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