Benson to remain on ICC elite panel
Mark Benson has moved to quash speculation of his impending retirement from the ICC's elite panel of umpires, and has issued a statement declaring that his withdrawal from the recently concluded second Test between Australia and West Indies in Adelaide was entirely due to health reasons.
Benson flew back to the UK after a solitary day of that match, having handed his on-field duties over to the TV umpire Asad Rauf, who had been at the centre of two controversial interventions involving Shivnarine Chanderpaul. The second, when Chanderpaul had made 62, resulted in Benson's original not-out decision being overturned, despite no clear evidence of an edge through to the keeper.
After the close of play, an agitated Benson was understood to have "ranted" to his colleagues in the umpires' room, and soon afterwards announced his intention to step down from his duties for the remainder of the match. However, after meeting with the umpires' chief, Vince van der Bijl, on Monday, Benson declared he was keen to continue in his role as an elite umpire.
"Following my withdrawal from the Adelaide Test and the media speculation about my future, I would like to clarify that I have not resigned as an elite panel umpire," read Benson's statement. "I had withdrawn after the first day's play as I felt that due to my general health, I was not up to the task and felt it was in the best interests of the game, the ICC and myself that I step down and hand over to my colleague on the elite panel, Asad Rauf.
"I have been in discussions with the ICC since my return from Australia and we have agreed that I will undergo a series of medical assessments. We will then discuss my future and my position as an ICC elite umpire."
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. He insisted that it was this issue, rather than any concerns about the use of technology in umpiring, that prompted his decision.
"I would also like to state clearly that my withdrawal had nothing whatsoever to do with the umpire decision review system (UDRS). I remain a proponent of the use of technology as it helps the reduction of the obvious umpiring errors. The media speculation about the so-called disagreement in the umpires' room is unfounded and totally untrue."
ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat said: "I sincerely hope that after Mark's clarification, all speculation will be put to rest and the focus will return to the Perth Test which is extremely crucial to Australia who needs to beat the West Indies to prevent dropping from its current third position to fourth in the ICC Test Championship table."
However, not everyone within the ICC is convinced of the reasons for Benson's behaviour. John Holder, the ICC umpires performance manager for Europe, told the Guardian: "Some people may feel that the [UDRS] 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."