By G. KRISHNAN – SJFI Member
We have already had all sorts of actions from the first three matches of this year’s IPL in the UAE. Terrific batting displays, some outstanding bowling efforts, smart catches, Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore win their opening game, a tie and a Super Over, though as one-sided a Super Over as one can get, and of course an umpiring blunder.
Umpire Nitin Menon wrongly calling Chris Jordan one short in Game 2 of IPL 2020 on Sunday night when he was very well inside while turning for the second run cost Kings XI Punjab the all-important run. Had it not been called one short, Kings XI Punjab would have won by six wickets against Delhi Capitals in the 20th over with that four that Agarwal hit to long-on.
Menon from Madhya Pradesh has officiated in three Tests, 24 ODIs and 16 T20Is. He was elevated to ICC’s Elite Panel of Umpires for 2020-21 in June this year, succeeding S. Venkataraghavan and S. Ravi as the only Indians reaching that highest position that is there for umpires. His mistake actually robbed KXIP of crucial two points, which could matter in the team entering the Play-offs and not.
Is Menon really to be blamed? Usually the umpire at the striker’s end is required to stand in line with the popping crease to make correct line decisions. But, with the advent of television cameras at almost all possible angles, the striker’s end umpire is told to stand either to the left side or the right side of the line of the popping crease. This is because he does not come in line with the view of the cameras placed outside the boundary. So, he is not in a straight line to judge correctly if the bat is grounded or not. If he is not in the best position, how can he make decisions on his own?
When the umpire is not in a position to judge clearly whether it was one short or the bat was grounded inside, he must be allowed to make use of the technology. Very conveniently, for every line decision, be it for run out or stumped appeals, the umpires take the safest route and refer to the television umpire even in instances when the batsman is well out of the crease even to the naked eye or made well his ground.
Why not make use of the technology when it is available?
The umpire’s mistake has robbed KXIP of a win. It will be interesting to see if the protest lodged by Kings XI Punjab with the match referee Javagal Srinath is upheld and the result of the match reversed.
NO BALL CALLED BY 3RD UMPIRE
Another topic for discussion is about the No Ball called by the third umpire. With the new ICC rule allowing third umpire to call No Ball, it denies the batsman the chance to hit the ball high and long for a maximum.
When a No Ball is called by the on-field umpire immediately after the bowler oversteps the popping crease, the batsman, knowing very well that he cannot be dismissed except through Run Out, Obstructing the field or Hit the ball twice, takes the risk and goes after the bowling. If it connects, it’s a six, if it is caught, he is still not out.
In Sunday’s match, DC’s Marcus Stoinis faced this situation when No Ball was called, not by the bowler’s end umpire but by the third umpire. This coming off the final ball of the innings, Stoinis would well have taken a chance and gone for another mighty heave had he known it was a No Ball before the ball reached him.
Now, since the third umpire calls after seeing it on the TV, the batsman does not get this chance to take a risk. Though the team gets an additional ball, and in limited-overs, a Free Hit, he does not get that freedom to have a go at the delivery just because the bowler’s end umpire has not called it.
In this context, I remember what the late VB Chandrasekhar, former India opener, national and Chennai Super Kings selector and television commentator, once told me: “Have an umpire on the field only to check the front foot No Balls instead of having a square-leg umpire, who anyways refers almost everything to the third umpire for line decisions.”
The cricket authorities have much to ponder over to ensure that technology is made full use of. Yes, umpires are humans and bound to make mistakes. But when technology is there, use it. It only helps in minimising mistakes. And certainly blunders of ‘one-short’ like what Menon did can be eliminated.