Saturday, July 13, 2013

Trent Bridge Day 4

To err, they say, is human. The question is, of course, what you do after the inevitable error has occurred.

Overnight developments have kept the issues relating to umpiring in what was always going to be a fiercely contested Ashes series firmly in the spotlight, and it’s reasonably certain those issues aren’t going to be disappearing any time soon.

I’ve done my share of umpiring over the years, and while I wouldn’t presume to second guess the thought processes of those who do it at the highest level, I think I’ve got a fair handle on what goes through your mind when you realise you might have made a mistake.

That little word might is the key element here. Sometimes, on further reflection, you realise that yes, you did. Other times, as you run back your mind back over it, you conclude no, everything’s cool. What you don’t want to do is dwell on the detail, that way lies madness and the likelihood of further error.

The last thing you want to do is to try to square things up. All that does is open the path to total disaster.

One thing that’s handy is to have some sort of pressure release valve, the sort of thing I used to use when I signalled byes and the batsman, aggrieved that I was doing him out of a run or two, claimed to have hit the ball.

“Fine,” was my standard reply. “If the wicket keeper had caught it I would have given it not out.”

That usually ended the complaints.

Test match umpires, of course, can’t do that sort of thing (or at least they can’t do it while anyone’s watching, and if someone was silly enough to try to do it behind closed doors he’d be asking for trouble).

It’s fair to assume that, having realised the error has been made, the first thing the umpire does is to look at ways of avoiding the possibility of a recurrence. That means (and I’m guessing this is what happened) after you’ve made an obvious mistake with a catch behind when there’s another appeal and you’ve got a distinct impression of a snick but a question mark over whether it has carried you’ll consult with your colleague at square leg who might be able to confirm whether it did.

This appears to have been the case with Clarke’s dismissal, though Pup’s subsequent squandering of the remaining referral will undoubtedly turn around to bite us on the arse some time tomorrow morning.

The umpires, for mine, will do a certain amount of self correcting, and if you leave them alone you’ve got a better chance of that ending up in your favour.

Not that it’s a conscious thing, of course. Umpires don’t (or shouldn’t) go looking for a conscious squaring up, but as the impressions flow though the decision making process I suspect there’s a certain amount of subconscious filtering that amounts to much the same thing.

Beyond that, from my understanding of things, Test match umpires can call on a theoretically infinite number of referrals, though one suspects frequent use of that possibility will raise a number of fresh issues. You want your umpires using that sort of thing as a last resort rather than a crutch.

As far as the teams’ two referrals are concerned, I think you’re actually going to get more dodgy decisions if you’re inclined to refer things at the drop of a hat.

The other issue that seemed to be coming through in the radio commentary was that, due to the situation within the ICC Umpires Panel, we’re probably looking at the two blokes out in the middle (Aleem Dar and HDPK Dharmasena) and Marais Erasmus, who’s looking after the TV side of proceedings, throughout the rest of the series.

On that basis I’m hoping the poison pens of the Pommy press are dumb enough to go on about the standard of the decision making because I suspect we’ve done enough damage to our own cause with our own apparent take on the referral system.

You trap more ants with sugar than you do with vinegar, and we’d probably be better off if we were suggesting they’re doing a fair job and not firing in an opportunistic or speculative referral whenever it seems there’s a sniff of possible advantage to be gained.

Each side has two referrals, and hot headed self preservation is likely to be counterproductive. I suspect a willingness to fire them in makes the umpire less likely to ask the colleague up in the referral centre for clarification.

In any case, the first session tomorrow will, of course, be key, as will the role of the heavy roller before play resumes. It seems the failure of the track to deteriorate as predicted owes a lot to the heavy roller, and if that’s true there’s every possibility things will be done and dusted by the time the roller’s morning ministrations have been negated.

It could, of course, be all over within ten minutes, but the aim should be to go about our business as usual, playing each ball on it merits and seeing how much pressure can be put back on the England XI.

It’s fairly obvious (at least it’s fairly obvious to me) that England aren’t as good as their public thinks they are, and Australia is definitely on the way back. I think the Day Five result will be very close, and with three days before we head into the Lords Test any momentum that’s starting to build should be able to be maintained.

Particularly if Haddin, Agar, Siddle, Pattinson and Starc can cobble together those hundred and thirty-seven runs.

Actually, the best outcome would be for the quintet to cobble them together, head off to Lords one-nil up and watch as the poison pens of the Pommy press set out on an orgy of we was robbed due to lousy umpiring, which would, IMHO, more than likely produce a continuing flow of contentious decisions with the majority of them working in our favour.

But that’ll come after what will hopefully be a very interesting two-plus hours tonight...

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