Throwing and Technology switches fans off
Barry Jarman, a former Australian captain and international match referee for eight years, said this week that Illegal bowling actions, declining attendances and over-use of the third umpire are significant problems to be overcome if Test cricket is to retain its status as a bastion of world sport.
In a Cricket Week exclusive, Jarman says putting aside the vibrant interest in the current Ashes contests, administrators worldwide are facing an on-going struggle to woo fans.
He predicts fresh controversies over the bowling actions of many - not just the controversial Sri Lankan Muthiah Muralidaran - and says the rush to involve technology could backfire and force some fans away.
Now 66 and free of his ICC refereeing responsibilities, Jarman says the growing imbalance in power at the top could be a further problem for the game and its sponsors.
Unless the players truly entertained and more countries were competitive, television would lose interest and sponsors withdraw, creating a "domino-style" set of problems for the game at all levels.
A 19-Test player for Australia in the late '50s and '60s, Jarman says one-day cricket is helping to pay Test cricket's mounting bills.
"Unfortunately there's not many people around the world, outside England and Australia, who still go along in numbers to Test matches," he said.
" They don't go in India and Pakistan. The crowds in South Africa have fallen away too.
"I used to say to the guys before the start of a new series how they can make or break the game by the way they play. I stressed that they were the entertainers and were paid to entertain. And if they didn't, no-one would go to Test cricket anymore, the TV people and the sponsors would drop out and the players would be hit in the hip pocket."
Jarman says throwing is also a raging issue, which has been ignored for far too long.
"There are a lot of them around in almost all the sides now," he said.
"All the players know about them... I knew it was going to happen... (but) it's too hot to handle. You bring it up in a meeting and they (the ICC) don't want to know about it."
Jarman says he'd reported the high-profiled Murali in New Zealand during his first tour to New Zealand and when the star Sri Lankan had taken less than 50 wickets.
"I've never been asked to do a game involving Sri Lanka since," he said.
Jarman says he's seen Murali bowl leg-spin with a straight arm, so why couldn't he also bowl with a similarly correct action when delivering off-breaks?
"If he -- and others - even partially straighten their arm it's illegal," said Jarman, who believes if administrators continue to allow bowlers with doubtful actions to play unchecked, the wording of rule 24.3 should be altered accordingly.
"Right now, as the law stands, they do not deliver the ball legally," he says.
He says experiments to use the third umpire in lbw decisions, as occurred at the mini-World Cup in spring, created more potential problems than they solved.
"It'll finish up that they'll never finish a day's play," he said.
"I've seen (Shane) Warne appeal six balls out of 6. If he was to wait for the third umpire to give a decision each time he's going to bowl a 10 minute over, or more."
Jarman said if lbw decisions are to be constantly referred to a third umpire, there is a danger that a batting side would all be dismissed leg before.
And if the contentious dismissals are played and replayed on the big screens at grounds, it can pressure the third umpire into making incorrect decisions.
"I have twice seen third umpires push the wrong button because he's under pressure from people out in the crowd," said Jarman.
"Play them as much as you like at home, as long as the third umpire can't hear the people from home yelling and shouting.. it's like Shirley Bassey's left arm. It's not right and it's not fair."
Jarman believes the technology should be restricted where needed to video replays for stumpings, run-outs and for line-ball boundary decisions.
He said umpires are more inclined to uphold lbw appeals now, as if they don't they'll be grilled via the slow motion replays which are now such a part of cricket.
"Previously it was easy to say not out," he said.
He said criticism that no Australian umpires are standing in the current Ashes series was not an issue among the players.
"You don't want to have any grey areas," he said. "We can't have visiting teams thinking any decision is a home town decision."