Ex-cricketers slam ICC~~s ~~neutral umpires~~ policy

Published: Wednesday, May 2, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Sydney/London:After the farcical finish to the World Cup final where umpires' credibility has come under the scanner, cricket experts from across the globe have cast serious aspersions on the 'neutrality' of the umpires, saying the game can be made 'idiot-proof'.

Fresh from the fallout of a tragic and shambolic World Cup amid lingering Australian celebrations, questions are now being raised on why the game's best umpire, Simon Taufel, did not officiate in the most important match of the showpiece event - the final.

Australian Cricketers Association president Darren Lehmann and former England all-rounder Derek Pringle believe that cricket should move away from the ''parochialism and mistrust'' that has plagued the game and eventually gave birth to the concept of neutral umpires.

Despite being named the International Cricket Council's umpire of the year for the past three seasons, Taufel was not considered because he is an Australian and the ICC uses ''neutral'' umpires from a third country in all its matches.

Lehmann came down heavely on ICC's decision of not letting Taufel officiate, saying ''If there are two Sri Lankans who are the best umpires then so be it, they umpire the final between Australia and Sri Lanka.'' ''The finish was a farce, (with officials) not knowing the laws. Having five officials involved (four umpires and a Match Referee), it's not good enough.

''I have a view that the best umpires should umpire the best games regardless of what country they're from because they'll do the best job,'' Lehmann was quoted by ,i>The Australian.

''Thankfully it didn't affect the game at all. If it affected the result it would be a big issue,'' Lehmann lamented.

Umpires from non-competing countries stand in all Tests while one home umpire and one 'neutral' umpire stand in one-day internationals outside ICC events such as the World Cup and the Champions Trophy.

Pringle claimed the mess called into question the ICC's policy of choosing umpires from its elite panel, terming Taufel's absence from the final as 'nonsense'.

Criticising ICC's policy of neutrality, Pringle said, ''Cricket will probably never be made weatherproof but it must be made idiot-proof."

''Neutrality should not be an issue when you are pursuing excellence. Umpires need an instinct for the job, which is why the best are often former professional cricketers,''Pringle told Daily Telegraph.

The former England bowler cited the example of this World Cup, saying ''If this sorry World Cup has shown anything, it is that cricket needs the best umpires, irrespective of their backgrounds.''

Lehmann, the '99' and '03' World Cup winning member said ''We're getting to the stage now where I think we should be honest enough and umpires should be good enough to umpire home Test series so they're home a bit more''.

Meanwhile, ICC has started its fire dousing exercise when its chief executive Malcolm Speed claimed no one would be held accountable for the blunder.

On-field umpires Aleem Dar (Pakistan) and Steve Bucknor (West Indies), third umpire Rudi Koertzen (South Africa) and Match Referee Jeff Crowe (New Zealand) were the main culprits for the farcical finish.

Indeed, Taufel, 36, once almost quit the international panel because he was so disillusioned.

Crowe later said it was a 'collective' failure of the controlling unit but the game was the real loser at the end of the day.


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