Plenty of drama at Sydney

Steve Bucknor has been guilty of not utilising the technology that is available on more occasions than one.-

Regardless of what transpires with regard to Harbhajan’s ban, the Indians still have a lot to play for and salvage some pride. It is all the more important that the Indians play well to put Australia under pressure as any deficiency on their part will attract more criticism and of course, some taunts from the hosts on the field.

The Sydney Test was an absorbing one in that it had all the elements that one normally loves to see in a Test match. There were some top notch individual performances that would be remembered for a long time but in the end the fracas between Symonds and Harbhajan overshadowed the memorable segments of that Test match.

But for this incident and its aftermath, avid followers of the game will be still talking about the artistry of Laxman and the majesty of Tendulkar. Their knocks set India up in the Test match to try and put the pressure on the Aussies. However, the Aussies prevailed over the challenge posed by the Indians and won the match in the dying moments. On the fact of it, one must hand it to the hosts for hanging on and turning the tables on the visitors but the events that took place in the process were ludicrous.

Some words are always exchanged on the field and the onus is on the umpires to control the game in a professional manner. They failed miserably in Sydney on that count and I for one believe that the Test match would have been incident-free but for the poor decisions by the umpires.

A mistake or two is understandable but the Indians cannot be faulted if they feel that they were done in by the umpires. This is where the ICC needs to tighten up and be more proactive and stringent in assessing the performance of the umpires. All the brave statements that come from the ICC bigwigs amount to nothing if they replace an umpire on receipt of a protest. In doing so, the ICC makes one curious about its assessment process with regard to the umpires. With all respect to the umpires, poor decisions on the opening day of a Test match on a flat pitch will not be tolerated by international cricketers, especially when such decisions happen to turn the game on its head.

Coming back to the fracas between Harbhajan and Symonds, if the umpires were to nip it in the bud, it would have perhaps gone unnoticed. Instead they allowed the incident to snowball and with the Australians looking to settle the scores, they got their revenge when the match referee slapped the ban on Harbhajan.

Here again, the inconsistency of the match referees is another issue that the ICC has failed to address much to its peril. The Indians quite obviously were not prepared to accept Procter’s ruling as they felt that he would have nothing to do with either Harbhajan’s or Tendulkar’s version. After replacing Bucknor which reflects a fair measure of weakness, the ICC has brought Madugalle into the equation to sort out the issues. This once again goes to show that the decision makers are just soft pedalling at a time when they need to come on strong.

The ICC’s inability to be strong in a crisis has set a bad precedent more than anything else. Presumably they are aware that the match referee could have done better and hence they cannot tell the Indians to either like or lump his ruling. After all the drama that emanated out of the Sydney Test, it will be rather delicate to even mention that cricket is a gentleman’s game. The way the ICC has handled the issues also makes one wonder which way the game is heading.

All the energies are spent on trying to make the players some sort of robots by imposing the supposedly “stringent” codes of conduct. But unfortunately, the apex body fails to understand that unless the standard of umpiring is monitored and steps are taken to improve the same, there will be no cessation of incidents, bans, appeals and threats of boycott in the future.

All that the ICC thinks of doing to improve the standard of umpiring is to suggest ways and means to lean more towards technology. But cricket cannot blindly embrace technology as it has its own limitations.

Talking of technology, Bucknor has been guilty of not utilising the technology that is available on more occasions than one. If it was the stumping of Symonds in 2008, it was the run out of Jonty Rhodes way back in 1991-92 at the Wanderers. On that occasion, his reluctance or lack of confidence in technology turned the game on its head with India getting the wrong end of the stick as well.

Regardless of what transpires with regard to Harbhajan’s ban, the Indians still have a lot to play for and salvage some pride. It is all the more important that the Indians play well to put Australia under pressure as any deficiency on their part will attract more criticism and of course, some taunts from the hosts on the field.

Despite the fact that everyone is aware of what went wrong in Sydney, the Indians will be expected to deliver in the next two Tests. If they fail to make an impression, all the support gained after the Sydney Test will be lost in no time.