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January 7, 2006
Billy Bowden, the ICC's elite panel umpire, finds little favour with Australian and South African Test players following some controversial decisions in the recent Test series, according to Mike Coward, noted cricket writer.
The fractious nature of the third Test at Sydney only served to emphasise that international cricket had a serious problem, Coward wrote in The Australian. "Its [Australia and South Africa's] elite players are losing confidence in the competence of Test match umpires," he said. "It is obvious Australian and South African players no longer trust the judgment of New Zealand umpire Billy Bowden and his Pakistani counterpart Aleem Dar. Even the most conscientious and self-disciplined players are finding it increasingly difficult to mask their frustration."
Coward ascribed the reporting of Mickey Arthur, South Africa's coach, Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee to the level of frustration at the umpiring during the series. Bowden and Dar made some poor decisions in the match and the players' reactions to them have been heated. On Thursday afternoon, the on-field duo ruled that the Sydney Cricket Ground pitch was unfit for play despite many observers maintaining that play could have started at least an hour earlier.
Coward also noted an absence of respect between the players and officials, urging the ICC to act swiftly on the problem. "From afar it has seemed this respect has been absent for much of this match," he said. "If there is no respect and rapport, there can be no faith and no trust. No sport can withstand a fundamental breakdown in the relationship between the combatants and their adjudicators."
Coward suggested the ICC revisit the system of neutral umpires, saying the best officials were missing out on marquee games because of the policy. "The burning issue in the game is not that of neutrality but of competence and for the sake of the peace of mind of the players and the general welfare of the game, the issue must go back to the table."
Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, Peter Roebuck, the former Somerset captain, said that the essential difference between "unprepared and unprotected umpires" was blurring. He was also critical of Chris Broad , the ICC match referee, for not intervening when tempers flared during the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne. Broad has prevented the umpires from commenting.
Ian Healy, now a commentator for Channel Nine, believed umpires should be able to call on video replays, while captains could also ask for a replay for a limited number of occasions. "I would like to see each side have two, maybe three appeals, to an umpire ... per match," he has been quoted as saying by the New Zealand Herald.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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