Benson trusts his instincts
Whenever Glenn McGrath and Sachin Tendulkar come across each other on a cricket pitch, things tend to happen. And it was no different on Friday, with McGrath's very first delivery to his fellow legend providing for the day's main talking point. Pitched short, it tempted Tendulkar into the pull, but he was too early on the stroke. The ball brushed his shoulder and ricocheted behind the stumps to Brad Haddin and the Australian close-in fielders went up in appeal. After a moment's thought, and to Tendulkar's stupefaction, Mark Benson raised his finger.
Tendulkar's reaction was about as animated as he ever gets on a cricket field, and it perhaps implanted the first seeds of doubt in Benson's mind. And while Tendulkar trudged towards the pavilion slowly, he decided to consult with his colleague, Asad Rauf. Once Rauf gave his opinion, Benson decided that it was better to look silly than give the wrong decision, and to his credit, he recalled the batsman.
While McGrath smiled ruefully and walked back to his mark, Ricky Ponting was livid. Forgetting the fact that the umpire is well within his rights to reverse a decision (Law 27.9), Ponting shared more than a few words, and it will be interesting to see what view the match referee takes at the end of the game. After his latest outburst against West Indies, Cricket Australia had come down hard on him, aware that the next offence would invite a multiple-game ban.
The Tendulkar incident wasn't the only topic of debate either. Haddin had made only two when Rudra Pratap Singh's throw to Harbhajan Singh appeared to catch him several feet short of the crease. Haddin looked to be walking off to the pavilion when Benson decided to clarify whether Harbhajan had broken the stumps cleanly with ball in hand. It took several minutes of replays to establish that he hadn't, and the waiting Haddin was then called back.
While one of the commentators lamented, off the record, about declining umpiring standards, it must be said that Benson got it right both times. After the umpiring controversies of the past few months it was refreshing to see an official do the right thing, even at the risk of having his competence called into question.
Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo