January 6, 2008

Controversy

We was robbed

Mukul Kesavan
Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson assess the weather, Australia v India, 2nd Test, Sydney, 4th day, January 5, 2008
 © AFP
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India lost the Sydney Test because the umpiring was one-sidedly awful. It was good to see Kumble and his team-mates shake hands with the Australians but formal salutation is where congratulations should stop. This was a Test match where the excitement was manufactured by incompetent umpires making weird decisions: the Indians players must have felt like lab rats being chivvied by mad scientists.

While previewing the present series in this blog, I wrote that for the Indians to have a chance the umpires would have to hold their nerve. Well, they didn’t. Test series in Australia have in recent years have followed a pattern: the touring team struggles to to hold its own against the superior home team; then, at vital moments when the beleaguered tourists have a chance of saving the game or winning it, they get a shocker. Or two. Or three. In the Sydney Test the Indians lost count.

I’m not even thinking about lbw decisions which are judgement calls: we’re talking about audible edges being given not out [Ricky Ponting, Andrew Symonds, Michael Hussey], a stumping against Symonds not being given by the third umpire despite video evidence to the contrary, a stumping where Symonds’ heel was raised not referred to the third umpire by Steve Bucknor, a non-existent edge given against Rahul Dravid when his bat wasn’t in the same latitude as the ball and perhaps, most infuriatingly, Sourav Ganguly given out, caught by Michael Clarke because the fielder said so. Benson didn’t ask the square-leg umpire for confirmation, he asked the Australians. The Indians could be forgiven for thinking that a player who had bizarrely stood his ground after being caught off a massive edge, and who had just dropped a sitter off the same batsman, mightn’t qualify as a neutral witness.

To those who would say that Ponting refused to claim a catch in similar circumstances in the first innings, the point is that whether an umpire decides in principle to refer to the third umpire or not, he needs to make his decisions on the basis of his own judgement or by conferring with his fellow umpire, not on the testimony of an interested party, the fielder. Circumstances alter cases: the same Ponting in India’s tense second innings tried to claim a catch that he hadn’t completed [the ball in his hand hit the ground as he completed his dive].

Why do touring teams get such shockers from neutral umpires? I don’t know. Perhaps umpires prefer their appealing technique, perhaps the Australians, as the dominant team, get the benefit of any doubt, but the point at which opposing teams and their supporters begin to despair is when they get a decision like the one Kumar Sangakkara got from Rudi Koertzen, given out caught off a ball that wasn’t near his bat at a point in the match where Sangakkara was leading an unlikely Sri Lankan resurgence.

The Australians have become so used to dodgy decisions going their way that it reflects in their onfield manner. Most batsmen stand their ground when they think they’ve got a faint edge that the umpire mightn’t have noticed; they generally leave when their edges echo round the stadium. When Clarke was caught in slip by Dravid off Anil Kumble the reason he stood his ground despite the deviation and the sound was because he had learnt both from long experience and Symonds’ good fortune in the first innings, that there was a decent chance he would be reprieved. The horror on Kumble and Dravid’s face when they saw he was sanding his ground was comical: their second appeal which Bucknor finally upheld was a masterpiece of disbelieving desperation.

If Benson was incompetent, Bucknor was incompetent and perverse. The moment that summed up this match’s inexplicably bad umpiring was Bucknor’s decision not to refer Dhoni’s appeal for a stumping against Symonds to the third umpire. What was he thinking? Bucknor and the Indians have have a long history of friction and this last performance by him is unlikely to improve things. He is scheduled to stand in the Perth Test: I’d be very surprised if the Indians don’t formally petition the authorities to substitute him. If I was Bucknor, I’d withdraw and use the time to see an opthalmologist: his dismissal of Dravid in the second innings suggests that he’s seeing things.

Looking to the future and how the game can deal with human error, I think Peter Roebuck has the right ideas. The ICC should take a page out of tennis’ book and allow each team a fixed number of challenges so that they can appeal decisions that they think are plainly wrong. Tennis allows three challenges; given umpires of the quality of Benson and Bucknor, half a dozen might be too few. But seriously, if competitive Test matches aren’t to be ruined and if, in particular, Australian tours are to remain credible, cricket’s authorities need to act now.

Mukul Kesavan is a writer based in New Delhi

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Keywords: Controversy

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Posted by Bern on (March 24, 2008, 1:00 GMT)

History repeats.... I remember when Billy McDermott was given out in Adelaide 3 runs short of AB's side beating the Windies in a series and ending their 20 year reign as cricket's best. And I remember Steve Waugh and Glenn McGrath standing toe to toe with the Windies best in the Caribbean when they did finally bag a series. Funny, the similarities between those 'ugly' Aussies and the heir apparent's the 'ugly' Indians. I'm an Aussie and proud of the fact that we play it hard on the field; I don't know when the match came off the field (somewhere in India I suspect) ? I enjoyed being pushed in the test series just gone... So what; the umps made bad decisions, "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Posted by d p on (March 23, 2008, 1:02 GMT)

I swear guys whenever I read news related to India and Aussie, I just lose my temper. I dont understand that why we Indians always keep quite against unjustice and boost about our culture. Our Geeta says that to do unjustice against unjustice is not bad. I'm just asking to fight like braves and not cowards. BCCI is hopeless, busy minting money and doesnt care for players. Players are worried for their position in the team. Even sports minister looks like an idiot in front of BCCI. Long Live India

Posted by Hari on (February 7, 2008, 3:41 GMT)

its funny the Aussies are still in denial. Some of them actually believe that the Sydney Test was won fair and square. Kinda like Ponting who had absolutely no clue what the fuss was all about after the match. They keep believing that India is making a big deal coz it lost the match. India has lost many many test matches. We lost the Merlbourne Test too didn't we? There is no reason to be apologetic anymore in saying that the Aussies won the test on everything buy their own merit. I like the way Mukul starts the article: India lost the Sydney Test because the umpiring was one-sidedly awful. Right on! No need to say politically correct stuff anymore like "oh but there was also some good cricket played". No need for frivolous lies anymore. Its strange every time a team has gotten close to beating the Aussies, a mysterious sequence of events turns things around the Aussies. There is no doubt the Indians screwed up in the last 1 hour of the test match.

Posted by Philip John Joseph on (January 31, 2008, 14:35 GMT)

Whatever Phil, the percentages don't tell you anything. The 20 % of close/bad calls that went in favour of Australia were the important ones. The 80 % that were in favour of India were more or less irrelevant decisions. Not to mention your statistics are rather made up until you point out your database source. What was that statistic about 99.9 % of statistics are just made up on the spot? Or did I make that statistic up? Go figure Phil.

Posted by Michiel on (January 28, 2008, 13:51 GMT)

Dear Phil, Let me bring some mre such "dubious" decisions from that PERTH ;) test, -Temdulkar, given out LBW when he was jumping on his toes and ball missing the stumps by a inch more than close to a foot -Same hussey reprieved for a plumb LBW when he was playing back to Kumble

I had no plans to write this after the perth victory 'coz the Indians are not big headed dumba**es like the Aussie are, they play the game as fair as any international team would and they expect the same back and so does the viewers and the cricket fans...... The mere fact that you came back with this petty point goes on to show what "Aussie spirits" are we talking about. Nobody came back to this forum and posted anything post PERTH simply coz Indians don't make big boasts and make a big ruccus of the things, India won 'coz they were better!, Now sleep well my friend, Cheerz,

Posted by payback on (January 20, 2008, 19:29 GMT)

To all the people who said that Indians don't know how to play ..and they will be steamrolled by australia in Perth .. IN YOUR FACE suckers

Posted by Phil on (January 19, 2008, 9:42 GMT)

I was wondering if the tantrum throwing indian supporters/heirachy/players were going to post any comments on India's win today. In particular, the numerous dubious/incorrect decisions that were made in favour of the Indian team that cost Australia a chance of victory. For those with their eyes shut i will point out the dismissals in the last innings. 1) Ponting out when the bowler committed a front foot no-ball. 2) Hussey given out LBW on a ball clearly missing the stumps by close to a foot. 3) Symonds given out Bat before wicket In my opinion, 80% of the close/bad calls went in India's favour in this match. I notice that rather than throw a hissy fit, the Australian players have accepted the mistakes as a part of cricket, realised that they too were to blame for their loss, and got on with it.

Posted by Michiel on (January 14, 2008, 14:15 GMT)

‘coz they had no answer to a terrific unit which played the game in the right spirit, ………

And another reason why Aussies lost that Ashes was……’coz there was superb umpiring unit on Display, remember the confidant and clear headed Aleem dar who Didn’t gave in to the constant appealing of warne and co for non existent LBW decisions which made Aussies furious, There was the light hearted Billy Bowden who simply didn’t allow the Aussies the leeway that they have so enjoyed before, there was the ever so sharp Rudi koertzen who didn’t got challenged by the aussies threatening appeals and spoke his mind when ever a Hayden or Ponting tried to take the “sledging route”…….

Grow up OZ, it’s about time……u all are certified winners but not dignified winners or a humble losers…….

May the better senses prevail…Amen!!!!!!

Posted by Michiel on (January 14, 2008, 14:14 GMT)

Dedicated to all those who are posting comments like “india sulks ‘coz they lost”, “A loser is a loser is a loser” etc etc etc……. Agreed India lost, agreed our so called Batting powerhouse failed miserably, agreed we are under performers overseas, but and a big BUT If all of you Aussies try and take a peek inside your own country’s “national sports” team, then all you will find is “Big Bloated egos, self praising big heads, enormously talented yet terrible losers, and Shamless bullies”. What would a touring team do if the Opposing captain doesn’t adhere to the pre series decided rules about not claiming a bogus catch. Remember this is the same Big/Bully head Ponting who shouted publicly in the 4th Ashes test after being Runout by the sub fielder, why coz Aussies were being beaten to death in ASHES, why ‘coz Aussies were getting their nose slaughtered by Freddie and co., ‘coz their big egos were taking a horrendous beating from their old rivals whom they jokingly refer to as POMS,

Posted by Indianmonkey on (January 12, 2008, 11:52 GMT)

The entire universe conspired against India at the SCG to hand it, its first ever defeat in Test Cricket. Never before in its history had India lost a game of cricket. They havent drawn any game either. Every single game that India has participated in has been won by India........The utopic bubble of the Indian cricket fan.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mukul Kesavan
Mukul Kesavan teaches social history for a living and writes fiction when he can - he is the author of a novel, Looking Through Glass. He's keen on the game but in a non-playing way. With a top score of 14 in neighbourhood cricket and a lively distaste for fast bowling, his credentials for writing about the game are founded on a spectatorial axiom: distance brings perspective. Kesavan's book of cricket - Men in Whitewas published in 2007.

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