IPL is here to stay

The IPL has helped some young cricketers to make a mark, but the most pleasing aspect to me is the fact that several Indian umpires have been given an opportunity to get a feel of umpiring in a high profile tournament.

The current edition of the IPL has provided a lot of entertainment and has kept the teams interested till the end. This establishes the fact that its success in the inaugural year was no fluke. The South Africans have loved the cricket carnival and the popularity has only increased quickly at the international level as a result of the event being shifted to an alien country.

The shift would have made the franchisees happier too as their brand salience has increased multifold, an objective which must have prompted them to own a team in the first place. Of course, each team’s worth is notionally a mind staggering figure and there is every possibility that the IPL committee will be pressurised by various quarters to add another couple of teams into the fold.

The IPL has helped some young cricketers to make a mark, but the most pleasing aspect to me is the fact that several Indian umpires have been given an opportunity to get a feel of umpiring in a high profile tournament. It is rather a pity that India does not boast of an umpire in the ICC panel on a regular basis for various reasons, but officiating in the IPL would have given the umpires tremendous experience.

Though an IPL fixture may not be the same as an international fixture, the pressure element is in no way diluted. The umpires are under scrutiny and on the whole the Indian umpires have done a more than satisfactory job in the tournament. In fact, it was good to see the Indian umpires hold their own when current international cricketers tried to be aggressive. The incident involving McCullum and S. Ravi is a case in point when the latter called a no ball as only three fielders were in the 30-yard ring. Ravi has been in the circuit for a while and has made a mark as a result of being thoroughly dedicated to his job.

Apart from having to deal with pressure from top-notch cricketers on the field, the umpires have had to deal with bowlers with suspect action as well. This particular menace seems to be a nagging problem generally in cricket and even more so in the Indian context. Kamran Khan and Amit Singh have been reported and asked to go through a rehab process but one wonders why it took so many matches for those bowlers to be reported. Amit Singh and Kamran Khan are not the only ones with suspect action as there are at least a couple more getting away with a worse action. These two cannot be allowed to bowl the way they are doing and it is imperative that the “chucking” problem is addressed in a uniform and ruthless manner. One can understand the reluctance of the umpires as their hands are tied in a way as they have to follow the procedures laid down. Besides, the follow-up on bowlers with suspect action leaves a lot to be desired as after a stipulated period of time, they are allowed to get back to active cricket.

All the problems and procedures notwithstanding, a few former international cricketers coming out with strange suggestions complicates the issue. The recent view that the doosra should be legalised is bizarre to say the least. If the doosra were to be legalised, where is the harm if a medium fast bowler asks for the privilege of chucking a bouncer as this adds to his variety as well! Over the years, leg-spinners have mesmerised the batsmen with their variations and deception but with clean actions. A googly is the most difficult variation to bowl as it requires the wrist and fingers to work strongly on the ball to squeeze it out of the back of the hand. But it is very rare to see a leg-spinner bowl a googly with a bent arm.

At the end of the day, it is all about skill and if a cricketer wishes to perform at the topmost level, he needs to develop his skills and display them without transgressing the laws of the game. The doosra might be a new term, but it has been a variety bowled by spinners for a long time. The mere fact that the governing body is receptive to some medical theories and decides on a case to case basis, does not mean that the laws can be bent to suit a certain type of bowler. In the event the laws and processes are changed on a frequent basis, it will only add to the confusion of the umpires. The phrase “if in the opinion of the umpire” is an oft-repeated one in the laws of cricket, but I wonder whether it has the same weightage it had some years ago.

With the advent of technology and the apex body weighing the legal equations for every situation, the umpires can’t be blamed if they choose to look over their shoulders before handing out a verdict on any close or hard decision. Darrell Hair might have a few things to say on this, but cricket needs more umpires like him to keep the laws intact.