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5 controversial umpiring decisions

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Umpire_controversial_decisions_cricketIt is often said that the job of the umpire is the toughest on a cricket field. Even with the technological advancements and DRS (Decision Review System) coming in, umpires have committed errors every now and then.

With the amount of cricket being played these days, any dubious umpiring decisions are soon drowned out by news of other action on the field or in other matches. However, one can rest assured that we will not stop seeing errors and incidents in modern day cricket despite the breakthroughs in technology that the game has seen.

Disputable umpiring decisions aren’t new to cricket. Over the past few decades, a number of controversial umpiring decisions have made news. We look at five such decisions that had a lasting impact.

Sachin’s “shoulder before wicket” v McGrath; 1999:

The 1st Test of India’s tour to Australia in 1999-00 at Adelaide had many memorable performances. However, it is remembered the most for a rather bizarre umpiring decision. Chasing a target of 396 to win, India were heavily dependent on captain Sachin Tendulkar to make a stellar contribution. But on just the fifth ball he faced, on a last day Adelaide pitch that was producing generous bounce, Sachin misjudged a delivery from Glenn McGrath that didn’t rise as much as he had anticipated and ducked. The ball hit him on the back of his left arm and Sachin was caught in front of the stumps. The Australians appealed vociferously and umpire Daryl Harper raised his finger to adjudge him LBW.

The Indian fans were furious and called the decision a howler. What didn’t help was that Sachin already had a history of poor umpiring decisions against him. It really was a freak decision and to this day is famously called the “shoulder before wicket” incident.

The umpiring howlers in Sydney 2008:

The Sydney Test between India and Australia in late 2008 would go down as one of the most controversial Tests of the modern era. The match was riddled with umpiring howlers that went against the visitors, causing much drama and fury in the Anil Kumble-led Indian side. In total, there were as many as 9 umpiring mistakes in the Test and West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor was involved in most of them. The most contentious of them all, however, was the one involving Andrew Symonds.

With Australia struggling at 193-6, Symonds, batting on 30, nicked a lovely away-moving delivery from Ishant Sharma to wicketkeeper MS Dhoni. The Indians celebrated and appealed, but Bucknor was unmoved. The replays showed a clear and healthy edge leaving the Indians fuming. Worse for India, Symonds went on to smash an unbeaten 162 that eventually helped Australia win the match by 122 runs.

There was uproar in the Indian media and the BCCI threatened to suspend the tour after the ‘Monkeygate’ scandal exploded at the same time. The ICC then announced that Bucknor would be replaced for the next Test at Perth, leading to the resumption of the series.

When Stuart Broad refused to walk; Ashes 2013:

England bowler Stuart Broad has a history of getting under the skin of the Australians. After the Trent Bridge Test of the 2013 Ashes he became Australia's "public enemy No. 1". On the third day of the Test, left-handed Broad, batting on 37, edged left-arm spinner Ashton Agar’s innocuous delivery to Michael Clarke at first slip.

It was a solid edge – ricocheting off wicket-keeper Brad Haddin’s gloves onto the palms of Clarke at first slip. Shockingly, umpire Aleem Dar turned down the uproarious and confident appeal by the Australians. Broad coolly stood his ground. Since Australia had used their reviews by then, they could not challenge Dar’s verdict.

The replays clearly showed a strong edge that left the Australians on the field absolutely livid. What made matters worse is that Broad went on to add 28 more runs and England went on to clinch the close match by only 14 runs. Expectedly, the Australian camp was extremely displeased and the debate of ‘to walk or not to walk’ was pried open again.

Broad’s refusal to walk, despite his edge being so visible and distinct, was unanimously called “against the spirit of the game” by Australians. Australian coach Darren Lehmann even egged on fans to make Broad "cry" over his "blatant cheating" when he toured Australia. Broad has remained the biggest villain of the Australian crowd in the Ashes ever since the incident.

Ross Emerson “no-balls” Muralitharan for chucking; Adelaide 1999:

The Muttiah Muralitharan "chucking" row had begun when Australian umpire Darrel Hair had controversially no-balled the Sri Lankan off-spinner seven times for throwing in a Melbourne Test match in 1995. The issue was reignited in an ODI between Sri Lanka and England at Adelaide on January 23, 1999 when another Australian umpire, Ross Emerson, who was standing at square leg called Murali for throwing in the fourth ball of his second over. Play was held up for 12 minutes after the Sri Lankans protested vehemently against the decision, but Emerson stood his ground. Eventually, a severely disgruntled Sri Lankan captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, almost stormed off the field. Players stopped on the edge of the boundary as heated discussions took place between Emerson, his co-umpire, Tony McQuillan, and match referee Peter Van der Merwe of South Africa.

Play resumed after a while and Ranatunga ensured that Murali bowled from the other end his second over onwards, so that Emerson would be standing at the bowler's end. The issue, however, soured relations between the two cricketing boards for a long time.

What is interesting is that Emerson has refused to budge from his stance even now. Years later, in fact, he went on to claim that he had been asked to no-ball Murali by an Australian official who ignored him after the incident spiraled out of control.

Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove impose penalty on Pakistan for ball-tampering; Oval 2006:

The fourth Test between England and Pakistan at The Oval in 2006 ended in the most dramatic fashion. Midway through the afternoon session on the 4th day, the match took an unsavory and controversial turn after being intriguingly poised – England were 298-4 in the second innings after being 331 runs behind. Umpires Darrell Hair and Billy Doctrove decided to change the ball after believing that its condition had been altered. The umpires then went on to punish Pakistan with a five-run penalty. Pakistan denied the allegation and as a mark of protest refused to come out of the dressing room.

The umpires didn’t change their decision despite Pakistan’s formal protest. And while both the teams were willing to continue the match, Pakistan refused to take the field unless the verdict was overturned. After much speculation, drama and high farce, the umpires decided to forfeit the match in England's favour.

It was an unfortunate end to an otherwise thrilling Test. Heated debates on the laws of the game regarding ball tampering continued long after the match had ended.



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