The 2011 Cricket World Cup so far (Through an Umpire’s Lens)

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above: Steve Davis hasn’t got a decision wrong so far

Phillip Hill of cricketpodcast.com gives his take on the World Cup to date.

The World Cup is on. I hope you have noticed. I have watched a bit of it but it is on a bit too late for me. I work for my living and need my sleep. Do you think a Canadian match, where some of the Canadian players received their citizenship a month or so before the tournament, is worth staying up for? Really, they have as many foreigners as the Poms!!!!! These early games, pitting the minor countries against the major cricket nations, are not going to get people watching.

One interesting point that I, as an umpire, would like to run past the readers of worldcricket.com is the nature of the complaints about the umpiring during the first few weeks. This has changed completely. All modern sport has been infected by incessant whinging about umpiring but I have noticed that the complaints have changed in this World Cup.

Before neutral umpires were introduced the complaints about the umpiring had a nationalistic flavor. Those bloody Indian or Pakistani umpires would be the call here in Australia. I know the overseas press used to complain about the Australian umpires. Older readers will remember Mike Gatting’s appalling behavior in Pakistan. Australian and English cricketers had this mindset that they would be crucified by the umpires when they toured the sub-continent.

Confirmation bias would then kick in. This is a well know phenomena in medical science (and dental science) where any result that supports your existing point of view will receive more weight than evidence that does not support your point of view. Let’s face it we all like being right.

This occurred a few years ago when India received the rough end of the stick in a Sydney test match a few years ago. I thought India had received a golden run in the preceding match where the rub of the green went all for them. It is only the losing side that complains and in the Melbourne test match the Aussies won easily, so nothing was said. The Indians complained bitterly after the Sydney test match and there was quite a deal of comment about past incidents including the one where Gavaskar walked off the ground with his opening batting partner. I am sure that India expected to receive the worst of it while touring.

The introduction of neutral umpires (they were used in the above games) has removed much of the bitterness from international cricket. Cricket should foster friendship between players, teams and countries. While we, as fans’ want our side to win I think it important that we acknowledge that international sport is an important part of relations between countries. I bet not one Indian reader of this site has ever listened to a speech by an Australian Prime Minister but has heard many Australian Test Captains.

In this article I want to bring up something that I have noticed in this World Cup. Have you noticed what the referral system has done to the media coverage of the matches?

There has been a change in the nature of the complaints about the umpiring. The volume and number have not changed but now people are ignoring the nationality of the umpire and even his actual decision. People are now starting to think about, and offer criticisms about, the referral system itself. I am a supporter of the use of technology in umpiring but we need to look at the system with a critical eye.

When the MCC ran world cricket they would introduce trial laws for a season in English County Cricket. At the end of the season, with at least two hundred and fifty games played under the new laws, they and the clubs would sit down and review the Law change. It meant that decisions were made with some empirical evidence in front of them.

One problem we have at the moment is that the same technology is not available at every ground in the world. We are not using the same system at the World Cup that we have at Australian grounds. This makes collection of data difficult. It is also impossible for the players and especially the captains to become accustomed to a particular system. My point is that we need to be patient and wait a few years before we will identified the best system for using technology in our umpiring. I have a thought that referrals should only be allowed when the side is in front of their required over rate.

Having said all this about umpiring this world cup might turn out to be a ripper. No clear favorite has emerged. This World Cup needs to succeed. Crowds in the 50/50 over matches have plummeted in the last few years and thoughts of this format disappearing have crossed a few minds. Major forms of cricket have disappeared in the past. Single wicket cricket is an example. Without a successful world cup we may not have another one.

How do you define a successful World Cup?

India must make the finals.


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