Umpires have, quite possibly, a more demanding job than the players on the field. They wear black pants, white long sleeve shirts, and more often than not are standing still, not moving around like the batsmen and fielders.
Responsibilities number in the hundreds, all the way from a major split-second decision to the tiniest little thing, such as taking a notebook out onto the playing field. The one decision that has always caused the most uproar though is leg before wicket, or LBW.
Hark back to ten years ago – only the third umpire came to the fore when talking about technology, the rest was barely in development. Now, in 2014, there’s flashing bails (Big Bash League only), the Decision Review System, snicko…the list simply goes on.
Raging debate surrounds LBW, primarily in the form of consistency. The rules of LBW are plenty, and to make a correct and well-judged decision, the umpires must have a good knowledge of them. Sometimes, all that is thrown out the window, especially with all the additional benefits available to the disposal of the umpire.
A bowler is going to get another chance if they have an appeal turned down; the batsman, in a sense, does not.
How must one ensure they are “giving” all the players on the field a fair game? One solution is, don’t rush the situation. In the 2nd one day international between Australia and England at the Gabba this summer, Mitchell Johnson trapped Joe Root in front. Umpire Dharmasena took several seconds to make his decision, before giving him out. Despite Root’s review, it was umpires call, and he had to go.
- Some umpires – does not matter what level – let the fielding side do the talking, and become influenced into making quick calls
- Learning the stump line – or tram tracks – is crucial. Here’s a 4 point acronym:
P.I.P.S – pitching, interception, point of impact, stumps (hitting)
- Taking into account the balls trajectory from any natural seam or swing is going to affect your judgement. Use time as an advantage to show you, as an umpire, are making a thorough and well-judged call.
The DRS system is flawed, but, at the same time, this puts the onus back on the two on-field umpires. Sometimes forgotten within the stream that the world sees is the grassroots scene. There is no technology to offer a second opinion.
Back on the elite level, rarely is anything perfect. Umpires have an obligation to ensure a fair and “complete” game for all on the field. Calling an LBW requires numerous little things to align; and not every time – unfortunately – does it become an ideal situation. Umpires should be confident enough to know and remember the laws that surround LBW.
Don’t let technology become the devil in this game. Human error is needed, however bad it may look.