No umpiring bias please!

Written by: Sunil Gavaskar
Published: Thursday, December 9, 1999, 0:00 [IST]
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India's victory over New South Wales will have given them just the kind of boost they need before the first test match. Though New South Wales was without its top players it still was a terrific performance by the team to have defended a small total and to win by a comfortable margin of 93 runs. It was one more feather in the cap for Sourav Ganguly and though the Australian umpires found reason to speak to him, the fact remains that Ganguly has now toughened out into a truly formidable cricketer.

Unfortunately much of the lead up to the test will now overlook India's fine victory and instead concentrate on the umpires' report about the Indians for their behaviour. Kapil Dev's reply to all the turmoil was terrific and he must ensure that his team stays in the same aggressive mood and not worry about what the Australian media is writing. That Darrel Hair walked to mid-off to have a 'chat' with Ajit Agarkar after a leg before appeal was disallowed is laughable for there is no reported incident yet of an Australian umpire walking upto an Australian player to have a chat after a comment from them and the whole cricketing world is aware that the Australian players are not the silent types.

To try and browbeat a youngster like Agarkar into silence when players from his own country's team are allowed to get away is a sure indication that if Hair is to officiate in the test matches there will be a hard time for the Indians. If the Australian Cricket Board has the good of the tour at heart they will ensure that Hair does not stand in any of the tests and even in the one dayers for there is no doubt that the Indians will now view every decision of his with the utmost suspicion and that is no way to play the game.

The Australian board in recent times has taken some tough decisions by not appointing some controversial umpires and they would be commended even more if they take one more tough decision.

The Australian team is the best in the world and they would not want their success to be attributed to any umpiring bias and that's why it would make good sense to keep Hair out of the Indians' hair. The moment a team loses confidence in an umpire's ability to do his job without external factors influencing him, that is the time the host board should give the umpire a breather and keep him away from action in the interest of the tour going on without any ill feelings and rancour.

Most teams invariably flounder on the suspicion of biased officiating and if the team is losing then it becomes even harder to accept and somewhere down the line there is a possibility of a brain explosion which is unsavoury and regrettable to say the least.

By the time you read this the first Test will have begun and in all probability Nayan Mongia will have got his rightful place back behind the stumps. The injury to M S K Prasad is unfortunate but as we saw in the series against New Zealand he has a way to go as a keeper and the non stop matches were having an effect on him. He is a good prospect and will be even better once he learns that appealing unnecessarily and constantly.

Shouting does not enhance the quality of his keeping and in fact makes him lose concentration. Far too many keepers believe their job is to shout encouragement to everybody and while it is true that an energetic wicket keeper will also keep the rest of the fielders on their toes, it can lead to early fatigue and a drop in the standard of keeping.

One of the best ever keepers in India Syed Kirmani seldom shouted or appealed when not necessary and so was more effective and from the umpires point of view more believable when he did appeal. Constant appealing not only turns off the spectators but also the umpires who being human can thus turn down a genuine appeal. Nayan Mongia too has been guilty of appealing excessively but having said that there is not the slightest doubt that he is the best wicket keeper in the world. He now has the chance to show that he should have been in the squad in the first place. Once again India has taken five new ball bowlers and one of them will definitely be just a net bowler for unlike in the past there aren't too many first class matches to play and so with most of the regular playing one of the bowlers will be under bowled. If the idea to take five was to cover for injury than should not the wicket keeper also be covered for if he has a problem then Australia cannot be reached at the snap of one's fingers.

Fortunately Prasad's injury was noticed early and the Indian think tank there had enough time to ask for a replacement.

What is shocking is that the selectors had to have a teleconference to select replacements for Jadeja and again to cover for M S K Prasad.

Whatever happened to the time honoured practice of naming standbys for tours? The selection committees of yore picked the touring squad and then usually picked an opening batsmen and a middle order batsman, a wicket keeper, a pace bowler and a spin bowler as standbys. Sometimes they would pick a right hand bowler and a left hand bowler as additional standbys in case of injury. Then if there indeed was a case to send a replacement then it would be from the standbys and there would be no need to have a teleconference. Also because the captain and the manager were at the meeting to select the touring squad they would also be aware who was in the standby list and so there could not be feeling of not getting the player they wanted like Tendulkar did when Noel(who?) David was sent to replace Javagal Srianth in 1997. It is another aspect that A C Muthiah needs to iron out to prevent the kind of uproar that episode had!

Professional Management Group

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