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June 22, 2007
The International Cricket Council has delivered a humiliating punishment on the five match officials whose combined errors caused the World Cup final in Barbados to be completed amid farcical scenes of near-darkness.
The two onfield umpires, Steve Bucknor and Aleem Dar; the reserve umpires Rudi Koertzen and Billy Bowden, and the match referee, Jeff Crowe, have all been suspended for the duration of the next ICC event, the Twenty20 World Championship in South Africa in September.
"It would have been easy to let sleeping dogs lie and pretend nothing happened," said Malcolm Speed, the ICC's chief executive. "But the reality is that the playing control team made a serious and fundamental error that caused the final of our flagship event to end in disarray and confusion."
The World Cup, which had already been dogged by poor crowds, bad publicity, and one-sided cricket, not to mention the lingering shadow of Bob Woolmer's death in Jamaica, desperately needed a successful final between Australia and Sri Lanka to salvage some respect.
Instead, it got the most farcical finish of all time. With the match already all but decided in Australia's favour, Sri Lanka conceded defeat in rapidly fading light. They were down to their tail-enders and still needed 63 runs from the remaining 18 balls of the innings, but the five officials ruled that the teams would have to return to complete the match the following day, even though the minimum 20 overs in the second innings had already been bowled.
After a lengthy delay, Mahela Jayawardene agreed to send his batsmen back out to face Australia's spinners, and the game was completed in the dark with a cacophony of boos ringing around the ground. An apologetic Crowe immediately took the blame as manager of the playing control team, but following a review by the ICC's cricket manager, Dave Richardson, it was decided that further censure was called for.
"That was not acceptable for such experienced and talented officials," added Speed. "Although we do not like to have to take such action, we felt it was necessary to decline to appoint them for our next event, the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa. We feel that to stand them down for this two-week tournament is a proportionate measure."
Reacting to the decision, Crowe said: "While it is never easy to take criticism, I think it is right that there are consequences for our actions as match officials. In this instance I understand that the ICC could not merely let it go.
"We set ourselves high standards as match officials and at the end of that day we did not reach those standards. It was not a pleasant experience for us but hopefully now we can look forward and learn from it."
The appointments of match referees and umpires for the Twenty20 Championships will be made and announced in due course. The tournament, involving the ten ICC Full Members, as well as Kenya and Scotland, is scheduled to take place at three venues - Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg - between September 11 and 24.
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