August 2, 2013

Why Dharmasena gave Khawaja out

Let us compile a list of the most implausible reasons shall we?

Dharmasena wants to make sure the law of averages isn't disproved by technology © BCCI

Possible reasons third umpire Kumar Dharmasena ruled Australian batsman Usman Khawaja out on review during day one of the third Test of the Ashes from Old Trafford include:

  • He wasn't allowed to use Snicko
  • He doesn't trust Hot Spot, considering it new-fangled elec-trickery
  • He doesn't trust his eyes nor his ears
  • He didn't want to disagree with the on-field umpire, thinking it might be rude
  • He was watching Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon
  • He was crocheting a massive throw rug
  • He had nipped out to buy the newspaper and cigarettes
  • He had been kidnapped by extremists and his body replaced with a felafel
  • He'd had a drug overdose and was "on the nod", brought back to life only after an injection of adrenaline into his heart, like that bit in Pulp Fiction
  • He hit the wrong button
  • He is not actually a Test cricket umpire but rather a plumber from Hull
  • He agreed Khawaja was out

Granted, none of these make any sense. Dharmasena's made a howler in a system that uses technology to specifically erase howlers. He's watched 30-odd slow-motion replays and decided nothing he's seen contradicted the umpire. I mean… where to start?

For mine, Dharmasena made the error because, under pressure, in the heat of the moment, watching so many replays, he decided he could not find any over-arching reason to overrule the on-field umpire's decision.

To Dharmasena, see, there was nothing he could definitively "see" or "hear" that made the umpire's decision definitively, absolutely wrong. There was no smoking gun, there was no evidence that leapt out at him and screamed "NOT OUT!" The man on the field made a decision and nothing contradicted that.

I mean, that must be it, mustn't it?

And being a staunch pedant for the Laws - as umpires are, it is a Thing - Dharmasena went with the on-field umpire's decision. And compounded a mistake with another, much bigger mistake. A mistake that was just so wrong because of the technology and the many replays afforded the man in the chair. The man on the ground, that's understandable. But the man who's just watched 30 replays? To still get it wrong?

I mean… how?

Dharmasena didn't count as evidence Hot Spot showing that there was no white-hot mark on the edge of the bat. He didn't count the vision of the bat brushing Khawaja's leg and causing the one noise heard on the effects microphone. He didn't count vision of the ball not deviating off the bat.

Nope. He played it back slowly. And in real time. Heard a "snick". Saw the England fielders all go up and charge umpire Tony Hill - one of the main reasons Khawaja was fired in the first place - and fired Khawaja again.

I say again… how? Even, what?

The Decision Review System's been in the news because of players making errors. And field umpires making errors. Which are both understandable. So we try to make the game "perfect" and take the human-error element out of it. And doesn't the DRS - i.e. the decision being thrown to a third umpire with the benefit of replays and technology - get most decisions right? It's not perfect. But doesn't it ultimately get more right than the human on the first go? Doesn't it?

But when the actual third umpire, the human being, the one who watches thirtysomething slow-motion replays, when that guy gets it so spectacularly, obviously wrong, well, what do you do except write a smart-arse list of things he must have been doing while he should have been giving Khawaja not out?

To wit:

  • Rather than adjudicating on the review, he was actually telling a persistent autograph hunter to leave - "Out!"

  • Botox therapy had temporarily paralysed his entire body

  • He was watching a replay of Shane Watson's dismissal

  • He was watching a replay of Stuart Broad's dismissal

  • He fosters a deep-seated hatred for Usman Khawaja

  • He thinks DRS means Dharmasena's Ref, Seeya

  • He wants to be known as an umpire - and as a man - who has no doubt

  • He doesn't want to be a Test cricket umpire any more

Matt Cleary writes for several Australian sports and travel magazines. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on August 7, 2013, 10:44 GMT

    this is really disrespectful for a good umpire like Kumar Dharmasena who received the Umpire of the year award in the last ICC Awards and who is a human being even though he watched 30 or 300 replays.

  • Naseer on August 4, 2013, 6:28 GMT

    some more reasons: 1- There is contract between Tony hill and Darmasena, both have agreed that none will overturn each other's decision when they are on the chair of 3rd Umpire. 2- Dharmasena is totally against DRS, and he somehow wants to ensure that this system is total failure. 3- he was probably angry on Khwaja for playing such poor shot in an Ashes test, so he wanted to give the young batsman a lesson!

  • Krishna on August 4, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    Matt, between you and Andrew Hughes, you have probably driven in the last nail on the DRS--Rest in Peace DRS, except that as usual, in their usual ditherings, the BCCI has helped the DRS phoenix rise. I hope BCCI reads your articles. Great work, you two...

  • Johnathon on August 4, 2013, 1:22 GMT

    I don't understand why so many people still don't understand what the third umpire can and can not do. When referring a decision, it is not like a run out that is referred where the third umpire makes the final call. When a decision is referred, the third umpire only tells information like "if hot spot is showing anything" or if "there is a noise" or any other pertinent information. The onfield umpire who then made the call then decides whether this is enough information to overturn the decision. It may have very well been Dharmasena's fault, but most likely, the fault lies with Tony Hill. I love how there are debates these days about whether technology should be used or not. One must first understand the technology before debating about it. Get educated people

  • E on August 3, 2013, 19:17 GMT

    I don't want Dharmasena to be a Test cricket umpire any more.

  • Raghunand on August 3, 2013, 17:53 GMT

    i agree with @Lalindu Peiris.. He must have pressed the wrong button

  • vas on August 3, 2013, 15:45 GMT

    Hotspot is not reliable. It is confusing umpires thinking. Once the decision goes to the 3rd umpire, he should make his own decision and relay it on the screen like run outs and stumpings.

  • Sarthak on August 3, 2013, 9:47 GMT

    Responsibility lies with one who has the authority. Dharmasena as a 3rd umpire was only an aid to Tony Hill in this decision. This is in direct contrast to a lbw referral, where the 3rd umpire can overrule the on-field umpire's decision if all the conditions are met. Dharmasena could not overrule he could only reply to Tony Hill's queries. Imo here in lies a major problem with regards to Hot Spot related referrals, another being the technology itself. The problem is, the 3rd umpire in this case is used to address the queries of the on-field umpire and not necessarily to take the right call. We will never know how far Dharmasena is responsible for the decision unless we know more about the conversation between Hill & him!

  • Dummy4 on August 3, 2013, 8:53 GMT

    i think there was a lot of doubt in this decision, as there was not a bit of the mark appeared in DRS.why was the decision been refered to the 3rd Umpires if they don't have the confidence on such latest technology. I think there should be some new laws made by ICC so such umpires may be questioned after such pooooooooooor decisions...............

  • Khawaja on August 3, 2013, 7:57 GMT

    how would it be cricket if umpires did not make has more to do with the the australian cricket boards picking another failure as a batsman after forrest, cowan,warner, watson, series where non batsmen succeede...thou too brutus...

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