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