It is quite likely that a billion people are mad at Bucknor and Benson for their poor display, as umpires, on day-1 of the ongoing Australia v India Test match being played in Sydney. They probably felt wronged. And, like me, they are probably seething because these wrongs cannot be righted.
I actually fear that, from an umpiring impact point of view, things are actually going to get worse for India in this match. I predict this because I feel that, by now, the players will have lost their confidence in the two officiating umpires. The more they lose confidence, the more they will appeal with enhanced vigour. Each extra appeal will only serve get the umpires’ backs up. This is a nightmare scenario for India.
But one cannot escape the fact that the umpires left behind, in their wake, a litany of errors.
Australia would have been 47 for 3 had Ricky Ponting been given out caught behind — as he ought to have been. However, the edge wasn’t heard by umpire Benson — he certainly won’t land a job at Benson & (h)Edges (I thank Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan of CricInfo for that play on umpire Bensons’ name).
Umpire Benson’s job prospects at Benson & (h)Edges looked even more remote when he gave Ponting LBW — but it was off an inside edge!
At 197 for 6, Andrew Symonds edged a catch off Ishant Sharma to the ‘keeper. A friend of mine who was sitting in the Members’ Stand of the SCG heard the snick! Almost everyone in the ground would have heard it. Steve Bucknor was perhaps the only one that didn’t hear the snick! I don’t believe Channel-9 even bothered with ‘snickometer’ on that one! It was so obvious that ENT specialists in Sydney immediately reached out for the nearest hearing-aid to be rushed to the SCG to plug into Bucknor’s ear! After all, any person who did not hear that snick must be hard of hearing. At the end of the game, Andrew Symonds did admit that he was “out” when he was on 30 but given not-out thanks to Bucknor’s largesse and good heart.
Even if we ignore what ought to have been 47 for 3, the score — had Symonds been given out then — should have read 193 for 7!
There was more to follow, including a straightforward LBW appeal against Symonds and a first ball LBW appeal against Brett Lee. If these balls were not hitting the stumps, I just don’t know what they were hitting!
But in amongst all of this incompetence that was on display, the decision that was most galling, in my view, was the befuddling error by third umpire, Bruce Oxenberg! At 240 for 6, Kumble produced a flighted delivery. Symonds was beaten and the ‘keeper, M. S. Dhoni, whipped the bails off in a flash. The decision was referred to the 3rd umpire by Steve Bucknor. Not wanting to be isolated as the sole competent official on the ground, Bruce Oxenford ruled Symonds not out! What amazed me was the short duration before Oxenford decided that the benefit of doubt should go to Symonds! Would he have had enough time to go through all the angles before deciding that the benefit of doubt rule would apply? I personally do not think so.
Bruce Oxenford is an Australian. Unless I have got my research completely mixed up (and that is likely, for I am still seething), I believe Oxenford has officiated in just one Twenty20 international game prior to this Test match. Was this the right man for a high-pressure Test match in which the officiating two umpires got up on the wrong side of the bed?
My view is that Oxenberg either pressed the wrong button or just got it wrong! Two out of three TV replays indicated (to me, at least) that there was a wafer of daylight between the tip of Symonds’ boot and the ground when the bails were whipped off by Dhoni! Ok! Perhaps I was wearing a different lens while watching the TV slow motion replays, but the entire Channel-9 team thought Symonds was out. How can one inexperienced official wield so much power to turn a game on its head?
At that stage Andrew Symonds was on 48 and the Australia score should have read 240 for 7, in the 56th over!
The BCCI Vice President, Rajiv Shukla, has asked/ordered/requested the Indian team management to lodge a protest against the umpires.
As I said in my day-1 observations, facing a rampant Australian team is hard enough. The last thing you need is to face the brunt of the incompetence of three officials too who left a huge impact on the game yesterday.
For me, yesterday has just reinforced my belief that technology must be brought in. At the very least, I am confident that we will see a “Captains’ Challenge” process being brought into play, where either captain can challenge upto 2 decisions each session.