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McCullum calls on umpires to get a grip

Published: Friday, June 20, 2008, 11:05 [IST]
 
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Birmingham: Allen Stanford believes Twenty20 represents the future of cricket - that is of course assuming you do actually get to 20 overs.

What the Texan billionaire, who plans to give one million dollars to each member of the winning side of a Twenty20 match between England and his Caribbean 'Super Stars' later this year, made of Wednesday's no-result one-day international at Edgbaston is not yet known.

But it is unlikely a man who has publicly admitted to finding Test cricket "boring" would have been impressed by a verdict of 'no-result'.

With New Zealand 127 for two and in sight of victory, the umpires took the players off for rain just one over short of the minimum 20 overs required in the innings for a result under the Duckworth/Lewis method.

Adding to the sense of frustration was that England players, on a ground where according to Australian umpire Steve Davis no-one could "stand-up", returned soon afterwards for a training session.

England also took 83 minutes to bowl just 19 overs.

But New Zealand's Brendon McCullum, whose unbeaten 60 looked as it had set up a thrilling climax - the Black Caps needed seven more runs off the 20th over to win provided they didn't lose a wicket - said the umpires had to keep the game going.

"The umpires have to identify gamesmanship and make sure it doesn't have a bearing on the outcome of the game, especially in these situations where you know it's going to be a tight finish.

"If there's ongoing dialogue between the players and umpires, then you're going to get it right out on the field in the first place by encouraging teams to maintain their over rates.

"But that's part and parcel of the game - and we would have tried to do the same thing."

Now New Zealand, instead of being all square at 1-1, head into Saturday's third of a five-match series at Bristol still 1-0 down but with McCullum in defiantly optimistic mood.

"If we can put them under more pressure from the start I've got no doubt we can win this series."

But Davis and his English colleague Ian Gould felt they had to stick rigidly to the rulebook when it came to the mid-innings interval even though rain was a constant concern.

As a result, the 30-minute break was maintained when both teams were ready to turn around in 10.

Thursday's announcement by the International Cricket Council that officials would be given more leeway over the interval in the remainder of this series came too late for spectators at Edgbaston whose tickets cost a minimum of 55 pounds (110 dollars) each.

For much of cricket's history, the umpire only became a factor in the running of the match when the two sides couldn't agree. Otherwise the men in the middle would fall in with the players' wishes.

But attempts to standardise playing conditions have had the unfortunate side-effect of creating an ever-more complex set of regulations.

So, for example, last year's World Cup final in the Caribbean saw Australia and Sri Lanka having to play on in dangerous near total darkness even though the 20-over cut-off point had been reached.

The players knew the rules; unfortunately for them several of cricket's most experienced officials somehow contrived to forgot them.

In 2006, Australian umpire Darrell Hair penalised Pakistan five penalty-runs for ball-tampering during a Test against England at The Oval.

It later turned out both sides would have been happy to play on after Hair and West Indian colleague Billy Doctrove called the game off following Pakistan's failure to take the field immediately after tea on the fourth day.

Had they done so, much expense and controversy, not least for Hair himself, might have been avoided.

Instead, Hair only recently returned to umpiring in Test matches after nearly two years having worked on his "communication skills' during his time out of the spotlight.

He might have some lessons to pass on after the finish of a match which, although widely labelled "farcical", was no laughing matter for cricket.

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