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July 21, 2019

Misapplication of rule


July 21, 2019

England lifted their first-ever World Cup by beating New Zealand in one of the most thrilling ODI encounters last week.

Before the last week final, there was only one instance of a World Cup knockout match ending in a tie — the Australia-South Africa semi-final in 1999. Australia were declared winners because they had beaten South Africa in the league match.

Out of 40 tied matches in all ODI history, four had winners declared. The winner was decided on the basis of fewer wickets lost. In 2018, the ICC decided to adopt a new rule. All the teams were aware of the playing conditions, but probably never expected this rule to be needed.

But the important question is: should the rule have been used in the world’s most prestigious tournament?

Many former and current players have criticised ICC’s “boundaries hit” rule. In their opinion the trophy should have been shared.

Former Australia great Shane Warne suggested that there could have been super overs one after another till a clear result came out.

The controversy started when on the fourth ball of the final over Ben Stokes hit a Trent Boult full-toss delivery to deep midwicket. Martin Guptill picked the ball and set himself up for a direct hit. But Stokes dived to save himself from being run-out and the ball was deflected to the boundary. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena awarded six runs to England.

Simon Taufel, a five-time winner of ICC’s Umpire of the Year award and member of the committee that presides over cricket’s complex rulebook, said awarding England six runs was a “clear mistake”. Taufel said England should have been awarded five runs.

Umpiring is a tough task. Players are rarely satisfied with the umpire’s decisions when they go against them.

The television umpire watches slow-motion replays from different angles, and several times, before giving his judgment, but the umpire standing in the ground has to give a verdict immediately without any help from technology.

The ICC’s system of Elite Panel Umpires and Referees came into effect in April 2002. Elite Panel umpires now stand at both ends in all Test matches and there is one member standing with a home umpire for all One-day Internationals, but in World Cup matches neutral umpires stand at both ends.

Dharmasena and South African Marais Erasmus supervised the ICC World Cup final as on-field umpires at Lord’s. Australia’s Rod Tucker was the third umpire and Pakistan’s Aleem Dar was the fourth umpire.

That Dar was kept out of the knockout stage matches surprised many. Dar is not only the senior most umpire in the current ICC Elite Panel but he is also one of the most respected umpires in the world for his accurate decisions.

Dar officiated in two World Cup finals, 2007 and 2011. He was awarded the ICC Umpire of the Year award for three consecutive years (2009, 2010 and 2011). He ended Taufel’s run of five successive awards. He was also nominated for the Award in 2005 and 2006, but on both occasions Taufel won the honour.

Dharmasena’s umpiring skills also came under scrutiny in the second semi-final between Australia and England when he declared England opener Jason Roy out caught behind. The replays clearly showed there was no connection between the bat and the ball. Roy requested a review but England had already used their lone review of the innings.

Roy was fined 30 percent of his match fee by the ICC after he expressed dissent at the umpire’s decision.

But before taking any action against Roy, ICC should take action against Dharmasena. Why should players pay for umpires’ mistake? Sometimes, a wrong decision destroys the career of a player.

Despite this major error, ICC preferred Dharmasena over Dar for the final.

In New Zealand’s 34th over, set batsman Ross Taylor was given out by Erasmus on the bowling of Mark Wood. At that stage Kiwis didn’t have the review. Ball tracking showed the ball would have missed the top of the leg stump.

It’s time ICC reconsidered its rules to avoid such controversies. There should also be a system to penalise umpires for their mistakes.

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