England v India, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 2nd day

Ishant front foot highlights big problem

Umpires are simply not watching for the no-ball closely enough and it is creating trouble for bowlers. When an umpire fails to call your foot faults, he is basically omitting to tell you all is not right

Sidharth Monga at The Oval

August 16, 2014

Comments: 17 | Text size: A | A
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How often should the third umpire check for no-balls?

In the tour game in Derby - it seems like an age ago for the hobbling Indian team now - Ishant Sharma bowled nine no-balls. Those sitting in the press box - dead square from where Ishant was delivering - spotted about as many no-balls not called.

In the 64th over today, he got a tickle down leg from Ian Bell, which MS Dhoni failed to catch. Had he caught this, it still wouldn't have brought Ishant a wicket, because he had overstepped marginally. A ball later, he produced the outside edge, which Dhoni accepted, but the umpire momentarily cut short his joy by asking for replays to check if this was a no-ball. It wasn't. By a long margin. As was the case with another wicket earlier.


Ishant Sharma tries to chase the pigeons away, England v India, 5th Investec Test, The Oval, 2nd day, August 16, 2014
Ishant Sharma's no-balls, or lack of them, highlights a general umpiring issue © Getty Images
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Later in the day, Stuart Binny bowled a big no-ball, got an edge down the leg side, but the umpire missed it. Had this edge gone straight to Dhoni as opposed to the boundary, the umpires would have surely checked it with the third umpire.

All this sounds right on the surface, but hasn't Ishant been led into believing he is doing all right by an umpire who was only half alert to his no-balls? Had Binny taken a wicket next ball with a similar no-ball, wouldn't he have reason to feel aggrieved that he wasn't warned at his first indiscretion? When an umpire fails to call your foot faults, just because that ball has not produced a wicket, he is basically omitting to tell you all is not right. And he surely will go upstairs should you take a wicket. He will go upstairs even if you are not even close to overstepping.

On his debut, in Adelaide last December, Ben Stokes was denied his first wicket when the third umpire called it a no-ball but he had landed in the exact same spot a few times before without the umpire calling him. Had he been called earlier, he would have delivered from six inches further back.

The umpires have a big problem almost all over the world; hence there might be no point in naming Kumar Dharmasena as the main culprit here. Umpires are simply not watching the front foot closely enough. It can't be the case that they operated similarly earlier, and it is just now that the technology has exposed them. The technology has been around for years, but the umpires didn't miss the number of no-balls they do now. It just becomes all the more jarring when they go upstairs for wicket-taking deliveries even though half the foot might be behind the line.

There is a general trend of falling umpiring standards, which the ICC masks by releasing misleading stats on the percentage of decisions the umpires have been getting right. For the purposes of these calculation, moving your hand parallel to the ground and around waist high for a straightforward four is also counted as a correct decision.

Ishant, Varun Aaron and Binny - the three men involved in the no-ball dramas today - were not available for comment, but R Ashwin - a spinner, who is going to be involved in much fewer similar cases - took this quite sportingly. He basically said that while it might be unfair on the bowler who is going through this, you can't have the umpires check every ball. But this state of affairs has all the makings of becoming ugly when in a tight match a bowler lands in the same spot with two consecutive deliveries, and is called only for the second just because he got a wicket.

"This is one thing I have been conscious of," Ashwin said. "It is very nervous moment when the umpire checks the no-ball. It has taken away the real quick happiness of taking a wicket. Once you have celebrated and all that, it is like a pinch on your backside. But it's good, to use the technology to correct the errors. If we keep checking every tight one, we won't get 90 overs in in a day."

There is no external solution to this problem. Checking no-balls is a welcome addition, which has an offshoot that is not quite desirable. There is no way someone can sit outside and check no-balls before a spinner has collected a forward defensive and bowled the next ball. The umpires will have to get their act together. There is no reason for them to not look at the front foot as closely as they used to.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by   on (August 17, 2014, 17:02 GMT)

As EdwinD says, it is extremely difficult for the onfield umpire to watch the bowling crease and then switch his gaze to the other end quickly enough to see what happens there - so why not give the job of calling no balls to the third umpire? He has nothing else to do until called upon, so it would hardly be an arduous task for him to watch the crease for every delivery. A buzzer could be used to alert the batsman to the no ball in sufficient time for him to change his shot if he wishes to do so.

Posted by wapuser on (August 17, 2014, 15:36 GMT)

Go boys have a good sleep and show the attitude in ipl only,their playing for money fame and spot in the team dis is reality...

Posted by XiTiZ_P on (August 17, 2014, 14:33 GMT)

I thing I understand is it is difficult to check the front-foot no-ball and then immediately be alert on leg-before appeals. So why dont the 3rd umpires(who are hardly bothered even in ODIs) be given the responsibility to check the no-balls - this will make then earn the money and also leave the umpire with more concentration on the leg-before appeals. Every time there is a no-ball the 3rd umpire can press a buzzer for the on field umpires to know(and signal for a front foot no-ball). And that technology(side-on + slow motion cameras) is already in place and used only on an average of 10-12 times in a test match.

Posted by Hatter_Mad on (August 17, 2014, 11:42 GMT)

I'm amazed that the ICC stats actually reflect all umpiring actions, including no-brainers like noticing the ball has crossed the boundary. I always assumed that these stats related to actual decisions. Silly me!

Posted by   on (August 17, 2014, 10:54 GMT)

More often than not, it's the fast bowlers who over step. There's a 30-40 sec gap every time a fast bowler lands on the pitch. So, every time when the old field umpire thinks it was a close call, he should press a beeper which notifies only the 3rd umpire, the 3rd umpire should have the slow-mo replay facility and it would take him less than 10 secs to make that decision. When the bowler would be getting back to his mark, the umpire could show it the scorer that it was a no ball.

Posted by souravkr on (August 17, 2014, 7:02 GMT)

If an unnecessary technology like glowing bails can be created, can't a small device be put into the shoes of the bowlers which would beep if it crosses the crease, and instantly call a no-ball? It makes the umpires concentrate on the decisions, and farcical situations like these are avoided.

Posted by EdwinD on (August 17, 2014, 6:45 GMT)

Just wondering if any of those commenting, or the article writer have actually umpired at any stage?

It is exceptionally difficult to look for a no-ball at the point of delivery, and then adjust your head position and eyeline to pick up whether the ball is pitching in line - especially when the ball is moving at 80mph+ - try it!!

Posted by electric_loco_WAP4 on (August 17, 2014, 6:31 GMT)

Bowlers @ this level should know better.Don't need ump or any1 to tell them you can't overstep,its a basic rule.Why not introduce free hit in tests?Only for 'wkt' off balls found to have been overstepped.

Posted by   on (August 17, 2014, 5:28 GMT)

Why not stand the second umpire square of the bowling crease (instead of square leg). He could the call the no balls instantly. Any stumpings or close run outs are going to be sent upstairs anyway!

Posted by   on (August 17, 2014, 3:26 GMT)

If ICC is serious about using technology, catching foot faults is the simplest thing they can use technology for. The technology already exists and is used in tennis for catching line faults. You do not need DRS or anything and it will not cause any delays. The decision will be instantaneous and will relieve the umpire of this duty and make them concentrate more on the action on the batting side.

Posted by dunger.bob on (August 17, 2014, 2:24 GMT)

It sounds as though lots of people think this a new thing. I'm here to tell you it's not. Umpires have been missing no-balls since the year dot. A case in point: Shane Warne on 99, his first (and only) Test century 1 run away. He loses his head and holes out in the deep :- to a no-ball that wasn't called. Not just any old no-ball either, it was a big one, at least a foot over the line.

It wasn't discovered until years later when it was shown on, surprise, surprise, a TV replay. That's the problem. TV replays at the ground and in millions of living rooms around the world. If someone gets out to a no-ball these days it's immediately obvious so the umpires have no choice but to call them back.

Umpires aren't worse now than before, in fact they're probably better, it's just that the mistakes (which have always been there) are highlighted in shiny detail and in real time. .. That's the problem, not the umpires.

Posted by dunger.bob on (August 17, 2014, 0:25 GMT)

This is a legitimate question so please don't simply dump it. Why are there NO Indian umpires on the elite panel? In fact, as far as I can tell, there has only ever been one, the venerable Venkat, and he's been off the scene for some time now. So why is it so? .. could it be that Sid is asking for something from the umpires that no Indian umpire is capable of doing. .. Is it a case of 'do as we say, not as we do', or am I reading too much into it?

Posted by dunger.bob on (August 17, 2014, 0:12 GMT)

So, you don't want an actual machine (DRS), you just want the umpires to be machine like. .. yeah, that makes sense and should be eminently doable as well.

Posted by nimper on (August 17, 2014, 0:01 GMT)

There are three umpires appointed to manage a test match. Two of them sweat in the hot sun closely watching 540 balls in a day for five days. The third is relaxing (or dozing?) in an air-conditioned office until an occasional prompt is made to check or review an on-field umpire decision when he (wakes up?) and goes back to several action replays. Why can't they instead take turns? Let umpires A and B do the first session on field with the umpire C in the air-conditioned room. Then umpire B swap with umpire C for the second session and then umpire A swap with umpire B for the third session and so on. This will help umpires concentrate more on the on-field action.

Posted by jameslloyd on (August 16, 2014, 23:09 GMT)

This is a fascinating article, and I think it does bring up a lot of issues regarding the quality of umpiring that we are seeing these days: these issues are increasingly highlighted by DRS etc. It cannot be questioned that the no-ball needs to be carefully regulated, cricket is after all a game about lines and angles, and transgressing them is a problem. However, I am a little suspicious about the "Ishant thought all was right" argument. Umpires are arbiters of the game, not coaches. The responsibility for not bowling no-balls is on the bowler: imagine an umpire walking up to the batsman and critiquing a lack of footwork or incorrect head position. I agree, lets make sure umpires do their job properly, and not overly rely on the third umpire for lazy no-ball reviews. However, they should do their job because its their job, not for the benefit of players.

Posted by jpotter321 on (August 16, 2014, 21:51 GMT)

Sorry, but the umpire doesn't owe Ishant a no ball call. Maybe the umpire owes England the extra run. But Ishant? He should be aware of where he 's landing. A fielder can alert him. Someone in the dressing room can alert him. Everyone watching on TV could see the problem. The support staff should have been aware.

Ridiculous for the fielding side or the media supporting the fielding side to blame the umpire for not calling their own bowlers for no balls.

What's next? Batters edging deliveries straight into the keepers glove, then blaming the umpire, saying they edged it because the umpire missed the faint knick of the previous ball?

Posted by McWheels on (August 16, 2014, 21:07 GMT)

Another strong argument for returning to the back foot no ball rule. Then there would be time to look up and see what was going on.

Comments have now been closed for this article

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