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Who will pull up the match referee?

It was to curb the growing indiscipline and misbehaviour of players that the International Cricket Council came up with the idea of having match referees

Partab Ramchand
19-Dec-2000
It was to curb the growing indiscipline and misbehaviour of players that the International Cricket Council came up with the idea of having match referees. Now it would seem that to curb the growing inconsistency in their approach by the match referees, the ICC will have to come up with some sort of watchdog. Indeed, there is much cause for anxiety in this regard and this is not only because of a couple of recent examples where the ruling has varied. Match referees, it must be regrettably stated, have had a tainted record of adopting different yardsticks for different `crimes' in the past.
Just last week, Australian match referee Barry Jarman pulled up Indian captain Sourav Ganguly under three different clauses under the ICC laws governing indiscipline and misbehaviour. He was slapped with a one match suspension and also given a two match suspended sentence. A few days later, English match referee Alan Smith let Australian Stuart MacGill off with a warning for behaviour that was disconcerting to say the least. It is sad when one cricketer virtually assaults another - and without any provacation whatsoever. Sadder still when the attacker is let off scot free.
Both Ganguly and MacGill have been lambasted for what they did. So then why was Ganguly pulled up and MacGill virtually let off? Without getting trapped into the `racial bias' conclusion, I would prefer to put it down to an inconsistent ruling. After all, the ICC laws given to the match referees for clamping down on bad behaviour are quite clear. There cannot be more than one interpretation. Why then are these double standards adopted? There just cannot be two sets of rules.
In MacGill's defence, it is being said that the incident happened off the field, as compared to Ganguly's which occurred on the field. That argument should be dismissed forthwith. In the first place, there is conclusive proof that MacGill, obviously still upset by what he considered to be a wrong decision that went against him, virtually barged into the West Indian 12th man Ramnaresh Sarwan. Secondly, the Australian leg spinner was in the wrong, something substantiated by the fact that he offered an apology to Sarwan, which in the words of Smith, was "accepted warmly." By the same token, Ganguly also apologised to umpire Sathe who repeatedly turned down his frantic appeals. Jarman admitted this but said he had to carry out his duty nonetheless. So why did Smith fail in carrying out his duty and slapping some sort of punishment on MacGill instead of letting him off with just a warning? If Ganguly's behaviour was in bad taste, there is no doubt that MacGill's elbowing act was also uncalled for.
If players are pulled up for deplorable behaviour - and rightly so, one may add - then should not action be also taken against match referees who blatantly adopt double standards in such cases? Former West Indian fast bowler Colin Croft, in his column for this website, has called for sacking some of the match referees. It must not be forgotten that while Ganguly's exchanges with Sathe had been verbal, MacGill had physically accosted Sarwan. There certainly cannot be any excuse whatsoever for such blatantly unwarranted behaviour. And yet MacGill was just let off with a warning even though he accepted responsibility for the incident.
And speaking of the officials, should not also some action be taken against the umpires? This is not to hold a brief for the players who throw tantrums when an appeal goes against them or when they are given out when TV replays show that they were not out. But there is little doubt that the mistakes made by even umpires with the reputation of generally getting it right, are becoming one too many. Perhaps the time has come to take Imran Khan's suggestion that almost every decision must come from the third umpire seriously. On the face of it, this may meet with opposition from die hard traditionalists but one must not forget that it was the former Pakistan captain who suggested in the early eighties that neutral officials were the answer to umpiring disputes - a suggestion that met with opposition initially but became a reality before the decade was out. Besides ensuring fair judgement of decisions, the move could also drastically cut down on players' tantrums and growing indiscipline.