Some thoughts on the Lord's match

Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid (below) ... victims of poor umpiring in the Lord’s ODI.-AP Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid (below) ... victims of poor umpiring in the Lord’s ODI.

It is time the BCCI pulled its weight with the ICC to bring about specific changes in the law that would yield the decision against a batsman almost wholly to technology, aided of course to an extent by the human perception, writes R. K. Raghavan.

I was fortunate to watch the recent ODIs at the Oval and the Lord’s. While the former will stay in my mind’s eye for the outstanding cricket it produced from both England and India, I will always remember Lord’s for the manner in which two of our stalwarts were neutralised, for no fault of theirs, in what was possibly their last outing at the historic venue. The decisions against them by umpire, Aleem Dar, shocked both Indian and English supporters.

I no doubt grieve for Dravid. My heart weeps even more for Sachin even as I recall the way he left the arena benumbed by the nearly tendentious speed with which he was pronounced caught behind the wicket. Since I was in the Mound Stand I did not have the benefit of the giant screen at the ground. But there was utter disbelief even without it, because the fleeting moments we saw the event at the ground, many like me, including the Englishmen around me, were nearly convinced that Sachin had been wronged.

The replay that I saw back home late in the evening sealed the issue. Sachin stood his ground for a few seconds — something which he rarely does — in utter disbelief. Thereafter, when he wended his way back to the pavilion he looked back at least twice, as if to convey the intensity of his pain. The decision against Dravid was equally shocking, although one could give the benefit of the doubt to umpire Aleem Dar.

It is time the BCCI pulled its weight with the ICC to bring about specific changes in the law that would yield the decision against a batsman almost wholly to technology, aided of course to an extent by the human perception. This would greatly reduce the scope for human errors and prejudice.

Gavaskar says technology will not help. He is only partially right. What about the legend Michael Holding, who was one of the Sky commentators at Lord’s. Mike was enraged by the decision against Sachin, and clearly said it was “utter nonsense” to believe that technology would not help. I am inclined to agree with him. In these days of audio and video marvels, it is utter insensitivity to watch helplessly when a God like Sachin is put out of action for no fault of his. Technology has made a lot of difference to tennis, and it can make much more to cricket.

We now have the concept of ‘Player’s Challenge’ in tennis. This has greatly improved the credibility of the fairness of close calls of linesmen in that great game. The US Open final is further proof of this.

Public opinion in India should force Pawar and others in the BCCI not to ignore what happened at Lord’s. They will be doing justice not merely to India’s cricketers but to the whole international community of players by seeking the introduction of this facility, in at least the ODI, if not Test cricket.

Cricket has had the benefit of many recent innovations, including the Twenty20 format. Bringing in a new rule that allows a ‘Challenge’ will no doubt slow down the game, but it will at least enhance the acceptability of controversial decisions.

I would suggest that a batsman may be permitted to challenge a decision twice during his innings. The challenge will be remitted to the Third Umpire and the Match Referee in the pavilion, who will finally decide the issue (in consultation with the main umpire out in the field through the walkie-talkie they already use effectively).

AP

This is a raw thought that can be greatly fine tuned with the help of eminent present and past umpires like Steve Bucknor, Venkataraghavan and Dickie Bird for a discussion at an ICC meeting in the immediate future. A move on the lines suggested would lend greater confidence to batsmen to play positive cricket without the fear of egregiously wrong decisions like the ones at Lord’s.

The BCCI should demand an early ICC meeting to discuss the issues raised by umpire Aleem Dar’s decisions. Incidentally, why was Dar posted to officiate on this important occasion? I am not for a moment suggesting that Dar acted out of bias. For a Pakistani umpire to carry conviction in a match in which India figures, his standards of objectivity will have to be more demonstrable.

Fortunately we do not have an Indian umpire in the Elite Panel (a title I do not fancy) who can stand in a match which involves Pakistan. The ICC will be hypocritical if it says that politics does not weigh in its mind in posting umpires. If this were true, how has it kept Darrel Hair out for such a long time?

By all accounts, Dar is a very good umpire with an excellent track record. His youth is to his advantage. But the speed with which he handed the decisions against Dravid and Sachin at Lord’s did cause eyebrows to raise. Speed may be his style. I would, however, prefer any day Bucknor’s deliberation — although it raises our blood pressure sometimes — before he raises his dreaded finger. Let us have more Bucknors and fewer Dars, even if we were to train them.