Umpiring Mars VB Finals
by Silly Point

Scorecard:Australia v Pakistan
Player:Inzamam-ul-Haq, B Lee, GD McGrath, Naved-ul-Hasan, Abdul Razzaq, RT Ponting
Event:VB Series 2004/05

DateLine: 6th February 2005


Pakistan have done superbly by reaching the VB Finals beating the ICC Champions West Indies on the way. They also defeated the World Champions Australia at Perth. Credit must be given to captain Inzamam-ul-Haq and coach Bob Woolmer both of whom have been severely and often unfairly criticised of late. Inzamam has come back from injury and has led from the front. His batting has been superb and his captaincy calm and composed. Woolmer has got the best out of his young charges and team spirit has been excellent. Since the departure of Shoaib Akhter, Abdul Razzaq and the lion-hearted Naved-ul-Hasan have stepped up to fill the breach. Naved has been a model for all his team mates and if the brash Akhtar had the gumption to emulate half of Naved's commitment he would be twice the bowler.


The team, and here I include Bob Woolmer and manager Haroon Rashid, must also be credited for keeping the players united despite the loss of four frontline bowlers Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed and Umar Gul. In addition, Shoaib Malik has been prevented from bowling and Younis Khan has returned home. Even the mighty Australian team would struggle without McGrath, Gillespie, Lee and Kasprowicz.


But the heartbreaking feature of the finals for Pakistan has been the shocking standard of umpiring. For a team that has endured a punishing tour but refused to give up just to be thwarted by poor umpiring is very disappointing, particularly as Pakistan could well have beaten Australia had the umpiring been fairer. In the first final, Ricky Ponting was given not out on 0. Replays showed the ball squarely hitting the stumps. If that was not enough, Symonds was hit plumb in front before reaching 50. And then another. Simon Katich caught down the leg side. Moreover, these were not marginal decisions. In the second final, having been hit for three boundaries in the first over, Naved struck Adam Gilchrist plumb in front only for ICC umpire Rudi Koertzen to shake his head. Replays showed the ball hitting middle stump half way up. In contrast, Pakistan have suffered throughout the series with almost all marginal decisions going against them.


I am not sure why Pakistan have been at the receiving end of poor umpiring whether it is David Shepherd or Steve Davis but the team have suffered more than any other major cricket playing nation. There is to an extent a residual social and cultural bias but there is another factor which has been overlooked. Pakistan, as a team, have been unable to get on the 'right side' of the umpires, particularly those from First World countries.


This is largely because of the poor communication skills of the team members. Hampered by their English language skills it is difficult for the Pakistani players to strike up a positive rapport with the umpires. Those who have played cricket will know that keeping the umpire 'sweet' is an art. Strike up a good rapport, share a few jokes and the umpire will always look favourably on your appeals. Appeal too often and get frustrated with the umpire and expect the umpires too harden against you. That is just human nature and those that have umpired matches at any level will confirm this tendency.


It is not uncommon to see the Australian players chatting amicably with the umpires and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In contrast the Pakistanis communicate far less. The result, I believe, is that the likes of McGrath and Warne tend to win marginal decisions whereas Naved and Abdul Razzaq lose them.


I also think as far as the VB Finals are concerned, the expectation by the Australian team that they will win the finals and the demand that Australia continue to win by the public has been a factor in the almost win at all costs attitude. The normally sporting crowds have also not been in evidence as Pakistan have put pressure on the hosts. There has been little appreciation of Pakistan's efforts and even unsavoury booing on some occasions. The Australian public have become used to the winning ways of their team. It will not always be the case.


It is clearly time to try and address the issue of umpiring at the international level and it appears that the PCB has proactively decided to take up the issue strongly with the ICC.


Before concluding I will add that this piece was written before the second innings of the VB Final with Pakistan in with a genuine chance of winning. As such the article should not be considered sour grapes but as genuine complaint.

(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
Copyright © 2005 Silly Point)


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