ICC admits umpiring standards slipped
Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager, said he was happy to acknowledge that errors were made. "There's no point shying away from that," he explained, "but having said that, we feel the overall standard of umpiring has improved in recent years, particularly with the advent of the elite panel."
The ICC maintains figures on every match, assessing the percentage of out and not-out decisions against each appeal deemed to be correct. Two seasons ago, when this scheme first started, the percentage was 90.9; last year, that rose to 94.8%. It is, however, unclear whether this includes the significant number of spurious appeals which are a feature of some games, or just the closer ones.
"We expect the percentages [for the West Indies-Australia Tests] to be lower than those averages but for the first time we have the means now of providing the umpires with feedback and addressing that." The West Indies board was so outraged with a series of poor decisions that it lodged a formal protest with the ICC.
"We feel the overall standard of umpiring has improved in recent years," Richardson added, "particularly with the advent of the elite panel."
The elite panel should number eight, but David Shepherd, who umpired his last Test in June, has yet to be replaced, adding to the burden on the others. In the last year, for example, Billy Bowden has stood in 12 Tests and 22 ODIs, a possible total of 82 days, discounting the time spent traveling and preparing. He has officiated in every major country except Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in that time. It is hardly surprising that the seven have begun to look jaded of late.
Malcolm Speed, the ICC chief executive, indicated that the elite panel might well be expanded, but it will not be easy to find more officials to stand up to the intense pressure and time away from home the job involves. Peter Willey, regarded as one of the best umpires, declined a place on the elite panel as it would have meant him spending too long away from his family.