Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo
Mark Benson is planning to retire from umpiring with immediate effect following his sudden withdrawal from the Adelaide Test. The Sunday Times has reported Benson was upset over several incidents involving the Umpire Decision Review System on day one of the second Test between Australia and West Indies, one of which led to his original decision being overturned.
Benson twice ruled Shivnarine Chanderpaul not-out to caught-behind appeals on Friday, both of which were challenged by the Australians. The third umpire, Asad Rauf, upheld Benson's first ruling, prompting an angry response from the bowler, Doug Bollinger, and the Australian captain, Ricky Ponting. But it is the second video review, which resulted in Chanderpaul being ruled out for 62, that is understood to have most upset the English official. Hot Spot replays showed no evidence of the ball striking the outside edge of Chanderpaul's bat, however other camera angles provided Rauf with enough evidence to reverse Benson's original ruling.
Cricinfo has been told an irate Benson "ranted" to colleagues in the umpire's room after the first day's play about his dissatisfaction with the UDRS. He is believed to have said at the time that the new system "just makes (umpiring) harder", however ICC officials were remaining tight-lipped on the matter on Sunday.
David Morgan, the ICC president, told Cricinfo Benson was "poorly" and referred other questions to David Richardson, the ICC's general manager, and Vintcent van der Bijl, the umpire's manager. Chris Broad, the match referee who is presiding over the Adelaide Test, denied Benson's swift departure from Adelaide was the result of unhappiness over the UDRS. "There is absolutely no truth in that at all," Broad said. "The review system is new to everyone and you've got to get used to it. He was an advocate of the review system to help umpires out.
"We spoke on the second morning and he said that he was feeling unwell. I was in India with him as well where he was unwell. We thought this might well be another situation like that we were in in India. We chatted about it and he said he didn't feel as though he could go on the field again. We decided to leave him back in the hotel. I phoned Dubai and they decided that if it was a recurrence of high blood pressure or stomach problems he had in India he needed to get it sorted out. That was the reason that I was aware he went home."
ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat also denied Benson's return to England was related to the UDRS. "This is completely untrue. Benson has been a strong supporter of the system and his return home has nothing to do with it," he told PTI. ""He is not well and that's why he is returning home. I'm sure once he reached England, he would issue a clarification."
ICC sources have told Cricinfo, however, that The Sunday Times report is indeed accurate, and an announcement from Benson is expected after his arrival into Britain. Precisely why Benson opted to leave Adelaide before the conclusion of the second Test remains unknown.
Benson stood down from two one-day internationals involving Australia and India this year due to migraines, and previously experienced heart palpitations during a Test between South Africa and India in Durban. It is understood he did not visit a hospital in Adelaide before his departure on Saturday, despite "ill health" being cited by the ICC as the cause for his departure.
Controversy has always followed umpires, but scrutiny has escalated of late. Darrell Hair resorted to legal avenues after he was sidelined by the ICC for his role in the forfeited Test at The Oval between England and Pakistan two years ago, while Steve Bucknor was benched for the latter stages of the Australia-India Test series two summers ago after the BCCI complained of errors.
"There's probably less pressure on the umpires now with a review system than there was beforehand," Broad said. "Umpires would stand out there in the morning and captains and fielders would strut around not really knowing the result of it. With the review system they know the result straight away."