Thursday, January 31, 2008

Asian Power & Lawyers for Match Referees

I've stopped laughing now Obaid. I've always liked how you can make the funniest comments about a very serious issue. I thought of commenting but then I had too many thoughts, thus I'm blogging instead.

About 17 months back at the Oval in London, Darrell Hair accused the Pakistan team of ball tampering. The events that unfolded after that resulted in the first ever test match in history to be forfieted. The match referee could not convince the Pakistan team and later on Darrell Hair to re-start the match. A hearing for the incident declared that Pakistan had not tampered with the ball.

About 1 month back at Sydney, Steve Bucknor gave too many decisions against India resulting in India losing a test that looked like heading for a draw. In the same test Harbhajan was accused of racism by the Aussies and banned for 3 tests by the match referee. A hearing that took place following an appeal by the Indians declared that Harbajhan had not made a racist remark.

In both cases the match referee was Mike Proctor. In both cases a charge was made against an Asian team. In both cases the ICC acted by removing the umpires. And in both cases the Asian teams got the charges overturned.

You see what I'm getting at?

The solution to the 1st point, i.e. the match referee, IMO is that maybe the match referee should not be a former cricketer but a lawyer. If the match referee's task is to make sure the match is played according to the rules and in the right spirit, act as the intermediary between two arguing teams, accept or deny charges against players, and decide on fines or bans then this job can be best done by a lawyer rather than a cricketer. Does any university offer a degree in Cricket Law?

The 2nd point about charges against Asian teams. History shows that Asian cricketers have had the most complaints against them, Asian cricketers have faced the most number of fines and bans for a variety of reasons, and Asian cricketers have been at the wrong side of umpiring errors for a long long time. Pakistan lost the test series in WI in 2001 due to bad umpiring. Pakistan lost the 1987 semi final due to bad umpiring. Pakistan lost the Perth test in 1999 due to bad umpiring. And India lost the Sydney test due to bad umpiring. I'm sure there are more examples. Why Asians? Pakistan followed by the Asian Bloc were instrumental in the introduction of neutral umpires just because of these issues. But what do you when the neutral umpires turn against you?

That brings me to the 3rd point, i.e. removal of Darell Hair from the elite panel and removal of Steve Bucknor from the subsequent tests.

There is no doubt that India followed by the Asian Bloc holds a majority position within the ICC, not only in terms of number of full members but also in terms of number of associate members and the amount of revenue generated. So why should they not use this power to get what they want. For decades England and Australia held veto rights within the ICC. Did the Asians complain? Yes they did but it took decades for the complaints to be heard. If the Asian teams feel victimized should they not act against it? Would Australia or England have remained quiet had they been accused of ball tampering? Would either of them have stayed quiet had they felt that they lost a test due to bad umpiring?

And now for the final point about the charges being overturned. In both the cases the charges were dropped but in a very diplomatic way. While Inzamam was not charged for ball tampering, he was for bringing the game into disrepute. And Harbajhan was not charged for a racist remark but for a derogatory one.

Aussie cricketers have openly claimed that they are not happy with the verdict against Harbajhan and they have even gone on to say that they don't like the use of power by India. And all this despite India dropping the charges against Hogg after a meeting between the captains. Now I don't advocate the use of chartered planes or threats of boycotts but I don't think it was either of these factors that resulted in Bhajji's ban being removed.

Cricket Australia feared a law suit, which would have damaged their coffers unlike the mega bucks making BCCI. Australian cricketers feared the backlash from India, which would have hurt their earnings from the IPL, endorsements, and bollywood movies. Maybe the boycott threat made CA feel that they would make huge losses but I doubt India would have gone ahead with that. Cricket has more often than not prevailed over these issues and I think cricket would have continued regardless of the decision on Bhajji.

Conclusion? None really.

India is the cricket superpower off the field and everyone should accept that. I think everyone does but their little use of the power should not be criticized. Anyone in power will use it to their advantage. Asians have been at the wrong side of decisions from umpires and match referees and its high time they do something against it - they have done so over the last year and a half and it has pissed of Australia. But everything was hunky dory when the Asians were meek and couldn't stand up for themselves and we were told that it was only a game and we and to take it in our stride.

I'll say the same to CA and the Aussies - take it in your stride, its just a game.

Make your pitch on this post...

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17 Pitched:

  1. David Barry said...

    Asian cricketers have been at the wrong side of umpiring errors for a long long time. Pakistan lost the test series in WI in 2001 due to bad umpiring. Pakistan lost the 1987 semi final due to bad umpiring. Pakistan lost the Perth test in 1999 due to bad umpiring. And India lost the Sydney test due to bad umpiring.

    It amuses me to read this. The attitude in Australia is that the umpiring in the subcontinent was grossly biased in favour of the home side, and that neutral umpires were introduced to end this problem.

    Neutral umpires were introduced because fans from all sides were complaining about the umpiring in just about every other country.

    Now that neutrals have been introduced, the home-side bias does not seem to have changed (I did eventually find an article showing that LBW rates didn't change significantly when neutral umpires came in).

    Would either of them [Australia or England] have stayed quiet had they felt that they lost a test due to bad umpiring?
    I believe we used to complain about it every time we toured the subcontinent, though nothing ever happened about it. I don't know of cases where bad local umpires were removed. (Maybe in the Gatting-Rana episode?)

  2. Anonymous said...

    A degree in cricket law? Where do I sign?

  3. obaid said...

    David, I have to side with you on this one... I think local umpiring used to be horrendous in general up till the late 80s and early nineties (if my memory serves me correctly). No single country could lay claim to poor umpiring fame.

    Before we jump the gun and make this a race related issue, I think this was a systemic issue. I remember Imran being furious at some of the decisions in a test series in Sri Lanka. Some of them were horrendous beyond reasonable doubt - I think incompetency also has its bounds... at some point you realize that an umpire cant be that bad without doing this intentionally.

    So Im sure there was a lot of tit-for-tat bad umpiring. Whatever type of umpires you keep there will always be human error, and again one mans mistake can be mistaken as another ones bias. I will keep saying that we need some sort of review system + good technology + cooler heads.

    Finally, something I referenced earlier, but needs a full post, is that there has always been a colonial bias against the subcontinent. If you go back and read's some of Botham's comments its pretty obvious that the English never looked forward to touring... I wonder if they got a hardship allowance? There were incessant complaints about the local curries, thepoor water, the mosquitoes, the dirt and squalor, heat etc. I might be exaggerating but I think people get the drift. I think this is what Harsha Bhogle was refering to... there is a realization, atleast amongst Indians that they have real power, they are what they are and they are just learning to flex their muscles

  4. obaid said...

    Btw, Miriam, just saw your comment on "shadeism" on the older post... great observation... I have posted a comment there

  5. Anonymous said...

    Thanks Obaid - I've posted a rather impassioned reply.

    Re the current post, there were a few things about the legal process in this matter that interested me. First, no-one seemed clear about what the standard of proof should be, i.e. whether it should be the "balance of probabilities" (which in England is the civil standard of proof) or "beyond reasonable doubt", the criminal standard. Secondly, there seemed to be an issue about Harbhajan's previous disciplinary problems being mistakenly left out at some stage. However, there didn't seem to be any discussion of whether the previous misconduct SHOULD in fact be taken into account. In some jurisdictions including the UK, the court can exclude previous misconduct from being brought in evidence unless it's relevant, because it's so prejudicial. I know that this isn't as much of an issue here, because we're talking about famous people and everyone knows their history, but I found it interesting nevertheless.

  6. Viswanathan said...
      This comment has been removed by the author.
  7. Viswanathan said...


    Just a subtext on this Bhajji's issue. You forgot to mention Sri Lanka's claim that they would have boycotted the series if the ban was upheld.

  8. Viswanathan said...


    You have only reiterated what Q has said. It is a perception held by all touring teams. I remember that we had the same perception of Pakistan and Sri Lankan umpires. Undoubtedly they held the same opinion about our umpires.

    BTW, this umpiring, particularly Bucknor,was a disaster waiting to happen and by a quirk it happened in Sydney.

    So why are you defensive about it?

  9. David Barry said...

    Ottayan, Q wrote:

    Why Asians? Pakistan followed by the Asian Bloc were instrumental in the introduction of neutral umpires just because of these issues.

    Now perhaps Q was aware that touring sides to the subcontinent felt that the umpires were biased against them and just chose to focus on the "man in the street's" Asian attitude.

    I find this attitude amusing, because it is directly opposite to what I'm used to in Australia, which is the attitude that neutral umpires were introduced because of biased umpires in the subcontinent.

  10. Viswanathan said...

    Imran spearheaded the introduction of neutral umpires precisely for this reason, all by that I mean all,touring teams felt the umpire was biased.

    BTW, I think Q was being generous- I dont remember India proactively supporting Imran on the neutral umpires, issue.:)

  11. Q said...

    Yep Imran Khan was the man behind the introduction of neutral umpires and I dont think it was the Aussies or the English who faced biased umpiring in the subcontinent.

    Imran Khan initially suggested neutral umpires for tests between Pak and Ind and then urged fot them when Pak had faced bad umpiring decisions in WI and Aus.

    Ottayan, I think Gavaskar did support Imran on this issue :-)

    Obaid, u r right, there is this colonial bias for all the reasons u mentioned. Theres an even greater bias against Pak today as the Proteas openly admit that its difficult touring there cos of no night spots (i.e. clubs, bars, etc).

    Miriam, If I find out about the degree I'll pass on the info to you.

  12. Q said...


    The Gatting - Shakoor Rana episode. As far as I remember Shakoor Rana was right and Gatting went ballistic on him and Rana refused to resume the match unless Gatting apologised.

    I dont think Rana was replaced.

  13. David Barry said...

    I dont think it was the Aussies or the English who faced biased umpiring in the subcontinent.
    You may not think so, but Australians certainly do. It's not particularly fair (since the bias almost always goes to the home side), but it's just part of the background of cricket in Australia: umpires in the subcontinent used to be woefully biased. And trust me, we wouldn't have paid attention to India-Pakistan matches, because we only used to care about our own. :)

    A couple of examples of comments I turned up with a quick Google:

    all other teams have put up with bad umpiring in the subcontinent for decades that have cost visiting teams countless matches.
    One more thing, Raja, given the history of umpiring in the subcontinent over the past decades, umpiring which was the reason neutral umpiring was introduced

  14. Q said...

    No no David, u misunderstood what I said there ... I meant I thought it was Imran Khan who was behind neutral umpires and not Aus or Eng.

    Aus and Eng, who faced biased umpiring in the subcontinent.

    You read only the 2nd statement without the context :-)

    I agree that subcontinential umpires were woeful. Javed Miandad was never given LBW at home. But I don't think the Aussies and English pushed for neutral umpires as much as Imran Khan did.

  15. Cricket Guru said...

    My 0.02.

    I have said it before on SB's TCWJ. I don't know if this will find universal acceptance, but IMO, English umpires were the most neutral and fair of the lot.

    Sub standard umpiring in Asia was not the only reason why Imran insisted on neutral umpires.

    WI players have complained about biased Aussie umpiring on more occasion than one. The less said about NZ umpiring in 1980s, the better. Similarly, visiting teams have found Asian umpires particularly partisan, and not wthout reason.

    Pakistan had a truly wonderful team in the late 80s and Imran desperately wanted a seal of acceptance, without the allegation of biased umpiring colouring his team's every other series win.

    He was tired of touring captains whinning about Pakistani umpires, when their own umpires were only marginally better, if not worse.

    He gambled on neutral umpires only to prove his team's worthiness.

  16. David Barry said...

    OK, fair enough.

  17. Q said...

    Thats an apt description Cricket Guru. But I will add to your last line "He gambled on neutral umpires only to prove his team's worthiness" by saying that he also did it to ensure unbiased umpiring when on tour.

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