Tag Archives: umpiring

Neutral Attraction

Me at the Cowdrey Lecture.

Me at the Cowdrey Lecture.

I went to listen to Simon Taufel at the Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey Lecture last week (http://www.lords.org/news/2013/july/taufel-delivers-mcc-spirit-of-cricket-cowdrey-lecture/).  He had some pretty interesting things to say about umpiring, it really made me think about how difficult it must be, especially with all those cameras on you looking for your next mistake!  He talked a bit about neutral umpiring, quite a recent development in the international game (1994).  Of course at club level, where finding a volunteer to umpire at all can be difficult, neutral umpiring rarely happens.  Most of the clubs I’ve visited haven’t had too much trouble with umpire bias, although this story offers a possible exception – http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/1960s-club-bowling-legend-bert-davies-and-7-lbws-one-innings – the story features an umpire who gave his son-in-law 7 successful LBW appeals in one innings, but perhaps he was just bowling particularly well that day!  The point Simon Taufel made wasn’t that umpires would be biased towards their own countries, but that neutral umpiring was important as it took away that suspicion.

Mike Gatting and Eoin Morgan joined Simon Taufel on stage for questions after his lecture.  Mike Gatting was a particularly interesting choice of speaker as he was involved in a major controversy involving umpiring a few years before neutral umpiring was made compulsory.  The incident occurred in December 1987, England were playing the 2nd test of the series against Pakistan in Faisalabad.  There had been tension during the day when Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana had rejected a bat pad appeal, but things did not escalate until the last over of the day.  Shakoor Rana accused Mike Gatting of moving a fielder after the bowler had begun his run up in order to distract the batsman.  Gatting disagreed and an angry exchange of swearwords and aggressive gestures from both parties was the result (all observed on camera and broadcast across the world!).


Photographer Graham Morris captures the moment – an image that was seen around the world.

Both parties retreated to their ‘camps’ and overnight it was established that Shakoor would refuse to stand the next day without an apology and that Gatting would not apologies unless Shakoor apologised too for his part in the incident.  Neither would budge and so the third day of play was abandoned.

On the evening of what would have been the third day Gatting received instruction from the TCCB in London that he should apologies, which he duly did reluctantly in the form of a short hand written note.

Dear Shakoor  Rana, I apologize for the bad language used during the second day of the Test match at Faisalabad.  Mike Gatting.

And so the match was able to continue and ended in a draw (which was perhaps the best outcome in the circumstances).

In most other sports an argument between a player and official on the pitch would not be so much of a big deal, but respect for the umpire has always been seen as vital to the spirit of cricket.  The event had a big impact on the cricketing world and renewed pleas for neutral umpires.

The idea of total respect for umpires is an interesting concept and one many cricketers were raised with as children.   Yet umpires are only human and do make mistakes, and where does the ideal leave DRS, a process that involves players challenging the umpires decision?  Simon’s lecture didn’t really answer this questions and the role of the umpire will probably go on being discussed for as long as cricket is played (even after they’ve all been replaced by hawkeye/hotspot enabled robots!)



Filed under cheating, Cricket, DRS, England, History, Mike Gatting, neutral umpires, Pakistan, Simon Taufel, test cricket, Umpiring, umpiring

‘The Denton Plan’: the answer to bad umpiring?

Alastair Cook trudges back to the dressing room after a bad lbw decision.

Alastair Cook trudges back to the dressing room after a bad lbw decision.

The debate over what to do about bad umpiring is rife again today after Cook was given out lbw to a ball that was heading wide of off stump.  DRS might have saved him, but is it really the answer?  DRS was introduced to reduce umpire errors but only seems to have stimulated more arguments over its effectiveness and it’s effect on the flow of the game.  It is not being used in the current India v. England test series and in a recent blog Mike Selvey argues that it has made the quality if umpiring worse  (http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/blog/2012/dec/03/india-england-drs-umpires-worse ).  And what about cricket at other levels?  Can the Counties afford DRS?  What about club cricket where even providing neutral umpiring can be a challenge in small towns where everyone knows everyone (listen to Montgomery CC members talking about the match where an umpire gave 7 batsmen out lbw in one innings off his son-in-law’s bowling! http://www.takingthefield.com/stories/1960s-club-bowling-legend-bert-davies-and-7-lbws-one-innings).

But fear not cricket fans!  My colleague Alan Rees has discovered the answer to umpiring woes buried deep in the archive.  I present…The Denton Plan!


As you can see the plan is pretty detailed and I couldn’t quite fit it all on my scanner, but I hope this gives you the gist.  Basically the only way a batman can be out is run out or bowled – Bat v. ball is the Denton mantra.  This plan was received by the MCC in 1965 and was surprisingly rejected as it was felt it would received little favour from cricket fans, but what do you think?  Denton believed it would not only solve all umpiring problems but would also make the game more exciting.

Here he lays out all the problems the Denton Plan will solve.  (Problems he claims are mostly caused by Australians!)

Here he lays out all the problems the Denton Plan will solve. (Problems he claims are mostly caused by Australians!)

I have to admit that I’m not entirely convinced.  It might make cricket simpler but the potential complexity of the game is one of the reasons I fell in love with it.  I like a good relaxing draw now and then, I even enjoy bad umpiring decisions deep down – they give you something to discuss and get angry about!  Let me know what you think, could this be the future?


Filed under archive, Cricket, England, India, MCC, umpiring