Umpiring December 19, 2009

Feedback mechanisms are vital

I would propose a different kind of captains’ report

Everything to do with umpiring is now under the purview of the umpires’ coach© Getty Images

Dear readers,

How many times have we sat in our drawing rooms and been irked by appalling umpiring decisions! You wouldn’t believe me then, if I were to tell you that, once upon a time in domestic cricket, the umpires used to be bullied by captains! Trust me, as blasphemous as this sounds, it is true. Indeed it was a “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” situation. In those days, the quality of umpiring was judged by the "captain’s report". The report required captains to mark umpires on various performance parameters such as their control over the proceedings, their positioning, decisions etc. A lot of players knew the power at their disposal and used it to suit their needs. They would write favorable reports only if the umpires obliged on the field. Some even went to the extreme of letting the umpires know that their scores in the report would depend on their on-field decisions.

Thus came in the match referees to put an end to this underhand practice. The captains continued to write their report at the end of the match though it wasn’t the final word on the umpiring anymore. All was not bad with the captain’s report. Firstly, not everyone was bullying the umpires and secondly, all umpires were not bad and hence didn’t give in to such pressures. The report also kept the players involved and allowed them to write their comments in case something went extremely wrong. It was followed up by annual meetings of captains with board officials. This provided an opportunity for the players to air their views and for the board to get first-hand information on what was ailing domestic cricket and how to work towards improving it.

Now, with the advent of the cameras (six cameras are installed in all games), the concept of “umpires’ coach” has been brought into the scheme of things. His role is to monitor every single decision made by the on-field umpires. He has access to the video coverage throughout the game. Everything to do with umpiring is now under the purview of the umpires’ coach, and other issues fall in the match referee’s domain.

This restructuring has put an end to the captain's report, which in my view had some positives. Completely doing away with it has taken an important right away from the player.

Logically, the presence of the umpires’ coach would have ensured that captains wrote a fair report. After all, whatever they wrote had to be backed by video evidence. This would also have kept a check on the captains’ credibility. No longer could you say that the umpiring was poor just because your side lost the game.

I would propose a different kind of captains’ report. Instead of giving the umpires marks, it could rank the facilities on offer. It could have a column to address any special issue that a team may want to bring to the board’s notice. There are incidents when teams feel the need to voice their unhappiness over certain issues but there’s no platform to voice them. Captains’ report has the power to put things in perspective - in black and white.

Former India opener Aakash Chopra is the author of Out of the Blue, an account of Rajasthan's 2010-11 Ranji Trophy victory. His website is here and his Twitter feed here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on December 25, 2009, 13:32 GMT

    I am observing the current practice of referrals, where onfield umpire has been final authority to decide. However much is left to desire from the replays shown on T.V. Many a times, the final decision given by the umpire is not in line with what has been shown. Therefore on T.V they should show all the evidences which umpire has access to. For. e.x in last test between WI and Aus, on final day, Kemar Roach was given caught behind, though from TV replays and hot spot, ball did not seem to hit Bat. I was surprised with the final decision.

  • testli5504537 on December 20, 2009, 7:02 GMT

    I dont think it is fair that umpires are still judged by the report provided by the captains. When there are so many camera's and thousands of officials in international games, I think umpire's performance should only be judged by ICC and no one else. Yes, captains should be allowed to write a report if they want to or if they have some issues but that should not be the cirteria to mark umpire's performance. It is quite likely that if an umpire makes a genuine mistake which can definitely upset the opposing captain and his report could be quite harsh and that could result as a punishment for an umpire as something more than he deserves. I think umpires reporting line should only be ICC. It will also allow them to stand without any pressure and will help them in their decision making.

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