Koertzen upset by catch "cheats"
Rudi Koertzen has bemoaned the attitude of batsmen who refuse to take the word of fielders, and believes all claimed catches should now be referred to the video umpire to avoid future controversies. Koertzen, who was at the centre of two such incidents during the second Ashes Test, was similarly critical of fielders who claimed catches they were uncertain of.
"It is a shame that you have to do it that way," Koertzen told Cricinfo. "The players will stand there, nick the ball and wait for the umpire to make a decision. For me, that's cheating. Why don't you get off the field and make it easy for the game? There would be more pleasure in the game. I know that [Ricky] Ponting would say, 'Boys, let's try [accepting the umpires word].' I've been in those meetings when he said, 'Let's try it,' and then you get to the second day in a Test match and a guy claims a catch and ten minutes later you hear, 'The ball didn't carry,' and then the argument starts again. Let's use the technology when it's there."
"It's supposed to be a gentleman's game but I can't always say it is. Guys know they can cheat and get away with things. I don't mean that with both those catches [Hauritz and Strauss] were trying to cheat. They probably believed that they caught it."
Koertzen and his second Test partner, Billy Doctrove, were criticised for supposed inconsistency in referring Nathan Hauritz's claimed catch of Ravi Bopara to the third umpire, Nigel Llong, but declining to send Andrew Strauss' catch of Phillip Hughes upstairs. In both cases, replays proved inconclusive, resulting in Bopara receiving the benefit of the doubt. Hughes, though, was ordered back to the pavilion after Doctrove, standing at square leg, confirmed to Koertzen he had seen Strauss take the catch at first slip above the turf.
Koertzen, who officiated his 100th Test at Lord's, said he was bound by ICC protocol not to refer Strauss' claimed catch of Hughes, once Doctrove deemed it to be legal.
"The first one, with Hauritz, you stand there in the middle and you see the batsman play the shot and for a few seconds you lose the ball because you don't always know where the ball goes," he said. "The next moment, when I looked around me, all I saw were his hands going down. I just thought, 'I'm not sure whether he caught it.' That's when I had to go to my colleague. I spoke to him and he said to me, 'Rudi, I'm not sure either. I missed the flight of the ball as well.' Then we have to go upstairs because we're not sure. That's a protocol. I had to go upstairs. As the third umpire indicated, it was inconclusive. The biggest problem is because it's not three-dimensional, it was inconclusive to him as to whether the catch was taken or not. We had to give the benefit to the batsman. It's a simple as that.
"The one the day before yesterday, I couldn't see where the catch was taken because I had the bowler running down the wicket. I didn't have a clue. I didn't even know who was catching the ball at that stage. I went straight to my partner and asked, 'Was it a fair catch?' and he said, 'Yes, it went straight in.' That's it. So long as one of the on-field umpires is sure that the ball has carried, the decision will stay on the field. That's a protocol from the ICC. It's been in our conditions all the time. I would say at the end of the day, the best way of doing it now is to go upstairs for all of them."
Koertzen has previously expressed support for the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS), to be introduced in October, whereby teams are permitted to challenge decisions they deem to be incorrect. The system has proven successful in tennis and American football, and was trialled in four Test series, three of which Koertzen officiated in.
Koertzen believes the UDRS would have have proven helpful in adjudicating on Ponting's first-innings dismissal; another point of contention in the second Ashes Test. The South African official requested Llong determine whether the ball had carried to Strauss at slip, which it had, however replays showed the Australian captain had struck his foot, and not the ball.
"The sounds were perfect," he said. "There were definitely two sounds and I gave it. If I didn't give him caught behind, if I didn't consider the fact that he hit the ball, I would've given him out lbw anyhow. But the fact is the caught comes first, and that was the reason I went upstairs to see whether it carried because I couldn't tell. But the noises were perfect and I gave him out because I thought he hit it. I haven't seen [the replays]. They've said when they had the magnifying thing on the ball that it missed the bat. That's not an excuse. I will not make excuses to cover myself and say, 'That's the reason I made the wrong decision.' I'm happy to carry the blame if I make a wrong decision I'll put my hand up and say, 'I'm sorry, I cocked it up.'
Despite several heated exchanges across the first two Tests - not least Ponting's confrontation with Koertzen over Hauritz's claimed catch in the second innings at Lord's - the veteran umpire said he was happy with the spirit in which the Ashes had been contested to date.
"I'm one of the umpires who do allow them a little bit of banter," he said. "You should talk to the batsman as a bowler. But in this Test match they were all friendly chirps. Not once did they say anything bad to each other. The spirit in this Test match was absolutely amazing. The Aussies play it very, very hard and they are the guys who put pressure on their opposition all the time. In this Test match there was nothing serious, nothing at all."
This exclusive interview was made possible by Emirates, title sponsor of the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires and Referees. The Dubai-based international airline is also an Official Partner of the ICC, giving it sponsorship rights at the Cricket World Cup, Champions Trophy and the World Twenty20.
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo