Challenging the Umpire

May 8, 2006

by Amit Goyal

An ICC committee has passed a resolution (well only just, 6 votes for and 5 against) to try out a system under which captains and players would be allowed to question three decisions made by the on-field umpires in an ODI. Those will then be referred to the third umpire for reconsideration. Also, the LBW decision would not be up for reconsideration by use of Hawkeye, but the use of the LBW mat will be permitted. The proposed changes will be tried in the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy, and, if successful, in the World Cup next year. A successful appeal will not be counted (as one of the three) while an invalid one will.

However, these suggestions raise a few questions in my mind:

1. Won't it undermine the authority of and respect for the on-field umpire? The ICC itself is sceptical "about the implications such a process would have on the Spirit of Cricket, the fabric of the game and the authority of the on-field umpires".

2. What if the third umpire makes an incorrect decision? The events of Sachin being declared run out against Pakistan in Eden in 1999, and that of MS Dhoni's run out against England in Mumbai in 2006 come to mind, where the third umpire made an error in judgment according to many. I mean that technology is only as good as the person using it. Also, what happens if a team is unhappy with the decision made by the third umpire?

3. What is the impact of a wrong decision on the outcome of the game? The game between Venus Williams and Sprem serves as an example, where, due to a scoring error, Venus lost an important point and her place in the tournament!! However, "I don't think one call makes a match," was what Ms. Williams said after the match.

4. Why test it out in premier events like the Champions Trophy and the World Cup? (This one left me totally baffled!)

"You don't have to be a brain surgeon to work out that if we use it, it has to be along the lines of American football, where the players and the coach get to challenge a decision using replays," says Dave Richardson, ICC general manager. With due respect to Mr. Richardson, I hate the idea of the 22 yards being turned into an American football field.

I would probably agree with Ms. Williams that one or a couple of bad decisions do not make a match. More importantly, even if they do, they form a part of the ‘glorious uncertainties’ of the ‘gentleman’s game’. Some of them should not be done away with, I think. What say you?


21 Responses to “Challenging the Umpire”

  1. Rahul Says:

    This might end up being a long comment :D.. I hope wordpress doesn’t have a word limit.. but I’d like a dig at each of those questions!

    1> Not really.. consider the situation right now, it’s obviously out but the umpire refuses to raise the finger.. no one anyways has much respect left for the umpire, the code of conduct being the only saving grace.. at least this way, the right decision finally is the one taken which matters. We’ll also come to know how many time are umpires actually wrong per match.. I think that will be a very interesting statistic 😀

    2> Nothing happens.. what happens if you lose the case in High Court and then the Supreme Court denies your appeal.. it has to end somewhere, but at least you have the chance to get a second opinion. And needless to say, even though the third umpire might screw it up, at least his chances of making a mistake are less.. which matters

    3> Wrong decisions do impact the outcome of a game.. which is why something like this needs to be tried out.

    4> Search me!

    I haven’t really gone into the intricacies of what the new rule is.. but I’d like to know this… can the batting team appeal the umpire’s decision.. now that would be a very interesting twist!!

  2. Amit Goyal Says:


    Replies to your reply follow

    1> Won’t it effect the morale of an umpire and his ability to make a decision in crunch games. Many more decisions will then be referred to the third umpire by the on-field umpires (out of fear of making a wrong decision) resulting in delays.

    2> I know nothing happens but that shows that even third umpires do make mistake.

    3> They do but I think it is an accepted part of the game. We do have 93% (ICC stats) of the results going right already.

    And yes the batting team, rather, the batsman himself can appeal. Again a twist. Who decides? The batsmen on the ground or the players in the dressing room? Will the batsmen be allowed to watch the replay (wherever available) before asking for a reconsideration has not yet been clarified.

  3. Rahul Says:


    Replies to replies of replies.. :))

    1> Why are we so sympathetic towards umpires.. he should be able to make the right decision, that’s his job!! If he can’t do it, his morale deserves to be affected!! And I have no problems with 3rd umpire delays.. replays from a 100 different directions, it’s damn cool yaar!

    2> Well, can’t get the Almighty down here to decide run outs for us, can we.. so we’re doing the best we can 🙂

    3> I accepted crappy run out decisions too before the third umpire came in.. the stats must have been lower then but I accepted it coz I had to.. now I’d never accept a run out decision that I can see was out on a replay.. not without protest at least.. so things change.. I just feel that if we have the means to take that 93% to 97%, we should try it out.

  4. Amit Goyal Says:



    1> Because the on-field umpire in cricket has a much larger role than in many sports I think. Also though the replays are cool they are not good for the broadcasting and may not be very interesting for the junta in the stadium either.

    2> All that point meant was that if you have some one like Dickie Bird the percentage of correct decisions will automatically go up. And otherwise even with tech. many do tend to make mistakes. And what good would LBW mats be in helping make decisions. One of the decisions, I believe, best made by the on-field umpire.

    3> In that scenario let the third umpires call back any batsman unfairly declared out even if he has not appealed or send away a batsman where the fielding side may not have called for a replay but the batsman was out. That would increase the percentage even more.

    4> One scenario I hadn’t yet considered. What happens if the replays of the third umpire are inconclusive? Does the appeal count then?

  5. Rahul Says:


    1> The umpire can have as great a role in whatever game.. but he still needs to do his job right and I don’t feel he deserves sympathy.. incompetent umpires should be kicked out!

    2> Incompetent third umpires should also be kicked out!

    3> I’m actually all for calling back batsmen unfairly declared out.. sending batsmen who were out but not appealed against doesn’t cut it with me.. coz if the fielding team is stupid enough to not realize they got a batsmen out, they don’t deserve the wicket!! 😀

    4> I’m guessing we’ll fall back to a new “benefit of the doubt goes to the umpire” paradigm and the appeal would count 🙂

  6. Amit Goyal Says:


    1> With too much use of technology any umpire can be called incompetent but you have to understand the kind of pressure on the umpires on field. And also limits of the human body. It cannot compete with the sinckometer or the slow-mo.

    2> We will be left with a lot less umpires. Some of the elite umpires would also stand to be kicked out.

    3> Why not apply the same logic to the batsmen. If he does not know he is out or not, he does not deserve to be there. And I am not talking about cases where the fielding team doesn’t appeal. I am talking about cases where they do not escalate it to the next level.

    4> I think in this case the appeal should not count. I mean if the umpire with all the tech is not sure, how the hell is the player supposed to know.

    5> On another note, I do appreciate the proper use of technology as providing the umpries with a earphone linked to the stump mike. Better judgement in case of nicks.

  7. Rahul Says:


    We can just continue forever, can’t we?!

    In the end, my concern seems to be that we should get right decisions.. you’re more worried about the treatment of the poor on-field umpires.. how about we just propose to the ICC that they give on-field umpires video phones so that they can look at the replays themselves and decide?!


  8. Amit Goyal Says:


    I just want the human element left in the game and for people to enjoy the game without getting to technical and keeping it simple.

    All tech developments are good but as Apar would say “it should not preclude stopping to smell the roses”

  9. Rahul Says:


    You can smell all the roses you want.. but I’d prefer if it’s not on the grave of an Indian team returning prematurely from the world cup coz an umpire he couldn’t get his act right 🙂

    I think we can agree that we disagree and stop it here!

  10. Amit Goyal Says:


    Okay… This one is the last one… Remember the Hand of God goal!!! And that should be the end of this one 😉

  11. Rahul Says:


    Yup, my point exactly.. there shouldn’t be a Hand of God in cricket.. it technology preempts it, so be it!

  12. Sohail Says:

    If my memory serves me right i read a certain article titled “you are surely joking, Mr. Acclestone” written by the same author as this article where in he roots for the use of technology. Then how come suddenly the author go against the use of technology in cricket. Why this step motherly treatment?

    If technology provides you with the option of making the game better then why not make use of it I say. And about respect to the on-field umpires, forget about it. How many among the present crop of players actually show respect to the umpires these days? Can hardly recall any names.

    Critics of this move argue that this will take extra time and make it boring. Far from it I think. Infact this move will make captains think. The fielding side captain who has the right to make three appeals will have a lot to think now with regard to which batsmen’s deision to be reconsidered and at what stage of the match. And about taking extra time to come to a decision, I dont mind watching a few extra minutes. But at the day the spectator must not feel that his team was undone by bad umpiring decisions.

    Appeal for reconsideration is more in tune with the “Gentleman’s Game” than showing your anger towards the umpire!

    Although supporter of this move by the ICC i am a little sceptical about the result. Hope it doesnt meet with the same fate of the rule of consulting the third umpire for LBW decisions.

  13. Amit Goyal Says:

    Your memory does serve you right but I think there is a difference in both the conditions. The focus of F1, as I know it, is faster cars and that can happen by use of technology. However, in the game of cricket this is not the case.
    Technology does help (third umpire being a case) but overkill with it does not help but makes life more difficult for the on-field umpire. And if not about respect, the calls for reconsideration would also lower their own confidence and they would fall back on the third umpire for a lot more decisions than at the moment, just to play it safe.
    As for the third umpire being consulted for the LBW decision, I am tooth and nail against it. I think other than the umpire on the field no one else is in a better position to make that decision.

  14. Amit Goyal Says:


    Just on a personal note. Do I know you?

    And thanks for the comments. 🙂

  15. Sohail Says:


    Was relieved to find out that my memeory served me right, kambakth abhi tak bahut baar haath de chuki hein:-)!

    Well according to me the focus on F1 is not faster cars, the focus is on making the game interesting and using faster cars is one of the steps in that direction. Similarly in cricket, as in any other game, the focus is on making the game interesting and the use of technology helps achieving that too a certain extent I guess.

    As pointed out earlier by rahul why are you so bothered about the confidence of onfield umpires? What about the confidence of players who are at the recieving end of bad decisions? Will their confidence not be effected?

    ‘they’ would fall back on the third umpire for a lot more decisions than at the moment, just to play it safe Well who do u refer to when you say ‘they’ here? I haven’t read all the clauses of the new rule but I think the umpire’s role in the game has not changed a bit with the introduction of the new rule. They cannot ask third umpires for all the decisions but for only those decisions which the players/captain appeal for reconsideration. Well as said earlier I dint read the whole thing, so may be im wrong in this but logically thinking it should not be the case.

  16. Sohail Says:


    No you dont know me I guess but I know you. See you were very famous in BITS, Pilani!

  17. Amit Goyal Says:


    Was that meant to be compliment?? 😉

  18. Amit Goyal Says:


    they – refers to the umpires. What I meant was that they would naturally use the third umpire a lot more in the first place itself without the players asking for a reconsideration.

    And as for F1, I believe that speed is the most important part of the game there, for which you require technology.

    Confidence of players. I am pretty sure players are taught to take bad decisions in their stride. Have you ever seen Sachin contest a bad decision? In Kolkata against Pakistan the poor guy even came out and aksed the crowd to calm down after being on the wrong end of a bad decision.

    And I still think if they want to increase the rate of correct decision the best way is to get good umpires. And if they want reconsideration why not go out for an all out rehaul. Let all appeals (however controversial or not) be decided by the third umpire. I mean the third umpire should send back any player if not out (and declared so by the on-field umpire) even if the player has not asked for a reconsideration. Also the third umpire should call off any batsman if he is out and the appeal of the fielding team is turned down by the on-field umpire but the fielding side has not escalated the appeal to the third umpire.

  19. Sohail Says:


    Well as said earlier i have not gone into the intricacies about the new rule but soemhow feel that umpires will not be allowed to ask the third umpire for every decision which they want but only those decisions which are being asked by the players. I guess on his own he can only ask for those which he has been asking till now, like the run outs and the doubtful catches.

    Yeah in F1 the most important part is speed and in cricket one of the critical part is umpiring decisions and i am sure none of us want the matches to be decided by some wrong umpiring decisions.

    and as for your example about sachin, you know for every rule there is an exception. You cant take the example of sachin and generalise it to all the players. he is just too different.

    get good umpires?! You must be kidding. From where will they get good ones all of a sudden? Just like sachin, Dickie Birds happen once in a life time. Even the so called elite umpires from the elite panel of ICC are not upto the standards except for a few like Simon Taufel, Rudi Koertzen and that Waqar Younis look alike umpire from Pakistan whose name escapes my memory right now.

  20. Sohail Says:

    Yeah it was meant to be compliment. What did you think:-)?

  21. Amit Goyal Says:


    The word you are looking for is notorious 😉

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