Cricinfo XI

Officious officialdom

The furore which surrounded the activities of the umpires during the Oval Test is not the first time that officials have found themselves in the spotlight. We highlight 11other instances where the umpires rather than the players have taken centre stage

Martin Williamson

August 22, 2006

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The furore which surrounded the activities of the umpires during the Oval Test is not the first time that officials have found themselves in the spotlight. We highlight 11 other instances where the umpires rather than the players have taken centre stage

Trouble follows the dismissal of Cliff McWatt © Cricinfo
Badge Menzies
Menzies only ever stood in one first-class match, and probably wished he had not even done that. The umpiring throughout an ill-tempered 1953-54 tour of the Caribbean by England had caused controversy, and by the time the sides reached Guyana for the third Test, so bad was the situation that Len Hutton, England's captain, objected to two local officials while the West Indies board refused to bring in any from other islands. An ill-fated compromise led to two locals being appointed, one - Menzies, the groundsman at The Bourda - who had never umpired a senior game. The flashpoint came when Cliff McWatt was run-out going for the single that would have brought his stand with John Holt to 100. No-one questioned Menzies' decision, but the crowd, fuelled by alcohol and allegedly having wagered heavily on McWatt reaching his century, erupted. "Sections of the crowd hurled bottles and wooden packing-cases on to the field," noted Wisden, "and some of the players were fortunate to escape injury." Menzies' wife and daughter, who were watching, were abused and he had to have a police guard for the remainder of the match.

Frank Chester
Chester was one of the greatest umpires, officiating in his first Test at the age of 29 after being forced to retire from playing after losing an arm in the Great War. He was so young that he was once refused admission to a Test he was standing in as the gatemen refused to believe someone so young could possibly be an umpire. However, towards the end of his 30 years as a Test official he suffered badly from stomach ulcers and that led to him becoming increasing irascible, especially with Australians whose raucous appealing he detested. In 1948 he publically criticised the tourists and took to gesturing from square leg when he felt they had gone too far. In 1953 he sarcastically turned down many of their appeals in a mock Australian twang and the Australian management objected to him umpiring after the first Test and he diplomatically stood down because of illness. He quit for good at the end of 1955, but many believed it was a tactical decision given that the Australians were set to visit again in 1956.

Ray Illingworth and Lou Rowan cross swords at Sydney © Cricinfo
Lou Rowan
Rowan, a New South Wales policeman, was a key figure in the Sydney Test of 1970-71, one of the ugliest Ashes matches ever. A no-nonsense character, Rowan warned John Snow for short-pitched bowling after he had struck Terry Jenner on the head, and that led to Rowan and Ray Illingworth, England's captain, facing off in a finger-wagging head-to-head. Soon after, Snow was pelted with bottles as he returned to the boundary and Illingworth led his side from the field, despite Rowan warning him that if he did so he would forfeit the match.

David Shepherd
At Old Trafford in 2001, Shepherd proved that even the best umpires have their off days. At tea on the last day England were 196 for 2 and on course for a draw. In the last session they lost eight wickets, four to no-balls that the umpires failed to spot, even though the third umpire had flagged the point earlier in the day. Three of those errors came at Shepherd's end, and he was so upset when he later watched TV replays that he considered retirement. Some argued that at 60, he was on the slide. But the cricket world sprung to Shep's defence, and Denis Rogers, chairman of the Australian Cricket Board, said: "Shep has a reputation as one of the finest umpires in the world, and that should not be destroyed because he has missed a few no-balls. It's precisely umpires of his status and quality that we need." When the first group of elite umpires was announced later that year, Shepherd was at their head.

David Constant
Many argue that the mistrust which existed between England and Pakistan in the 1980s originated with Constant. In 1982 Constant gave a crucial decision against Pakistanin the final Test which led to England winning the series 2-1. Imran Khan, Pakistan's captain, was clear that he felt Constant was to blame. In 1987 Constant stood at Lord's and The Oval, despite Pakistan strongly but privately raising objections, and again he was involved in controversial decisions, with Haseeb Ahsan, Pakistan's manager, describing him as a "disgraceful person". By refusing to accede to the Pakistan board's not-unreasonable requests, the ECB sewed the seeds of what was to follow at the end of the year.

A mild disagreement between Mike Gatting and Shakoor Rana © Cricinfo
Shakoor Rana
Depending on your view, Shakoor Rana was either the devil in a white coat or a man wrongly vilified by the old-school establishment. What is for sure is that he seemed to court controversy, even before the infamous showdown with Mike Gatting at Faisalabad in 1987. In his first Test in 1984-85 he gave 10 lbws and asked before the final day what the record was. His bewildering exchange with Gatting tarnished Anglo-Pakistan relations for some time and neither man - nor the English authorities - emerged with any credit. "I have established that the umpire is the superpower in the game," Rana said at the time. "I did it for umpires everywhere." What is not remembered is that Shakeel Khan did far more to enflame the situation with a string of appalling decisions against both sides in the previous Test at Lahore.

Tom Brooks
Brooks, along with Robin Bailhache, was one of Australia's leading umpires in the 1970s but his career ended during the Sydney Test in 1978-79 when he quit at the lunch interval on the fifth day. "The old mental and physical machines weren't synchronising," he explained, adding that he would prefer to be watching the match than earning $800 for umpiring it. "In other words," The Cricketer observed, "his nerve had gone." Brooks had made a series of errors in the game, culminating in him giving Graeme Wood out caught behind several seconds after the appeal and with John Lever, the bowler, already turning to return to his mark.

Ross Emerson and Arjuna Ranatunga lay into one another after Muttiah Muralitharan had been no-balled for a third time © Getty Images
Ross Emerson
While Darrell Hair is remembered for no-balling Muttiah Muralitharan on Boxing Day in 1995, what is often forgotten is that Ross Emerson did the same - seven times - in the one-day series that followed, and then again when Sri Lanka returned in 1998-99. That instance - in a niggly one-dayer against England - led to Arjuna Ranatunga, Sri Lanka's captain, leading his side from the field, although the match eventually resumed. Ironically, Sri Lanka won after Mahela Jayawardene, who scored a hundred, was given not out by Emerson when TV replays showed he was clearly run-out and despite appeals from England, the umpire refused to call for a replay. Emerson, who it later emerged was on sick leave for stress at the time of the match, was swiftly sidelined. "I don't regret it, not one bit," Emerson later said. "I regret what happened to me, but I don't regret calling him because I thought he threw."

Arthur Fagg
Fagg's place in cricket history is assured as the first - and only - man to score two double-hundreds in a match, but he was never the most healthy individual and that led to him playing far less than might have been expected. He became an umpire immediately on retirement and was a popular figure with players and public. At Edgbaston in 1973 he caused a rumpus when he refused to start the third day as a protest against what he considered to be the ungentlemanly behaviour by West Indies after he turned down an appeal against Geoff Boycott. It later emerged that Fagg had considered packing his bags and going home and turned up on the Saturday with that in mind. Rohan Kanhai, West Indies' captain, refused to apologise, and it was only a personal intervention by Alec Bedser which persuaded Fagg to resume. He did so after one over, when his place had been taken by Alan Oakman, Warwickshire's coach.

Michael Holding shows his frustration after having a decision turned down during West Indies acrimonious 1979-80 series in New Zealand © Wisden Almanack
Fred Goodall
The 1979-80 New Zealand-West Indies series ranks as one of the most acrimonious of all time, and things reached a nadir during the second Test at Christchurch when West Indies' frustration at a string of controversial decisions boiled over as Colin Croft collided with Goodall. " I did not do it purposely," Croft maintained. "If I'd meant to hit him, he wouldn't have got up. It's crap that I barged him deliberately." West Indies almost forfeited the tour, but were persuaded to continue after refusing to come out after tea on the third day. "Fred was a stick-in-the-mud, officious, but he was our top umpire," recalled Geoff Howarth, New Zealand's captain. "He wasn't frightened to make a decision; neither was he a cheat. He was just out of his depth."

Jim Phillips
Phillips was one of cricket's original year-round participants, and he played a major role in stamping out the controversy of bowlers who threw which had dogged the game for almost a decade at the end of the 19 th century. Whereas England's umpires were all professionals from the lower classes - and in fear of offending those who in effect paid them - Phillips, an amateur if only in name, had no such fears as he travelled the world each year. In Australia he no-balled Ernie Jones among others - the second time in a Test - but it was in England that he really made his mark. In 1900 he called CB Fry, the epitome of the amateur who had escaped for years despite having a highly dubious action. That led to the MCC finally taking a stand, and in 1901 Phillips called Arthur Mold, another whose action had been questioned for years, 16 times in one innings. Mold, who had been avoiding playing in matches where Phillips stood all season, retired and the plague of chuckers was all but stamped out.

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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