There was controversy surrounding two umpiring decisions made by Virender Sharma during Gujarat's second innings on the third day of the Irani Cup at the Brabourne Stadium. First, in the 48th over, Gujarat captain Parthiv Patel was adjudged caught at short leg - a fine, diving effort from Akhil Herwadkar - after the ball lobbed off his pads, with his bat and gloves nowhere near the ball.
As he walked off, a visibly annoyed Parthiv was seen looking at Sharma's direction and heard on the stump microphone saying: " Umpiring karte kyon ho? " (why do you officiate?). He was later also seen having a word with the match referee, Chinmaya Sharma. "I can't do anything about it," Parthiv said when told his comments were picked up by the stump mic. However, he refused to comment on the umpiring decision.
"I cannot make any comment on it because I will obviously get charged for what I have done," he said after the day's play. "Everyone has seen it. I don't think I can make any comment on the decision; it's under the rule." Parthiv also said he wasn't aware that he was five short of 10,000 first-class runs when he was given out.
The other contentious decision came when Mohit Thadani was adjudged caught at slip off left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem in the final session. Nadeem's delivery appeared to hit Thadani's pads on the half volley before deflecting to Manoj Tiwary at first slip.
The initial assumption among everyone, including the television commentators, was there was no bat involved, and that Thadani was rightly adjudged lbw. However, it was later confirmed that umpire Sharma had given him out caught. The commentators now discussed the possibility of an under edge, but the batsman would have been not out in that case, as the ball bounced after passing the bat.
Nadeem said he didn't think the ball hit the bat and that he was appealing for an lbw all along. "The batsman said, 'It hit my bat'. So, I said: 'If it has hit the bat, you are caught at slip. If not bat, then you are lbw. Decide what you want,'" hesaid. "I didn't even know what the umpire ruled it as."
The knock-on effect of both these dismissals was the fall of another wicket almost immediately. Manprit Juneja got out within four overs of Parthiv's dismissal, and Thadani's wicket was followed by Chintan Gaja's inside four overs. Parthiv admitted they could have been better placed - especially considering how Rest of India had chased down 480 to beat Mumbai last year - but wasn't too unhappy.
"See, we are ahead by 359. Chasing it in the fourth innings is obviously not easy, so yeah things definitely would have been better but we are happy with whatever we have," Parthiv said. "I wasn't there last year. I didn't even see the game; I just know the scores. But any team will take the situation we are in. We have the experience of a recent final where we were chasing only 300. We lost a couple of early wickets and we were under pressure. Chasing 400… how many times has it happened? I know they are a quality side, but runs on the board is very important."
When asked about the practice of state captains submitting official reports on umpiring decisions at the end of a game, Parthiv said the system has not been in place since last season. "That report was about umpiring, ground conditions and how the game was handled and everything. But, it is not there since last year," he said. He said the issues highlighted in the captains' feedback were usually addressed.
"At every captains' meeting, quite a few senior captains were very vocal about urging all the captains to be fair and try to take the time out and make sure you give a proper report on umpiring decisions, irrespective of the result of the game," he said. "So, I am sure [from] whatever I have been told by officials, it's been addressed. Whenever there is an umpiring seminar or anything, whatever concerns we have raised, they have been put across and I am sure all actions have been taken."
This isn't the first time Sharma's umpiring has come under the scanner. During this season's Ranji Trophy semi-final between Tamil Nadu and Mumbai, he ruled Dinesh Karthik out lbw when the ball was missing the leg stump by some distance. Sharma was also one of the two umpires criticised by Vidarbha seamer Shrikant Wagh during his team's league-stage game against Karnataka last season.