West Indies v New Zealand, Women's World Cup 2013, Mumbai February 11, 2013

A World Cup without the best umpires

Umpiring errors have come at crucial times in this tournament, and they have not been made by the men most suited for the job

In a crucial Super Six match of the Women's World Cup that New Zealand captain Suzie Bates had called "almost a semi-final", her side was at the receiving end of four leg-before decisions. Sophie Devine got a thick inside edge onto the pad, Frances Mackay and Kate Broadmore got deliveries that, according to the ball-tracker, were headed down the leg side while Nicola Browne was struck just outside the line of off stump. New Zealand may or may not have lost the match to West Indies even if the correct calls had been made, but there is no escaping that the decisions influenced the game heavily.

Shahul Hameed from Indonesia, who made three of those decisions, is from the ICC's Associate and Affiliate international panel of umpires. He has officiated in 10 men's ODIs, the last of which was in 2007. He also did duty during the 2009 Women's World Cup. Although Hameed has stood in lesser ICC matches since then, 2009 was his last international before this World Cup. You won't see an umpire in a men's World Cup whose last international came in the previous edition. Vineet Kulkarni, from India, who gave Browne out, is from the international panel. The tournament does not have a single umpire from the elite panel.

Tony Hill, who is on the elite panel, is a common sight at men's international games, but he is at this tournament only in a mentoring role for the 13 officiating umpires, seven of whom are from the international panel and five from the Associate and Affiliate international panel. New Zealand's Kathy Cross is the only female umpire at the event.

Had umpires from the elite panel, such as Hill and, say, Billy Bowden stood in the middle in place of Hameed and Kulkarni, they might have made worse or better or the same decisions, but at least the players in question could have had the satisfaction of knowing that the best umpires the ICC has to offer had decided their fate, and possibly, the fate of a match that will have a bearing on who meets Australia in the final of a World Cup.

Bates' side was not the only one that has had to suffer in an important game. After England lost by two runs to Australia in their opening Super Six match, their captain Charlotte Edwards went a step ahead of Bates in drawing attention to two umpiring calls that had gone against her team. Edwards and Laura Marsh had been given out lbw, with replays showing both deliveries would have missed the leg stump. "Two poor decisions definitely doesn't help," Edwards said. Ruchira Palliyaguruge from Sri Lanka of the international panel and Sarika Prasad from Singapore of the Associate and Affiliate international panel stood in that match.

Women's cricket is not high on priority lists, and even the biggest tournament in their game operates on a tight budget. That, along with just 10 of 25 matches being televised, may rule out an expensive tool like the DRS, though Bates said "there might have been a few decisions we might have referred today".

DRS, however, is a step that in an ideal world should follow the deployment of the best umpires available. The ICC feels it has done enough on the latter front. "These officials include some of the best up-and-coming umpires who will push for promotion to be the next generation of elite panel umpires," an ICC spokesperson told ESPNcricinfo. "This is the first time that ICC has appointed umpires from their official panels to the ICC Women's World Cup, and this was in recognition of the growing importance of the event. In the majority of matches these umpires have produced a very high level of officiating."

Steve Davis, from the elite panel, stood in three matches in the 2009 Women's World Cup: the final and two Super Six games. While the players may or may not agree with what the ICC has to say, the presence of elite-panel umpires here would have limited the reaction to incorrect decisions to questions on the absence of DRS, as it happens often in the men's game. It is doubtful if their availability was an issue. West Indies, Australia, Pakistan and South Africa were the only men's sides playing in series parallel to this tournament, where some of the 12 elite umpires were required. It is understood that the elite umpires come at a considerable cost placing greater burden on the budget, but the last thing anyone wants is for the Women's World Cup final to turn on the basis of a shocker made by an umpire who is not considered good enough for a match in the men's World Cup.

Abhishek Purohit is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ravi Kumar on February 13, 2013, 9:39 GMT

    A lot of the recent debate has been about the purpose of DRS and I seem to recall Dave Richardson being quoted as saying that the expectation is that DRS will help eliminate the howlers. By that argument, this piece seems to have got the wrong end of the stick, because there do seem to be people who believed that the decisions in question looked right and hence were not howlers. Interestingly, the women's World Cup is an ICC event - as was the 2011 men's World Cup - so it is a bit puzzling that DRS was not used during the event. It would not only have helped eliminate any howlers - given that it is the ICC's position on the benefit of DRS - but would also have been of great help to the umpires working at the event, as the assessment would have been based on the statistical evidence provided by DRS and not the subjective views of captains and the evidently less credible view of a sports writer!

  • Owen on February 12, 2013, 13:16 GMT

    @Nutcutlet - I have long been telling anyone who would listen (my cat and 2 year-old nephew) that DRS should be kept to simply slo-mo replays. It has worked well from years for the stumpings/runouts, and also in rugby. If the DRS was truly brought in to simply stop the howlers then slo-mo is more than adequate, and it won't cost very much so the Cyril Sneers at the BCCI won't have to give up any more of their precious gold.

  • !xobile on February 12, 2013, 12:16 GMT

    maybe asad rauf should officiate in womens matches ;) ;)

  • ian on February 12, 2013, 10:09 GMT

    There are several issues that the ICC urgently needs to address in the debrief on this WC & the competence of umpires is at the top of the list. Even with DRS unavailable (why? This is not a BCCI event, is it?) simple slo-mo replays would have corrected some of the worst travesties. Ultimately, it's an insult to women, not just women cricketers. 'You are women. We'll not be pulling out the stops to make this competition as good as it can be. You're lucky to have a competition at all. Be grateful!' That has been the attitude. Holding it in India (where the position of women in society is under scrutiny as never before) was prob not a good idea. The grounds have been 95% empty (except when India was playing), so we can take it that this comp has received virtually no publicity (because marketing doesn't come free). 'Provide a world class environment for internat cricket & promote the global game' That's from the ICC mission statement & it's hollow. The men who run it shd be ashamed!

  • Rusty on February 12, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    Sprakash27 - Doing umpires examinations and standing in the middle are two completely different things, a persons mind can go blank when under pressure or when exposed to the "live" action and even though it was not Eden Gardens with 100,000 screaming spectators it is a test that is not like answering questions with a pen.........try to leave the theories for lectures and get practical with your thinking.....you are in the middle making split second decisions and only the Strong will survive.......Agree the decision makers at the ICC should first expose these rookie umpires in "dead" rubbers and then onto ODI's between cricketing nations before sending them for a world cup. Do not treat the Women's world cup as a training ground.........it is the Holy grail for women cricketers and nothing less or substandard should be thrown in for "Training" purposes......What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander too.

  • Prakash on February 12, 2013, 6:40 GMT

    i have played cricket with Shahul Hameed and he has a great knowledge of the game. it is tough to pass an umpire's examination and not that anybody and everybody can become an icc umpire. even best of umpires do make mistakes (can we forget steve bucknor giving out sachin when he was hit on the helmet)

    first of all ICC should be blamed for such a scenario as they have not given shahul a chance to umpire at international level since 2009. best way to train the umpires is to give them a chance to umpire regularly at international level instead of making them do once in 4 years. or they could even ask t20 leagues around the world to provide these umpres with a chance to hone their skills so that they get better.

  • Rusty on February 12, 2013, 5:33 GMT

    Sorry CHINIC, cannot buy that rubbish - you are talking about the world cup and maybe some players careers....off days in your league maybe acceptable but not at a virtual world cup decider - umpires do make mistakes but good and experienced umpires are likely to make less mistakes and your friend seems overawed or undercooked at the top level, happens to the best......some players are good only for the league and not Test or World Cup ODI level and I guess it is the same for umpires too........let him get the experience before he is moved up to the melting pot of World Cup competition.

  • Sunit on February 12, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    I completely agree with what's quoted here about the umpires and the level of umpiring, that's been prevailing in WWC 2013. Had elite panel umpires been officiating in the WC, there would have been least reactions and bad decisions would have been overlooked, for the simple reason that that would have been the best panel they could deploy. However, I do think that with expert umpires like Aleem Dar, Bowden, officiating, these decisions would have been lessened to some extent. So this discussion and concerns would not have been there in the first place.

  • Dummy4 on February 12, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    Can't agree with Nathan123 or Mark Butcher. I was with a crowd watching the game and all of us could see the LBW's were wrong straight off. A prodigious inswinger hitting batter on front foot in front of midle just is not out. Very poor umpiring .