Musings by Shekhar Nambiar
The 2023 IPL season offers an opportunity to review cricket umpiring and the future.
India has produced some great umpires, both for Test and one-day matches. Former Test skipper S Venkataraghavan, Madhav Gothoskar, SN Hanumantha Rao, Mohammad Ghouse, Ram Babu Gupta and Nitin Menon are but a few top names.
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The familiar figures at Test matches with white coat and black trousers were the first to enter the ground ever so ready to conduct the match to the best of their ability.
With the pace at which technology is coming into play in first-class cricket umpiring, the day is not far when umpires would be reduced to mere linesmen, if not altogether banished as a tribe.
Look at the ongoing IPL matches. Even as innocuous a decision as a ‘no ball’ or whether the ball has crossed the boundary or not are being referred to the DRS or third umpire, increasingly called the TV umpire.
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Whatever be the name of the man above, the key role of the umpire is, or has, undergone quite a change. Umpiring has become a media spectacle just as the other departments of the game. The whole thing clearly signals the stranglehold of media on the game.
The changes will most certainly have a telling negative impact on the umpires, shattering their self-confidence and decision- making capabilities.
The introduction in IPL of a ‘substitute’ player – a la football -during the game is a totally new thing. There’s nothing wrong with this. After all, any form of evolution of a game or in any other aspect of life is a welcome step. ODIs and T20s in themselves are new inventions or evolved forms from the conventional five-day Test cricket and three-day formats.
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Media rights big money
Disney+Hotstar are not streaming the IPL matches live this season, with the rights going to Viacom 18 who got the rights to live stream by paying a whopping INR 20,500 crores to BCCI.
The Star Sports network will continue to broadcast the matches live on TV in India. Disney Star has the TV rights of IPL 2023, paying an equally mind-boggling INR 23,575 crore.
The on-field umpires have their roles literally relegated to that of bystanders. With too much supervision or minding by interfering cricket officials from the top, umpires simply don’t want to take unnecessary risks or be seen to enter into any controversies.
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Too much tech
Technology is good but too much of it is bad for the game. The point is why have two umpires standing in the middle as mere dummies.
Sure, the third umpire can and must review controversial or disputed decisions. Today, however, whether the bat has nicked the ball or even hit the stumps – yes it has almost come to that – go for review. Making a mockery of the two wise men is no sensible thing. The ‘ultra edge’ review is even more bewildering.
The excitement or the zing has gone out of the game of cricket. I don’t know if you feel so or not.
The raison d’être of the shorter forms of cricket is to keep audience interest high and alive. Now, with these new disruptions in IPL, won’t the crowds become restive and impatient?
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At the Eden Gardens, the home ground of KKR, the fall of wickets of the RCB did not give rise to the expected roar from the stands. Was it that their fans outnumbered that of KKR? Doubtful. The time taken for each decision (i.e.the review) has robbed the game of its excitement.
The quiet disinterest is evident to be ignored.The Howzzat call has not been heard much. Maybe it’s my imagination. But then in Kolkata or in the other matches, the players didn’t seem to look in the direction of the umpire expectantly. Instead, their hand gestures indicated their choice to go for the TV umpire’s review straight away.
The whole thing seemed comical and oft-repeated. There can be no greater ignominy when the umpire is overlooked and the man up there either agrees to the decision made or calls to reverse it.
In all this saga, umpires will probably have the last laugh. They have the luxury of breathing easy and, alert yes, but not on tenterhooks. Will TV umpires sound the death knell for the game as we know it? At the end of the day, sadly, it’s cricket’s loss.
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Very well said it’s all technology now ,actually no role for umpiring .
Nice factual write up.