
Cricket needs the best umpires – and not just those the subcontinent “cabal” favour!