West Indies v England, 1st Test, Jamaica February 9, 2009

Reviews can make 'mockery' of umpires' authority - Harmison

Cricinfo staff

Steve Harmison: "I have to say, such is my continuing confusion, that I fear the new TV referral system is in danger of making a mockery of the time-honoured authority of the officials on the field" © Getty Images

England fast bowler Steve Harmison feels the umpire review system still lacks consistency and clarity and fears it will only make a "mockery" of the on-field umpires. Harmison was reacting, in his column in the Mail on Sunday, to one such review that went against him during the first Test against West Indies in Jamaica, an lbw verdict against Ramnaresh Sarwan.

Harmison and the on-field umpire Tony Hill felt Sarwan was trapped in front of the stumps but the batsman challenged Hill's verdict. The third umpire, Daryl Harper, felt the ball may have missed the top of the stumps and Sarwan, then on 5, went on to score 107 and shared an important 202-run stand for the second wicket with Chris Gayle.

What surprised Harmison, however, was what Harper communicated to Hill after studying replays, which seemed to suggest that Harper himself wasn't entirely convinced that the ball was missing the stumps.

"When I trapped Ramnaresh Sarwan back in the crease, I was convinced he was out," Harmison wrote. "So was Hill, which was why he stuck up his finger.

"When Hill, after consulting Daryl Harper, then reversed his original decision and gave Sarwan not out, I asked him why, and he said something like: 'Daryl said he couldn't be sure but it may have been going over the top.' I said to Tony: 'That's not right. He's got to have seen something that proved you were wrong.' Then he said: 'Yeah, I thought so as well.'

"There doesn't seem to be any consistency or clarity," Harmison wrote. "That means umpires are in danger of being isolated on the field and terrified to make a decision.

"And I have to say, such is my continuing confusion, that I fear the new system is in danger of making a mockery of the time-honoured authority of the officials on the field. "

The review system was tried out in two earlier series, but the rule has been modified for the current four-Test series against West Indies, with the number of reviews per innings per team reduced from three to two.

Harmison said the defeat, which culminated in England being bowled out for 51 and suffering an innings and 23-run defeat, was one of the worst in his career.

"I have never felt worse in my cricketing career than I do now, apart from when we were beaten by Australia in Adelaide on the last Ashes tour after setting up a position from which we might have won.

"Five years ago I produced my best ever bowling spell here, 7 for 12, as we routed West Indies for 47 to win the first Test and set up a series victory. Now I know what it is like to be on the other end - and it's c**p."

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sanya on February 10, 2009, 11:09 GMT

    The referal system does make on-field umpire's decision less valuable and it takes away the excitement. Imagine the last test of Ashes 2005, England need a wicket to win...out! Nooo...decision referred...given not out...it takes away all the glory...even if that would be given out, the fans will not be as ecstatic as they would have been.

  • devakumara on February 10, 2009, 10:51 GMT

    Harmison should focus on his bowling and support the team by dismissing Carribean willow wielders rather than critisicing ICC decision makers. Let the ICC experiment their new findings. All the umpires in the elite panel of ICC are paid officials and they'll have to follow the instructions,rules and regulations laid down by the authority. No one is confused with the review system accept Harmison. He can come up with what ever the opinions by penninng down in his column on MAIL ON SUNDAY. It's not a mockery of umpires. Come on Harmi, please don't come up with lame excuses in the losing cause. Accept the defeat gracefully. Not only in cricket, what ever the game, there's a winner as well as a loser. Both teams cannot win.

  • Noel on February 10, 2009, 10:06 GMT

    Funny that Harmison didn't complain about the 'free' wicket he got, that of Daren Powell. However, notwithstanding that the West Indies have had a long history of being on the wrong end of decisions by Harper, I believe he was pressured into the wrong decision by the England players. How come? Long before the decision was given, the England players were walking off the field.

    The message was clear: the umpire would have to be blind not to give that out. Harper would have felt the same pressure an on-field umpire feels when a bowler appeals excessively, demanding the batsman be given out.

    Given the spectre of the England players leaving the field, and the embarrassment of having to be called back, Harper simply ignored what he was seeing and gave Powell out.

    By pressuring the umpire into giving a decision in their favour, I am certain that the England players must have breached the ICC's code of conduct and should be appropriately punished.

  • Raj on February 10, 2009, 8:10 GMT

    The referral system should be continued. Umpires might lose a bit of authority but umpires have also been known to give some outrageous decisions which can and have in the past changed the face of the game. What do you want, less authority for the umpire or umpires that can change the entire face of the game because of just 1 bad decision? India was unfortunate enough to be at the receiving end during the Sydney test. I would much rather prefer less power for the officials. This way the game is in full control of the 2 teams and no umpire can turn the game on its head.

  • Michael on February 10, 2009, 7:50 GMT

    As usual, the English will favour the system as long as they get the benefit of most decisions. The review system is good and must become an essential part of the on-field decision process. One thing it did prove is that Hill is not a Test class umpire, and that Harper is as bad being third umpire, as he is on-field. The English cannot accept defeat gracefully and will complain. The review system is a major advance and can be further enhanced by the use of Hot Spot. The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on!

  • Vishal on February 10, 2009, 0:25 GMT

    Bring in the technology and let it take over all of the 'in-play' decision and let umpire be just a medium to convey the decision (keep the human touch). Umpire should take control of 'in-play' conduct. Let him be the keeper of 'spirit of cricket', make him 'UMPIRE-REFREE' of the game. Give him enough powers that he can move players around the field, but keeping the same field. Captains have to improvise/change his play and they don't really want to do that. This will give a captain enough motivation to keep his 'Boys" conduct in check. Umpire should be the only authority to decide on-field dissent. Let him be the judge of the degree of dissent and let him issue fouls regular/technical/flagrant. This will give an umpire enough power to keep a game in control and finish every 'thing' in time, not an 'administrational' mess most of the games these days leave behind after the game ends. This might sound too radical to some people but I believe this is the way future umpiring will be.

  • Edward on February 10, 2009, 0:14 GMT

    Harmy would be well advised to focus on bowling, and figuring out how to deal with the 'pressures of travel' (which every cricketer other than the English seem to deal with rather well; must be the wonderful weather and food back home!)... Harmy is one of the last remaining vestiges of the Ashes '05 old boys club that England need to get rid of to move ahead... What was KP thinking getting him out of 'retirement'?

  • David on February 9, 2009, 18:32 GMT

    I am 100% in favour of the referal system. For too long west indies have been on the wrong end of some absolutely shocking decisions. During a recent series against australia in australia the west indian commentators kept count and the number of decisions that favoured australia were 27 whereas the number of decisions that favoured the west indies were about 5. In local parlance "de umpire tief out west indies batsmen 27 times and australians only 5 times". Now i admit the system is not perfect however i'd much have a referral system than none at all. Isnt it funny that since the referal system has been used the west indies have held new zealand 0-0 and beaten england 1-0. And both of those teams have problems with the systems. Could it be because they are no longer getting the favourable calls that they once used to? Tennis should be the example 3 wrong reviews per set. I think 3 wrong reviews per innings is the best solution.

  • naveen kumar on February 9, 2009, 17:51 GMT

    Let him to concentrate on his bowling. There are many ppl outside the field to comment about that.

  • Mahek on February 9, 2009, 17:15 GMT

    Sarwan's decision should not have been overturned. But the umpires are getting used to the system just as the players are so teething problems are bound to happen.

    The referral system is indeed useful to correct the blatantly incorrect decisions. When it comes to the close ones there is an element of subjectivity and in such cases the original decision must stand. The problem here is there are times when umpires tend to be unsure when they shouldn't be, especially when it comes to spinners. Batsmen have been using this to their advantage by plonking their front foot way down the crease knowing the umpire will not give them out. A referral would be no use in such cases as even the third umpire would see it as a close decision.

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