Monday, October 11, 2004

Men in white

Picture this... December 7th 2003: Sachin Tendulkar gets a leg-before decision in the Brisbane test which can be aptly described as 'bizarre'. Dizzy Gillespie could'nt believe his luck - he had got the best batsman in the world with what was visibly a reactionary appeal! January 6th, 2004: This could easily be considered one of the most disgraceful displays by an umpire on the cricket field. With thousands of spectators (besides the unforgiving Television cameras) at the Sydney Cricket Ground watching, the umpire wags his finger and rudely admonishes Parthiv Patel - a greenhorn who is on his first overseas tour - for excessive appealing. January 8th 2004: In the mandatory captains report to the ICC after the Sydney test, Sourav Ganguly rates this umpire as "very poor" for both his conduct on the cricket field and his "decisions". Unsuccessful leg-before appeals against Justin Langer and Damien Martyn on the final day were also cited besides the shocking incident involving Patel. January 22rd 2004: This one takes the cake. In another shocking display of imprudence, Rahul Dravid is taunted by the umpire - who rolls his fingers over the ball, looking at Dravid, as he walks in to bat. For the record, Dravid had been fined 50 per cent of his match fees by match referee Clive Lloyd for changing the condition of the ball during an earlier game against Zimbabwe at the Gabba. When the Indians lodge a complaint, the match referee "promises" to look into it! If you are still wondering what this collage of incididents is all about - let me introduce you to the legend of "slow death". Steve Bucknor, who is going on 92 (tests umpired, not age thankfully!) is the man who connects all the afore-mentioned incidents. Without going into hysteria and citing causes like racism, bias and the like, these can still be put down to the most damning reason - incapability. Bucknor may have been one of the best umpires around once, but he is aging. He is 60 for god's sake! That's not the best age for watching a cricket ball thudding into a pad at 100 miles per hr. My father - who, by the way, is not myopic - will tell you that! In Harsha Bhogle's words (which also fills you in on another Bucknor gaffe) : "And I’m afraid the time has come for Steve Bucknor to look inward. When he made his reputation, he was a quiet, dignified man, someone whose presence on the field you felt reassured by. Increasingly he has grown intrusive and bossy and while he got two wrong as well, his gesture to Zaheer Khan when he ran onto the pitch on his follow through was offensive. Good umpires are firm and friendly but if you saw Bucknor you would have thought Zaheer had pinched his wallet. A judge cannot have the demeanour of a lawyer." What is more baffling is the ICC's decision to stick to Bucknor when it comes to a series involving the Indian team. This, even as there's obviously no love lost between the two parties. Common sense says that they would be better off without one another! During the Pakistan Series, Amit Varma, managing editor of Wisden Cricinfo in India, wrote: "It is scandolous that despite the Indian team's complaints about him, based on an entire series and not a handful of stray understandable mistakes, the ICC has taken no action on this matter. John Wright, India's coach, reportedly complained to the match referee yesterday about the poor umpiring, and Bucknor gave India more reason for anguish today. After not upholding a number of good appeals during Pakistan's innings, he gave Aakash Chopra out lbw, after Chopra had inside-edged the ball. Given that Rahul Dravid was out immediately afterwards, run out without facing a ball, Bucknor's mistake had a huge impact on the game. It is unfair to Bucknor that his legacy as an umpire should be tarnished by his performance when he is clearly past the peak of his powers, and it is unfair on the players as well." All said and done, I would'nt yet be a Dilip Sardesai and say that "Bucknor is Useless"! I wound'nt yet be a Wasim Akram and ask "What's wrong with Steve Bucknor"? But if these incidents pile up and I start to think otherwise - you should'nt blame me. After all I am - like Mr. Bucknor - very very human! - BB

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