The Investec Ashes 2013 July 18, 2013

Reopen debate on neutral umpires - Richardson


David Richardson, the ICC chief executive, has said that the issue of neutral umpires is once again up for debate in light of events leading from the first Ashes Test, with the workload on the four neutral officials available for the England-Australia Test being scrutinised.

With the ICC recently pushing the pair of Billy Bowden and Asad Rauf to the associate panel, the ICC elite panel, which comprises 12 officials, is left with only four umpires available for the Ashes considering the other eight are from Australia and England. And it is these four - Aleem Dar, Marais Erasmus, Tony Hill and Kumar Dharmasena - who are scheduled be rotated over the next six months to officiate in the remaining eight Ashes Tests.

"Whether we need to re-debate the whole neutral umpires point again, which we have done on numerous occasions, perhaps with DRS, maybe the need to have neutral umpires is not what it used to be. I don't think umpires ever cheated but the perception of them cheating was a problem," Richardson told the BBC's Test Match Special.

Last year, Simon Taufel, a former elite umpire, who is now the ICC umpire training and performance manager, told ESPNcricinfo, that neutrality was not an issue anymore.

"The elite panel has the 12 best umpires in the world and they do the majority of international cricket, but you do have to provide opportunities for other umpires coming through from home boards to show their skills and ability, allow them to work on their game. So it is always a balancing of the development. There is no perfect system," Taufel said.

Steve Waugh, former Australia captain, agreed with Richardson's view. "I would welcome that," he said. "Players would be comfortable with the best umpires umpiring the biggest games. With the DRS system around, the eyes of the world are on their decisions. It is a good thing for the game. And as Dave said, it does put a bit of pressure on the four umpires.

"It would be good to see an Australian umpire, for whom, like a player, this would be the pinnacle of his career - umpiring a Test match at Lord's. Right now it is difficult for him to do that. Just like an English umpire would like to be umpiring at Lord's."

For the moment Richardson said the ICC had more resources at hand in case it became necessary to appoint separate umpires for the remainder of the Ashes series in England or Australia later in the year. "We are not restricted those four. We have got 26 other international panel of umpires who would be eligible to be appointed if we needed them.

"These are guys nominated by their home boards and form almost the second tier of umpiring. People like Billy Bowden haven't been relegated to the wilderness. He could argue he is the thirteenth-best."

Waugh said that during Tuesday's MCC world committee meeting, one of the suggestions was to allow the umpires getting a couple of reviews to facilitate correct decisions. "We tossed up the idea whether the umpires should have two reviews themselves. May be that is something to look at in the future. The bottom line is there have been more good decisions over the last couple of years because of the system in place. In general it works well in conjunction with good umpiring."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on July 20, 2013, 1:31 GMT

    The solution is straight forward. Why can't there be 16 or 18 elite panel umpires? I am sure Asad Rauf and Billy Bowden could be added. I have not seen them doing worse. Or just the ICC can make mix of four elite panel and two associate panel umpires for a series of 4 Test matches. Where there is a will there is a way.

  • Gagan on July 19, 2013, 18:20 GMT

    Bringing back non-neutral umpires is a short-term fix that will no doubt harm the game in the long run. While Richardson has done the diplomatic thing by saying that "umpires never cheated but the perception of them cheating was a problem", lets face it, umpires are human too - and yes, they did cheat in the past. They didn't cheat always, and it wasn't even a problem for a vast majority of decisions, but when they did, they brought disrepute to the game. Going there again will be a step in the wrong direction. Instead, ICC needs to focus on building more expertise in umpiring and expanding the elite panel. And they should note the impact of DRS on Umpires - it hasn't made umpiring easier. Being an umpire isn't particularly lucrative when every split-second decision you make is scrutinized by millions over super-slow-mo replays from multiple angles! So ICC's task is cut out in making Umpiring a lucrative career choice again.

  • Darshak on July 19, 2013, 18:04 GMT

    Problem with the system is that unless you are part of the County Circuit your promotion to higher level cricket is hampered as you have to prove at every stage. While if you have been playing Cricket a higher level you are promoted quicker through the ranks. In England Martin Saggers and Nigel Llong are good examples. I started Umpiring in 2010 and am only doing 2nd and 3rd Division of Middlesex County League, while Martin Saggers (started the same time as I did) is now a county Umpire and probably would go to International Level soon.

    I decided to take the Blind Cricket route, and that has worked against me as that means I have less Red Ball Games to prove myself.

  • Suraj on July 19, 2013, 4:41 GMT

    I think ICC is too mean to develop umpires from non test playing nations. I feel umpires from non test playing nations like Nepal, Ireland, Netherland are capable of hosting test matches. It seems like ICC has not make fruitful investment in developing umpires over some years. Its also an end of good umpiring era as a result of retirement from umpires, David Shephard, Simon Taufel, Steve Bucknor!!

  • Dummy4 on July 18, 2013, 23:55 GMT

    my question to steve waugh how would you know that umpire decision review has lapsed? i mean is he suppose to give a decision and then review it himself? will it not be funny... this actually suggest how serious he is in having that debate. Just bring back the whole thing back cricket was fun when u get an out decision erroneously and people made centuries after being reprieved by the LOCAL umpires.

  • Peter on July 18, 2013, 23:42 GMT

    @Nutcutlet, You nailed it with the umpires given the history. I can see no problem with using English umpires for Ashes contests either in England or Australia. There was never an issue with using them before over there. The standard, without them, has definitely slipped. @Gareth_Bain. The answer is very simple, NOPE!

  • John on July 18, 2013, 22:07 GMT

    There may be such a thing already, but if there isn't shouldn't there be a top-level training program to produce elite umpires? Each country would send, say, three umpires to work with people like Simon Taufel and officiate matches under guidance and observation from their mentors.

    The reason England always used to produce more top-class umpires is that it was the only country where umpires were full-time professionals. Now that's no longer true, every country ought to be able to produce at least one or two elite umpires.

    I have no problem with umpires not being neutral if they are on the elite panel. Keeping their elite status will be far more important to them than who wins or loses a test.

  • Andrew on July 18, 2013, 19:56 GMT

    What's all this about giving umpires reviews? They are paid to use their judgement and at this level they are by definition the best in the world at what they do. Yes we've all seen that they get it wrong occasionally but that's because they're human beings and that fallibility is a glory of sport. The umpires are not combatants but regulators. If they make a ruling that one team or the other disagrees with, the players should be the only ones able to question it - with the rider that an on-field umpire can ask for clarification for any decision they are in doubt about, as they can at present. Aleem Dar was clearly in no doubt that Broad wasn't out. He was wrong, but he wasn't in any doubt.

  • Joe on July 18, 2013, 18:24 GMT

    People need to understand that Cricket is not played by like every country on this globe so spotting and recruiting several dozen top umpires from 10 full member nations is unrealistic. Instead what you can do is learn how England and Australia are producing the best umpires so other nations like West Indies, New Zealand etc can as well in the future.