Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 5th day January 6, 2008

Australia's attitude lacking in appeal

Australia could not believe it when they had several appeals turned down on the final day, but after the umpiring perks they received during the match they had nothing to complain about

The decision that ended Rahul Dravid's resistance was one of many poor calls that went Australia's way © Getty Images

Andrew Symonds turned in disgust and threw darts with his eyes at Steve Bucknor. Mahendra Singh Dhoni had not played a shot to Symonds' offspin and the bowler was furious even though the ball was heading over the stumps. After the umpiring perks Symonds received during the match he had nothing to complain about.

On the last ball before tea it was Ricky Ponting who could not understand why Bucknor did not agree with a similar appeal against Rahul Dravid. Ponting crouched down and muttered as if nothing ever went his team's way. In this Test, from the moment Ponting's legside edge on day one went unnoticed by Mark Benson, almost everything did.

Symonds was the most fortunate man in the game. Following his batting reprieves, he was at the centre of another crucial decision that went against India and led to them losing the match. Poor Dravid, who battled to 38, was providing a formidable obstacle when he pushed his pad forward to Symonds and hid his bat and gloves behind his front leg. A sound was heard, Adam Gilchrist caught the ball, the Australians yelled and India's comfortable position of 3 for 115 was soon to be 6 for 137.

Bucknor was swayed in a ruling that was as bad as his miss of Symonds in the first innings. Listening to the edges has obviously become more difficult, but soon a fine servant may actually hear the calls for his retirement. The decisions contributed to India losing the Test, but the visiting players shook the hands of both officials after the match. While they took their caps off and lined up, the Australians danced, jumped and whooped in a manner that would have reminded the Indians of their World Twenty20 celebrations.

The noise of Symonds' nick on 31 was so loud it could have carried to the shoppers in nearby Oxford Street. Bucknor's decision cost India 131 runs and he also refused to call for the third umpire during a close stumping when Symonds was 148. Two days later Anil Kumble missed a hat-trick when Bucknor judged a wrong'un to be going over the stumps when Symonds pushed forward. He went on to score another 61.

Most Australian players believe luck evens itself out over a career, but their long-sightedness is not shared by visiting teams. Bob Woolmer reckoned Australia received almost six times more line-ball decisions than Pakistan during the 2004-05 series, and while it sounded like an exaggeration, the benefit of the doubt favours the home team in Australia and around the world

Umpires must feel like frontline soldiers on the final days of the Tests. Fielders crowd round the batsmen and they are shouted at every couple of balls over fantasy and non-fiction. Every country has its ways of pushing the rules and one of Australia's traditional pet hates was the amount of appealing conducted by teams from the subcontinent.

Shane Warne helped alter that view and on the final day his former team-mates were expert at trying to influence the officials with shouts at all volumes. (Despite the consistent requests, none was as ridiculous as Kumble's plea for an lbw of Brad Hogg in the first innings when the ball was struck through cover for two.) Benson was so worn down late in the afternoon that he sent a run-out call to the third umpire even though the batsman was in by a metre.

"Both arguments are about telling the truth. Why should Clarke be trusted to rule on a potentially match-turning catch when he stayed at the crease on day four after edging a ball to first slip?"

In the same session he had to deal with Michael Clarke's low catch off Sourav Ganguly, who stood with hand on hip as he waited for a decision. Of course the Australians raced to the fielder and swamped him. They were certain it was out, but Benson wasn't sure. He looked to Bucknor at square leg and then walked down the pitch and asked Ponting what he thought. "He caught it," Ponting seemed to say and put his finger up. Benson did the same.

Fortunately for Ponting, who gained credibility for the decision by refusing to accept a low catch in the first innings, the replays did not show the ball falling short. Typically, they also could not clear all doubt from the take. Ponting's noble request for all teams to have an honesty system for these incidents has been rejected by the rest of the world - he had a small victory before this series when Kumble agreed the captains would have the final say on contentious catches - and they must have squirmed when they saw Ponting relaying the message to the umpire.

Australians see catching differently to appealing and walking. They say it's up to the umpire to decide on edges and lbws, but when it comes to knowing whether a ball has carried, the fielder is the best person to judge. What they miss is that both arguments are about telling the truth. Why should Clarke be trusted to rule on a potentially match-turning catch when he stayed at the crease on day four after edging a ball to first slip?

One of Gilchrist's finest traits is he walks whenever he gets an edge, and claims to appeal only if he's sure the batsman has got a nick. Apart from Dravid, Gilchrist was the best-positioned player to know what Symonds' delivery had touched. It was definitely not bat or glove. Gilchrist also did not see the puff of dust from the ball bouncing after Dhoni hit it into his leg before ricocheting back to the wicketkeeper, who appealed with his team-mates for a catch. It was an easy decision for Bruce Oxenford, the television umpire.

Under Steve Waugh the Australians devised a Spirit of Cricket document that they swear by. They insist they play the game "hard and fair" and are shocked whenever their outlook is challenged. After emotional days like this it is hard to sympathise with their complaints.

Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Suhail on January 7, 2008, 16:14 GMT

    Action should be taken against Ricky Pointing for claiming a catch even after the ball had touched the ground. Rashid Latif was suspended for 5 matches after wrongly claiming a catch against Bangladesh. I don't understand why Pointings case hasn't been brought up yet!!!

  • Dee on January 7, 2008, 12:13 GMT

    I must admit, that I was incredibly amused to read every single comment that has already been posted on this particular article. The hostility towards the Australian camp by the majority was outstanding. On one hand, I do understand how everyone is appaled by some of the decisons made throughout the Sydney Test, but everyone seems to forget that not every decision was in favour of the Australians. As much as one can argue that the decisions like the Symonds decision, which resulted in a century, cost India the match they must also remember that the Little Master should have been out before making his ton. However, no one seems to be up in arms about these decisions! Whilst the poor Umpiring DID affect the match, no one could argue that it is the SOLE reason India lost. That is just stupid. Australia isn't #1 in the world for nothing. And might I also add that Australia does NOT escape poor umpiring decisions, just look at the decision at Edgebastion in 2005 that cost them the Ashes!

  • Mallikarjuna on January 7, 2008, 10:40 GMT

    In reply to MR ACJ100 You are just calculating the numbers , it is no just numbers, it is about momentum. If symonds was given out then australlia would have been shutout for less than 200 in comparison to 461 then India will have the confidance and they can bat freely, this would make a lot of difference. Fvouring india 3 decisons and favouting Australlia 6. There is alot of difference not just few runs and also when Dravid was looking good and australlia's cahnces were going down then dravid was given out.

  • j on January 7, 2008, 10:08 GMT

    The umpiring was awful, but not biased. Australia got plenty of bad decisions, eg: Tendulkar on 30. The reason journalists like Peter tend not to mention them is that Australia consistently win despite umpiring mistakes. With the losing sides you can speculate about them maybe winning if the decisions were correct. But it's just speculation. Nobody knows that the Australian middle order wouldn't have focussed harder if Ponting was given out caught behind off Sharma. Nobody knows that Dravid wouldn't have been out next ball if he wasn't given caught behind (which if you know anything about cricket, you know would have looked out from behind), or that India wouldn't have been behind on the first innings if Tendulkar was out LBW when he should have been.

    As for appealing, you're perfectly entitled to appeal when you think it's out, and even the ones Australia went up for that weren't out were at least close. Kumble and Harbhajan went up for plenty that were nowhere near.

  • Bruce on January 7, 2008, 9:45 GMT

    Umpires are human and they made mistakes and they will make more in the future. The ignorant comments that they cheat just projects the image that India and its supporters are very poor losers. This is a shame because before this test I had immense respect for the manner in which they carried themselves. What separates a good team and a great team is how they can recover from a bad decision and move on with the game. I think what people have forgotten in this saga is that one of the key elements in the spirit of cricket is respect for the umpire and their decision. The actions and words of the players, media and supporters has taken the spirit of the game to a new low. Australia may not have walked but India has done far more damage to the game by openly attacking the umpires like this. Not only do the men in black and white have a largely under-appreciated job, they now have to contend with public humiliation at the hands of misguided individuals every time they make a decisio

  • fred on January 7, 2008, 9:34 GMT

    Forget the poor umpiring decisions. It was a disgraceful show of arrogance by the Australians that has embarrassed all of their die hard supporters. What has happened to professionalism and humbleness in the face of victory. We all sat there and waited for Ponting to leave the circle of jumping Aussies to go and shake Kumble's hand, congratulate him on a fine innings, and his team on a fantastic effort. Instead he chose to do interviews, sledge commentators and not concede any credit to the Indians for their efforts. With regard to Harbajan, I do not condone of racism but this could have been dealt with in other ways. Ricky, you are a great batsmen but you have allowed a culture of poor sportsmanship and arrogance to creep in to the team and this will reputation will haunt your legacy to the sport. Please apologise to Australian supporters and get on with playing cricket in the spirit of the game.

  • Jatin on January 7, 2008, 9:27 GMT

    This test match clearly shows why Australia are winners but not popular. West Indies were a super power in cricket in 70's and 80's but they were popular because they played the game in right spirit. This game proves that Australia don't Practice what they preach. At this moment I have no respect for the Australian Side. The history books will tell us Australia have won this match but for me (and I know in fact there are many who think) India have won this test match.

  • Peter on January 7, 2008, 9:23 GMT

    Peter, With regard to the Dravid dismissal is it not possible that Gilchrist was in fact appealing for LBW and not a catch at all. I know I would have been for, as you so correctly pointed out, he was hiding his bat and gloves behind his pad and therefore not playing a shot so does not have to be hit in line. In any case I believe that if India continue to concentrate on these issues and not on some of the other reasons they lost such as the countless times I recall aussie batsmen hitting the ball straight to fieldsmen and running 2 or the extraordinary sight of one of the best Batsmen in the world taking singles of the first ball of the over when batting with No 11 (one only has to cast their mind back to Hussey with Glen McGrath to wonder what the Indian lead might have been) or the lack of close catchers on day 4 when the aussie lead was still only just over 100 the no 17 will be a formality.

  • Charl on January 7, 2008, 9:04 GMT

    I understand that it was a controversial match and that there were a number of mistakes made by individuals. However I think some people are overreacting. To say that the match was decided entirely by the umpires is blatantly untrue. Bad decisions happen and they always will, do you really think India are the first team to suffer from poor umpiring? Also those who frown on Pontings response to a journalist who questioned his appeal for a supposedly grassed catch, imagine the response if an Australian journalist in India accused the Indian captain of cheating, I think you would find the resulting criticism would be directed toward the journalist rather than the captain defending his integrity. Australia won the test match and complaining is not going to change that, preparing for the next test should be both sides first priority.

  • Tshepo on January 7, 2008, 8:59 GMT

    The article underlines an important issue in my view. Important decisions must be made correctly by the umpires otherwise the momentum of the game shifts and a side can go from being in a position of great strength to having to score 500 runs just to stay in the game. To win a test match let alone a series in Australia is hard enough. Steve Bucknor made mistakes on crucial decision that cost India the momentum they needed to firstly win then finally save the test match. Furthermore, Symonds Pointing and Michael Clarke all played big parts in Australia clinching a record 16 straight test match win and all these gentleman were involved in controversies relating to the spirit of the game. The age of television has highlighted the small margin for error that exists between winning and losing a test math and being a cricket lover I hope that decisions can be made in the future to assure the playing fields are kept level for home and visiting teams(I'm probably a dreamer).

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