Umpire's howler mars a thriller

S Ravi (left) came under fire after failing to spot a big no-ball by Lasith Malinga off the last ball of the match against Mumbai Indians on Thursday while Nandan was criticised for wrongly adjudging a wide off Jasprit Bumrah. IPL Media

“We are playing at IPL level, not club cricket. That’s just a ridiculous call off the last ball. The umpires should have their eyes open, it was a no-ball by an inch,” an irate Virat Kohli said at the post-match presentation after his side’s six-run defeat in a humdinger against Mumbai Indians.

Although Kohli has every right to be aggrieved at umpire S Ravi’s glaring error, one could call that outburst as a case of sour grapes as RCB, despite A B de Villiers going great guns at one end, managed to fluff the lines towards the end. But Kohli had the support of none other than MI skipper Rohit Sharma, who was equally scathing on Ravi — an ICC Elite Panel umpire — for the howler.

Normally athletes across sporting disciplines are discouraged or totally barred from commenting about refereeing/ umpiring decisions irrespective of the call being right or wrong. Criticism of officials generally attracts penalty and censure, a major reason why players or managers refuse to comment about decisions openly. So if Kohli and Rohit, the captain and the vice-captain respectively of the Indian ODI side, have come up with such strong statements despite being aware of the implications, then there’s indeed an issue that needs some urgent addressing.

Nowadays, more often than not, umpires check for a no-ball when a batsman is dismissed. While it’s indeed a good thing, it also suggests that umpires are more focussed at the striker’s end — for decisions like LBW and caught behind — than the landing of the bowler’s foot which is an equally important job of the umpire. Yes, on-field no-ball calls have been made regularly but what about instances when an umpire could have missed it when the batsman was not dismissed. Followers of the game know a no-ball amounts to an additional run and a ball and in a game of fine margins, it sometimes can be the difference between victory and defeat.

South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis, who plays for Chennai Super Kings, felt use of more technology will help eliminate such errors. “Technology should be used much more often in cricket ... so many front foot no-balls missed all the time in all formats and only checked on dismissal. Should be as simple as 3rd umpire telling the umpire through ear piece that a no ball has been bowled,” he tweeted.

A senior umpire, speaking on condition of anonymity, felt the criticism is very harsh and overuse of technology could eventually prove detrimental to them. “Yes, not spotting a no-ball was indeed a big mistake. Apart from making several other decisions, spotting front-foot and back-foot no-balls is the primary duty of an umpire. His job starts from the moment the bowler is about to deliver the ball until it is dead. Focussing only at the striker’s end is not the hallmark of a good umpire.

“While the criticism is justified, umpires have been making so many good calls. I wouldn’t agree the standard of umpiring has gone down (in India). I would rather say, it’s a mistake which has ended up getting a lot of traction. When we make good decisions, we barely get any appreciation but get vilified instantly for a wrong decision.”

The umpire felt his colleagues will have to evolve like players do to stay on top of their game.

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Umpire's howler mars a thriller

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