IND vs NZ First Test: DRS, Ashwin, spirit of cricket – How did the umpires fare?

On-field umpires making the cross signal with the arms to signal a reversal of on-field verdicts upon review wasn’t a rare sight in the first Test that concluded here on Monday evening.

There were at least six occasions when a decision made by the umpires on the field had to be changed upon review and at least four more decisions would have been changed if a review had been taken. DRS was successfully used by the aggrieved party as early as the third over of the contest, when Shubman Gill was wrongly given out lbw off Tim Southee, and for the last time at the business end on Day Five by New Zealand’s Rachin Ravindra.

Will Young’s dismissal on the fourth evening was painful for New Zealand mainly because his review – he was late by a second or less in making the signal – would have saved him. Could the accuracy of the umpires have been better?

Former international umpire Vinayak Kulkarni believes the performance of the umpires was satisfactory given the pressure they were under and the lack of experience.

There were at least six occasions when a decision made by the umpires on the field had to be changed upon review and at least four more decisions would have been changed if a review had been taken

“In that pressure situation, they did a good job together, because one of them had less experience and a lot of things were happening – things that don’t usually happen. All said and done, the decisions overturned were on the higher side,” Kulkarni told Sportstar.

“The decisions which would have been overturned had the DRS been taken shouldn’t be included in the statistics, because they were all excellent decisions given by the umpire except two lbw decisions. For only those two decisions, I would not give the umpire positive marks,” he said.

Kulkarni, however, felt the umpires may be trying to play safe sometimes.

“We umpires are standing without any gadget. No slow motion, nothing. How much time do we get? There were so many things happening: there were at one time seven fielders standing around the bat.

“I also think the umpires were also playing safe: two or three times the umpires gave the batter out and the batter reviewed immediately. That means the batter was confident the ball hadn’t touched his bat. It was overturned. They could be playing safe: ‘no blame will come to me if I give it out, it will be overturned’. But that should not happen. The umpire should not play safe.”

Spirit of cricket

What also tested the umpires was R. Ashwin’s odd trajectory of run-up and follow through during a phase of play during New Zealand’s first innings. Ashwin wasn’t landing on the danger area but was directly in front of the umpire when delivering the ball from around the wicket and ended up in front of the non-striker in his follow through. Umpire Nitin Menon had a lengthy chat with him and captain Ajinkya Rahane also had a word with the umpire.

R. Ashwin.   –  PTI


Ashwin repeated it a few more times before giving up on the experiment.

Raju Mukherjee, author, former first-class cricketer, umpire, and match referee, pointed out Ashwin was within his right to land his foot and position himself in front of the umpire when delivering the ball.

“A bowler can be there, but the umpire also has the right to tell him – ‘if you do that I may not be in a position to give a batsman out because I cannot see him. You’re obstructing my view’,” he said.

He added: “Here, an arrogant bowler can say – if that’s the case, there is no dispute, I will just get him bowled. That’s just for the sake of argument. What happens if a catch comes right there? A bowler has to go that side and obstruct the view so it’s caught-and-bowled. Generally, a catch is such a thing you can see if it is taken properly. That means the bowler can be in front of the umpire. But then if he’s deliberately doing it and obstructing the umpire’s view, then the umpire can also say – ‘I’m not bothered, I’m not going to give lbw verdicts.’

“This could happen years ago, when there was no third umpire. Today, if there is an lbw decision to be made, and the umpire says ‘I didn’t see and cannot give a decision,’ they will refer it to the third umpire.”

According to Mukherjee, the spirit of the game and its traditional conventions are key to resolving a situation like this.

“These are very important issues. The idea is: no law can run the game as such. It is the spirit of the game, the traditional conventions of the game. If you’re blocking his view, he can say – ‘please, don’t block my view’ – and the bowler has to accordingly switch positions,” Mukherjee said.

Kulkarni, too, felt that the spirit of cricket was an important concept in situations like this. He felt Ashwin wasn’t obstructing the view of the umpire as he was moving away quickly to his left, but he was blocking the non-striker.

“If a fielder is intentionally blocking the non-striker, there is a law that can be invoked. But again there is a provision that the non-striker can stand on the opposite side. Meaning – the same side from which the bowler is bowling. If the non-striker asks the umpire the permission to stand on the other side, the umpire can give him permission,” he said.

“Whether Ashwin is blocking the non-striker intentionally or whether it is part of the game is for the umpire to decide. It generally boils down to the spirit of the game.”

Code of conduct breach

What could definitely be seen as a breach of code of conduct is Ashwin’s conduct late on Day Four, Kulkarni felt. When Will Young requested the umpire for a review, Ashwin pointed to the giant screen to bring to everyone’s attention that the batter’s time of 15 seconds had passed. The rest of the Indian team protested to the umpires, too.

Kulkarni said, “What Ashwin did is not correct. Players protesting (pointing out a delay in reviewing a decision) is on the borderline. You can say they wanted to bring it to the notice of the umpire, but it is not just the on-field umpires who can judge whether 15 seconds have passed. There is a third umpire; he gives the timing. He is the one who said that the time was up.”

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