India in South Africa / News

Stand-in umpire explains controversial bad light decision

'Sometimes the umpires have to make a call' - Howell

Dileep Premachandran in Durban

December 28, 2006

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Ian Howell, the replacement umpire deputising for the ill Mark Benson, shed some light on the situation that had resulted in play being called off 37 overs before the scheduled close of play. Speaking to the media, he referred to the factors that had influenced the umpires' decision.

On how it unfolded

Just prior to the electricity problem, the light was deemed to be bad, and it was offered to the batsmen. They wanted to stay on the field. When the lights went out, they decided they would continue. The first ball after the lights went out, when VRV Singh almost got a wicket, they tried to stay on a little longer. But eventually they decided they wanted to go off the field.

Then, the lights came on after electricity supply was restored. When we went out, the light had deteriorated and was at a lower reading from when it was initially offered. Asad [Rauf] and I decided we would see what it was like. We had an over from my end [Zaheer Khan]. Then, when [VRV] Singh bowled from the north end, it was decided that the light had deteriorated to the extent that it was unfit for play.

There is a perception at times that it is only the batting side that needs to be taken into account, and that is correct to a degree. They are the ones that will be offered the light, which they were. But sometimes, it gets to the stage that the umpires have to make a call, whether it's unfit for cricket or not.

On whether the reading was the same as the initial one

I can't give you a correct answer on that as replacement umpire. Asad was leading the situation. He was using those guidelines that were used for the past two days as well.

On whether the batsmen were offered light the second time

The light wasn't offered to them again. We get to a stage when we're unhappy with the lights and we offer it, and they say yes or no.

On what conditions they deem unfit for play

For picking up the line of the ball, background plays a role. For the over that came from my end, Asad was struggling to pick up the ball from side on.

Dileep Premachandran is features editor of Cricinfo

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Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
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