Umpiring is one of the toughest jobs on a cricket field, the kind of pressure an umpire goes through during a match is humongous. He can’t afford to step a foot wrong or else, he is bound to get criticised for the poor decisions made. It’s true that umpires are humans after all and humans are bound to make mistakes, but can one afford to make a blunder in something he is mastered and trained for? This remains an open debate.
Cricket is a tedious sport, it demands hours of concentration and focus. An umpire has to be as alert as a hawk out in the middle. He cannot afford to have a lapse in concentration even for a fraction of a second, since the time for judgement is minimal. Considering all these factors, one would agree that making errors on the field is justified, but at times the magnitude of errors made by umpires has left the world bewildered. Some decisions also changed the course of the game, which was huge. Let’s take a look at few such umpiring blunders in Test cricket.
1. Australia vs India, Sydney 2008:
This Test between India and Australia is widely reckoned for umpiring blunders made against the visiting side. There were as many as nine wrong decisions that went against India. This was also the time when DRS was not being used. The second Test at Sydney saw Australia winning comfortably, not because they played some excellent cricket, but mainly due to poor umpiring from Steve Bucknor and Mark Bensen while the third umpire was Bruce Oxenford.
Under the leadership of MS Dhoni, India ended up on the losing side despite playing some good cricket. Australia were leading the series 1-0, but this Test changed the fate of the series. India were well on track to win this game, but the poor umpiring didn’t let them achieve fruitful results. Umpires came under fire and the aftermath of this Test was clouded by complaints.
2. West Indies vs Pakistan, Bridgetown1988:
With Pakistan leading the three-match series 1-0 before the final game, the onus of making a comeback was on the home side. This iconic test is widely acknowledged for unacceptable umpiring blunders made by the umpires.
West Indies won the Test by a whisker and squared the series. Abdul Qadir became the centre of attraction as few decisions didn’t go his way and also got into a confrontation with a West Indian fan in the stands. The reprieve that Dujon got raised many eyebrows and questions on the on field umpires.
Rameez Raja spoke about the incident and was quoted in a report from ESPNCricinfo saying, “The umpiring was very negative in favour of the home team. That left a mark on an exciting series. The cricket was hot and punchy and that spilled over sometimes. Qadir was a victim of some bad decisions when we were bowling in the second innings and it was difficult for him to keep a lid on his emotions.”
3. Geoff Lawson lucky escape against West Indies, Brisbane1984:
Saying that Lawson was ducky in this Test would be an understatement. Michael Holding was pushing Lawson back into the crease with his menacing pace and bounce. The Australian batsman went on the back foot and disturbed the stumps with his feet while confronting a delivery from Holding. The West Indian players appealed for hit-wicket, but the square leg umpire surprisingly turned it down and picked the bails up.
The same incident happened once again in the very next over, but the square leg umpire remained unconvinced. There was jubilation for Lawson while frustration for West Indian players. It didn’t affect the result of the match as West Indies won comfortably by eight wickets.
4. The unlucky Rob Bailey against West Indies, 1990:
This was an incident where an animated appeal from Viv Richards perhaps compelled the umpire to change his mind. Rob Bailey was at the crease when Curtly Ambrose was putting in the hard yards. A back of a length delivery, which was straying down the leg, kissed Bailey’s thigh pads as West Indian players appealed for the wicket.
The umpire Barker almost looked unconvinced and so did the bowler. Just whent the umpire was moving away from the pitch suggesting it to be not out, Richards strong appeal from first slip changed Barker’s mind as he judged Bailey out.
5. Sachin Tendulkar’s bizarre dismissal against Australia, Adelaide 1999:
The Indians were chasing 396 in the fourth innings and were reeling at 24 for 3. Australian seamers were all pumped up when Sachin Tendulkar took guard. The field was set for bouncers and Glenn McGrath did well to fire a few to the star-studded Indian batsman.
Tendulkar was leaving the ball comfortably, but the third delivery by McGrath failed to get enough bounce despite being pitched in the middle of the pitch. Tendulkar ducked to this one, but due to the lack of bounce the ball hit Tendulkar on the shoulders. Australian fielders appealed and umpire Daryll Harper raised his finger to judge Tendulkar out.