Thursday, March 04, 2010

Bully for the umps

Yesterday I posted an article at Different Strokes, noting how doing some umpiring can help a cricketer develop some understanding of an umpire's job (and its attendant difficulties). In keeping with that spirit, I'd like to dish out some credit today for a job well done. Step forward Ian Gould and Steve Davis.

Lets begin at the beginning. What sound did you not hear during the India-South Africa test series? No guesses for getting this right. You did not hear moaning, the gnashing of teeth, the plaintive wails of the downtrodden. In short, what we did not get was a whole lot of griping about the quality of the umpiring. These gentlemen did their job so well that they went off the radar.

In the first test, their job was made easier by the fact that on the South African side, Steyn didn't create too many problems for them by ripping through the Indian side with deliveries that resulted in unambiguous dismissals. While the Indian spinners might have shown some frustration in their appealing, I don't think there were any serious suggestions that the umpires got too many decisions wrong. It also helped that there was little rancor between the two teams (indeed, when I noticed some edginess out in the middle, the umpires stepped in quickly).

It was in the second test that the umpires really came under pressure, and they excelled in turn. India earned nine LBWs, and except for the Steyn dismissal which featured an inside-edge (only obvious on a slow-motion replay), they got everything right. Even better, the remaining seven LBWs included six to the spinners (in my opinion, more difficult to get right), and they got all them down.

Consider for instance, the two-fer of LBWs that turned the game on the first day. Both those dismissals (Prince and Duminy) were of left-handers, facing an offspinner bowling around the wicket. The trajectory of the delivery appears diagonal, headed down leg, but it pitches in line and straightens. The batsman pushes forward, thrusting his pad outside off-stump. The umpire has to quickly get the movement right and judge the point of impact. No UDRS. They were both spot-on.

In the second innings, things got even better for the home side was pushing for a win. The crowd was noisy, the fielders were boisterous, and the pressure on the umpires was tremendous. Again, both Gould and Davis showed a cool and collected demeanor and stayed unruffled. India earned four spinner LBWs on the last day. All of them good ones. De Villiers' dismissal to a googly was well-picked (even though AB didn't look happy).

The umpires in short, ensured a good test finish resulted. The cricketers out there in the middle had a great deal to do with it, but the umpires set the stage for them.

The background of the gentlemen who did duty in this series is mixed. Gould has a professional (and international) cricketing career behind him, while I'm not sure what Davis' provenance includes. But what the two did seem to have in common was good cricketing sense.

Credit where it's due. If we can dish out rotten fruit and eggs, then why not a few bouquets?

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Blogger Jaunty Quicksand said...

Absolutetly, positively true. When I saw the two umpires for the series I was apprehensive that they would not be able to judge LBW's on the spin-friendly wickets.

I was surprised at how good they turned out to be And Gould is a character without being a caricature (like Bowden).

12:00 PM  
Blogger Samir Chopra said...

JQ: Glad you agreed with this assessment. Just goes to show that what we need are competent umpires and not necessarily technology!

2:29 PM  
Blogger Aditya said...

Well said!
No one give due credit when umpires do their job well!
Even from the players esp the captains who always rant about umpiring decisions when they get a rough one did not even mention about the commendable job done by the umpires.It truly is a thankless job!

Btw I've blogrolled you.
hoping you would do the same !
My Blog address:

9:33 PM  

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