In an unexpected fallout of their continuing rejection of the UDRS, the BCCI has decided to do away with umpires starting with the next bilateral series.
"Well, it's like this. We still reject the use of the UDRS in matches involving India, since we believe that it isn't one 100% accurate," said Sunil Gavaskar, chariman of the BCCI technical committee, explaining the decision. "Then we realised that, come to think of it, neither are umpires. So we've decided to stop using umpires from the next series."
"So, in keeping with our policy of not endorsing any decision-making device that isn't completely reliable and error-free, we have decided that there is no real advantage to having umpires in a match," said Gavaskar, casting a sideways glance at a glowering S Venkataraghavan, who looked more menacing than he ever did during his playing days.
This unusual move takes on significance in the light of events in the recently concluded India-England World Cup encounter in Bangalore, where a couple of missed nicks and an lbw referral went against India.
"Arguably, umpiring errors cost us a win in that game. I'm all for any method that will help reduce umpiring errors that affect the outcomes of matches. Since getting rid of umpires completely will eliminate umpiring errors altogether, I think it's great for the game," said India skipper MS Dhoni, defending the decision. When someone pointed out that without umpires the game would lose some of the charm and unpredictability brought about by the human element, he replied, "Oh, don't worry about the element of human error. We have Piyush Chawla for that."
However, the decision has been mostly met with a mixture of disbelief, contempt and scepticism.
"Without umpires you lose a key part of cricket's appeal - the appeal. The appeal has appeal - that's how I feel. And that feeling's for real. I'll wheel and deal. With a heart of steel. Zimbabwe had a spinner named Stephen Peall," said Laxman Sivaramakrishnan, unexpectedly breaking out into an enthusiastic rap but eventually forced to resort to contrivance in order to rhyme.
"I believe the BCCI's decision will deprive us of some of the game's great pleasures, such as seeing Harbhajan Singh's expression when an lbw is turned down, or Ricky Ponting's mid-pitch symposiums on topics such as 'The Impeccability of the Ethics of RT Ponting' and 'Minor Loopholes and Flaws in the Laws of Physics, Especially Gravity'. It's a shame," said former Australia great Ian Chappell, looking nervously over his shoulder to check if he would suddenly be interrupted by a Navjot Singh Sidhu special.
"Look, accuracy isn't everything. I would know," said Ashish Nehra, one of the current players who oppose the move. "We need to have umpires on the field, so that I can keep track of when I'm bowling no-balls and wides.", said Nehra, reinforcing the widely held belief that he needed external intervention to point out that his deliveries were heading off towards fifth slip.
However, the BCCI continues to dig in its heels and remain steadfast in the face of criticism. "People accuse the BCCI of being resistant to change and new technology, especially over the UDRS issue. But the truth is that we're the most forward-thinking of cricket boards. Who else has come up with such an elegant and effective way of eliminating umpiring errors from the game?" asked Gavaskar, before adding that the BCCI also has plans of addressing the problem of substandard pitches by getting rid of pitches themselves.
In related news, the PCB has denied that they were taking similar steps to rid cricket of spot-fixing. "No, we don't believe there's any need for that," said PCB head Ijaz Butt. "We have no evidence of any substandard or error-filled spot-fixing in Pakistan - it is all of the highest quality," he said reassuringly.