World Cup umpiring farce

Dead Ball and DRSFarce, the only way to describe the ending to today’s Cricket World Cup game between Australia and England. Appendix 6 Article 3.6 (a) & (b) of the ICC World Cup 2015 Playing Conditions relating to the Decision Review System (DRS) explains it very clearly. The ball was dead. From the immediate reaction on Twitter and other social media it would appear that the only people who didn’t know this were the ones who get paid to know it, the match officials. Download the CWC 2015 playing conditions.

The match situation was that England needed 112 runs from 50 balls, James Taylor 98* and Jimmy Anderson 8* were the batsmen. The only real interest remaining in the game was whether James Taylor would complete his first ODI hundred.

Then the umpires decided to steal the limelight. Bowler Josh Hazlewood struck Taylor on the pad and appealed for a lbw decision. While umpire Aleem Dar was deliberating the decision the batsmen set off for a leg bye. Glenn Maxwell swooped on the ball and a direct hit at the striker’s end found Anderson short of his ground. In the meantime umpire Dar had given Taylor out lbw. James Taylor immediately reviewed the decision and was then adjudged to be not out. Taylor went back to the strikers end, Hazlewood bowled the next ball and the game continued. Well, that’s what should have happened next but then umpire Kumar Dharmasena decided to review the run out. Goodness knows why, the playing condition above seems clear enough, when umpire Dar made his original out decision the ball became dead. The third umpire gave Anderson out as he was short of his ground and so the game ended with Taylor stranded on 98*. You can view a video of the incident on the Cricket Australia website. The ICC later admitted that a mistake was made and released a statement.

Although admitting the mistake is good further steps against the officials should be taken. Personal milestones aside, the decision could have an influence on the rest of the tournament. It seems extremely unlikely that England would have won the game but stranger things have happened in cricket. England’s net run rate is now lower than it would have been. This may become important as net run rate is used as a tie-breaker if teams end level on points in their group. Taylor and Anderson were batting well at this stage and their partnership was worth 36 runs when Dharmasena decided to end it. James Taylor was denied the opportunity to complete his century, a milestone treasured by players. It would also have been a debut CWC century for him if he completed it.

This is not the first umpiring farce at a CWC tournament. A similar lack of knowledge of the laws and playing conditions led to the farcical end to the 2007 CWC Final in the West Indies. The five official on that day were Steve Bucknor and Aleem Dar as the on-field umpires, Rudi Koertzen the 3rd umpire, Billy Bowden the reserve umpire and Jeff Crowe the match referee. Three of them, Dar as on-field umpire, Bowden as 3rd umpire and Crowe as match referee were involved again today. All 5 match officials involved in 2007 were disciplined and suspended from officiating in the 2007 ICC World T20.

One must accept that in the heat of the moment mistakes are made. The circumstances surrounding this decision makes it very hard to do so. During the telecast Taylor can clearly be seen saying that the ball is dead, not once, but several times. In my mind this raises a serious question about the umpire’s conduct. Surely at that stage you should think to yourself: “let me check the laws”. Also, one is allowed 15 seconds to review a decision after the ball becomes dead. A simple “when did the timer start” question to oneself may have directed Dharmasena towards the correct decision. Mistakes can be accepted no matter how hard that may be, a mistake when the validity of your decision to review has been questioned before you made your decision should be seriously questioned. Here we have four umpires that belong to the ICC Elite Panel of Umpires and they seem to be unaware of the playing conditions covering DRS decisions.

This entire episode reflects badly on the match officials. It was started off by Aleem Dar making a very bad lbw decision. An in-swinging ball pitching on leg stump? The original error was then compounded by the referral of a run out by Kumar Dharmasena that happened after the ball was dead. This after Taylor repeatedly pointed out the fact that the ball was dead. One can only hope that this was a genuine mistake and that something like this will never be repeated. I do feel strongly further investigation is needed and that affair shouldn’t be seen as done and dusted just because a statement was issued acknowledging the mistake.