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January 12, 2008
Ricky Ponting has called on the ICC to expand its elite umpiring panel and believes officials are as much at risk of burnout as players, if not more. Ponting hopes that increasing the elite group from ten men would help reduce umpire fatigue and thereby limit on-field errors, such as those that plagued the Sydney Test.
Mark Benson, who officiated in the first Test in Melbourne and then made several mistakes at the SCG, reportedly told Ponting after the MCG match that he had been on the road for four months. "I'm sure after four months he thought he was as good as gold, but he wouldn't know how tired he was until he gets a break," Ponting told the Herald Sun.
"Players notice even when they are 5% off. It can be the difference between playing and nicking a shot, or hitting it cleanly. I'm sure it is the same for these guys."
Benson has indeed had a busy year, officiating at the lengthy World Cup in the Caribbean, followed by ODIs in Abu Dhabi, Northern Ireland and his home country, England. He then began a hectic period with the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa in September, which was followed by two Tests in Pakistan, a return trip to South Africa for two Tests and three ODIs and a long visit to Australia for the Chappell-Hadlee Series and the first two Tests between Australia and India.
Benson now has a break as he was not scheduled to officiate in the third Test in Perth but his colleague in the Sydney match, Steve Bucknor, has paid the price for the poor umpiring at the SCG and has been replaced for the WACA game. Ponting believes the answer might be to not expect too much of such a small group of officials.
"I've been talking to the ICC for some time about getting more umpires on the elite panel," Ponting said. "We talk a lot as players about how much we're playing. But the same applies to umpires.
"The umpires could be in Pakistan last week doing a Test match and they'll be in Perth next week doing us, with only a couple of days in between. As a player you never know you're tired until you get away and have a week off. That's when you realise just how tired you were."
Although there are ten umpires on the ICC's elite panel three are Australians, meaning only seven men from that group can be appointed to officiate in Tests involving Australia. Members of the 20-man international panel can also be called on, although Test appointments for those extra umpires are much less common.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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