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December 7, 2009
Mark Benson is expected to announce his retirement from international umpiring on Tuesday, four days after his unexplained departure from the second Test between Australia and West Indies at Adelaide.
Benson, 51, has now arrived back in the UK, where he has been in discussions with the ICC umpires manager, Vince van der Bijl. It has been suggested Benson will cite a stress-related condition and other health factors as the reasons behind his retirement, however his employers at the International Cricket Council again denied his symptoms were exacerbated by the introduction of the Umpire Decision Review System.
"What we can say without speaking to Mark himself is that he quit the Test for a combination of health and pressure problems," Dave Richardson, the ICC's cricket manager, told Sky Sports. "Coping with a very pressured job proved too much for him."
"[Whether he continues as an elite umpire] is up to him," said Richardson. "We are only able to contract a certain number of umpires and only if they are up to the job."
But not all within the ICC are convinced Benson's impending retirement and the introduction of the UDRS are completely unrelated. John Holder, the ICC umpires performance manager for Europe, told the Guardian: "Some people may feel that the process is humiliating and Benny may be one of those. Maybe he is a bit too sensitive to cope with it."
"The reality is that now umpiring is so much more under the microscope," said Holder, who stood in 11 Tests and 19 one-day internationals. "Benny has had a few health problems even before he got on to the international panel. Maybe this job is not cut out for him.
"Imagine how it is: you have made a decision in good faith and you are having it overthrown in front of millions of people worldwide. Some people might find that humiliating. Some umpires can give a decision, be told they have got it wrong, and get on with their lives. Others can't."
Benson, who captained Kent and played one Test for England in 1986, has a recent history of health problems, and was forced to sit out the one-day series between Australia and India in October due to high blood pressure and stomach problems.
Cricinfo has been told Benson "ranted" in the presence of colleagues in the umpires' room after the first day's play at the Adelaide Oval. It was during that match Benson's decision to rule Shivnarine Chanderpaul not out to a caught behind decision was overturned by Asad Rauf, the third umpire, despite Hot Spot replays providing no clear proof of contact.
"You can't tell me there was any evidence to give him out," Darrell Hair, the former elite panel umpire, told The Australian. "The umpires made the decision on good faith and knowing Mark Benson as I do, he would have hit the roof when he saw the replays Rauf had seen. Unfortunately I think Asad Rauf did the wrong thing there and he left Mark with nowhere to go."
Hair predicted Benson would not be the last official to leave the game if the UDRS is maintained. "Ditch it straight away otherwise you will see more umpires walking away," he said. "I don't know the circumstances behind Mark Benson, but I am assuming he does not want to be part of that type of thing if he is struggling with his health."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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