“ The best umpires do not necessarily mean umpires from different countries. The best men in the business must be picked, put under a tent and put for the job. Regardless of their nationality.” – Viv Richards, former West Indies captain.
For the first two World Cup cricket competitions (1975 and 1979), he was the captain of the Indian team. When India won the third edition, he had staged a dramatic comeback into the Test side. Four years later, in 1987, he made a name for himself as an administrator. When the fifth edition was staged, he had become a first-class umpire. Now, the sixth time around, with the World Cup ready for launch, he has already found himself in the International Cricket Council (ICC) panel of umpires and is sure to be there in the middle as a white-coated man.
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That is Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan for you. His multi-facted personality has beem highlighted several times. In this article, Venkataraghavan speaks on the role of umpires.
Difference between One-Day cricket and matches of longer duration: Basically, the laws are the same, though the playing conditions vary from one country to the other. Okay, the laws concerning ‘wide ball’ and ‘waist-high full tosses’ can be interpreted in a rather rigid way in instant cricket. But overall, the laws of the game are more or less the same for both versions of cricket.
Any change he can think of in existing laws? The mandatory 15-yard ‘catching position.’ I think standing just 15 yards back to the pace of bowlers like Allan Donald or Wasim Akram is quite ridiculous. Safe to say that ‘catching position’ instead of specifying a particular distance. The umpires can be allowed to be a little discreet in their judgement.
The role of the third umpire: In India, the third umpire can be contacted by the umpires in the middle on certain decisions. Decisions close to the stumps, like run out and stumping. In England and South Africa, the decision of the third umpire is available for catches on the line. If the umpires were given powers to contact the third umpire on catches taken on the line of the boundary, the ‘Manjrekar catch’ controversy which surfaced in the Nagpur One-Dayer could have been avoided.
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It is my personal opinion that when the third umpire is available, one need not feel shy of obtaining his verdict. As I have often stressed, a competent umpire is one who makes less number of mistakes. The duty of a competent umpire is to handle judgement according to his conscience. Therefore, an umpire can have no doubt left in him when he gives a decision. Every effort must be made to see that perfect coordination exists between the white-coated men in the middle and the third umpire. The facilities in England and South Africa are excellent in the sense that ‘three way walkie-talkie’ communication is available for the three umpires. One hopes this system is soon available here so that the umpires can handle their job in a more professional manner.
The influence of TV on the game: Well, the influence of TV has both good and bad effects. No doubt the advent of TV has activated things in the middle. The role of the third umpire has tremendous significance in modern cricket. Otherwise the umpires would have been lulled into a state of complacency. But there is no doubt left in my mind that TV has thrown tremendous pressure on the umpires. It is nice to show TV replays of dismissals. My only appeal is show the replay at the same speed in which the action first occurred. The umpire is forced to act on the action that just happened.
Why show TV replays again and again at a slow pace? In this aspect, the umpire is certainly at a disadvantage, being forced to act on just one moment of action while millions watching the game on the small screen are given the advantage of witnessing the particular action time and time again at a slow pace. The umpire’s job is pretty difficult under these circumstances. Therefore, I feel, people should be cautious and restrained when they pass remarks on the job of an umpire.
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Take the case of an Ibw decision. The straight umpire alone is in the right position to see the action of the ball hitting the pad. The TV cameras are not in the same straight line as the umpire who handles the Ibw decision. Even a slight deviation from the action is bound to bring ‘parallax errors.’ Those who pass judgement on Ibw decisions must remember that they are not as straight to the action as the straight umpire when a Ibw decision is made.
Umpires deserve better treatment: I feel the umpires are doing their job under most trying conditions. The One-Day game is sapping the energy of the umpires. They have to spend seven hours – three-and-a-half hours each session – on the field. No person connected with the game spends as much time on the field as the umpires. Not even the players. It is only reasonable that the umpires should be paid in tune with their work. They certainly deserve better monetary rewards. And also, there should be uniform payment for all umpires officiating in international matches. After all, each umpire, to whichever country he belongs, does the same job on the field, and it would be only fair if umpires are allowed uniform wages. This has been already highlighted at the ICC meetings and I am confident some solution would be soon worked.
(This interview was first published in the Sportstar magazine dated December 30 1995).