There is no other way to call this. So I am going to call it as I saw it…
It was one of the craziest matches I have seen, officiated by a lunatic who constantly puts himself ahead of the game.
Silly Bowden has to go!
Some 12 months before Steve Bucknor got a rude (reportedly, BCCI-inspired) shove, I had predicted that his time was nigh. It was. And when he he did not leave, he was pushed. It looked ugly and everyone blamed India for “muscle flexing”. Bucknor left because, when the end came, he had become incompetent.
Bowden’s time has come. He must leave, in my view.
My problem with him right from the time he made his debut is that he has made himself much larger than the game! The good umpires of the game just do their stuff and do it well. Even David Shepherd, with his one-legged Nelson-superstitions, never allowed himself to take center stage! ‘Shep’ would do his one-legged Nelson-dance almost in embarrassment! Unfortunately, Hair’s ego ran way ahead of the man, in my view! He got ahead of the game. He was shown the door! Good umpires like Aleem Dar, Simon Taufel, Darryl Harper, Asad Rauf, et al, do their stuff forcefully, but quietly.
Last night, first, we had Billy Bowden first pointing out to Zaheer Khan the exact spot he had to stand at in the field! Now there is nothing wrong with an umpire telling a captain — during the Power Play overs — that his men aren’t in positions that might be termed “close catching” positions. After all, in soccer, you regularly have referees marking out a position for the “wall” to line up before a “free kick” is taken. So there is nothing wrong, in my book, with umpires instructing a player to stand in a close catching position. Similarly, the umpire is well within his rights to get a fielding captain to have two of his players in genuine close catching positions.
The rule clearly states that in the first Powerplay, no more than two fielders can be positioned outside 30 yard circle (this is increased to three for the second and third Powerplay blocks). Moreover, in the first 10 overs, it is also required that at least two fielders are in close catching positions.
And “close catching” is defined as: 15 yards (or 13.7 m)
And this is where the first problem first arose yesterday!
On being told that Zaheer Khan wasn’t “close” enough, MS Dhoni agreed initially and brought Zaheer Khan closer up.
Silly Bowden took one small stutter of a step (half a meter) forward and insisted that Zaheer Khan be stationed that one third of a meter closer! Dhoni was seen clearly stating that, in his view, Zaheer Khan, the “close catcher” was indeed a “close catcher”!
A 2-minute conversation ensued!
Now, in all my viewing of cricket, I have never ever seen MS Dhoni fight against anything. He is no Ponting or Ganguly this man! He walks when he nicks a ball. He does not question decisions. He respects umpires and is always cordial with them. But yesterday, I suspect he stood his ground for that half a minute or so. He must have known that he couldn’t win against a stubborn man. But he must have been tempted to get Bowden to get his measuring tape out!
He then got on with the game.
My strong suspicion is that I-am-bigger-than-the-game-Bowden did not get on with the game.
In the 25th over of the game Team India gave a clear indication as to why it does not like the UDRS.
Let me state clearly that I am a great/strong fan of the UDRS. I always have been an advocate for the use of technology in sport. In these days of 360 degree cameras, overhead cameras and precision optics, we just cannot afford to get things wrong. Elite sportsmen know that a mere hundredth of a second can separate Gold from Silver in a 100m freestyle swim. Technology makes the call on the winner. It separates the victorious from those that came close!
In some cases technology assists the decision maker. I strongly support both sets of technology — that which decides and that which assists — but with a strong and important caveat in the latter case: The administrators should not be machines themselves! The administrators ought to be responsible and intelligent humans!
Last night, the UDRS was administered by a lunatic!
Bowden had the UDRS in his hands as a tool that assisted sharp on-field decision making! At the end of the process, the words “monkey and spanner” sprung to mind!
BTW, for those that are thinking of getting stuck into me here are a set of riders:
This post has nothing to do with the match result! And for the record, I thought that England ought to have won the game. India escaped with a “get out of jail for free” card, in my view. India had the wrong team composition and the wrong (arrogant) attitude when it took the park for the 2nd Innings. The players lacked aggression and seemed to exhibit an “all I need to do is rock up to the 2nd Innings and we will win this game” attitude — best exhibited by the way Harbhajan Singh approached the catch opportunity that Andrew Strauss provided early on in his innings! Team India players only showed aggression and intent in the 43rd over once Bell got out!
So, my whine against Bowden has nothing to do with the result. As a Team India fan, I think a Tie was a great result last night. India secured one more point than what I thought she deserved at the start of even the 25th over!
Ironically, the incident I am about to allude to relates what happened in over #25!
At that point, England was cruising. Team India was on the mat. What’s more? There was no clear sign of where the wicket — that India so badly needed — was going to come from!
Yuvraj Singh bowled a faster ball. Ian Bell, who was on 17 then, went for a somewhat ugly paddle sweep and was, in my view adjacent. Billy Bowden turned down the resulting appeal, which he is well within his rights to do. No problems up until then! Yuvraj Singh convinced his reluctant captain to go for a UDRS review. His captain has been a reluctant user of the UDRS. He just does not trust it enough. He just does not believe it will be used properly and appropriately.
If I were him, after last night, I’d be keen to kill it off completely!
The ball pitched in line and hit in line. The HawkEye projection was that it would have hit the middle-and-off stump about a third of the way up from the bottom of the stumps!
Everyone seemed convinced that the bell had tolled for Ian Bell: The crowd, the Indian players, Andrew Strauss and even Ian Bell. Everyone, that is, except Bowden!
There was one criterion that needed a box to be ticked and the UDRS hadn’t done that. The UDRS indicated that the remaining distance for the ball to travel was more than 2.5m. In such instances, the UDRS throws the decision back to the on-field umpire!
The UDRS system is 100% accurate only within a narrow band of 2.5m (between the stumps and the point of impact). Fair enough! I also accept that, since the ball had another 2.6m (say) to travel, there could be some error in the path-projection algorithm beyond 2.5m. I also accept that at that point, the vision tracking system tells the human “I have assisted you all I can. From here on in, please make the decision using this projection only as a guide, Mr Human.”
Pity that the human that UDRS handed over to was an idiot on the night!
Ergo: Monkey and spanner!
The UDRS, in all instances, must be used as a decision aid in my view! The problem with Bowden was that his mind got clouded. His muddled and crooked thinking rendered him incapable of making a decision on the night.
If he had accepted the UDRS as a “decision aid”, he may have asked: So where might that ball have landed even if it had only a 50% accuracy? The moon? No. Perhaps it may have hit the stumps half way up and not a third of the way up! But it was certainly going to hit the stumps all right!
I would have forgiven Bowden if the ball was projected to hit the top of off stump and the batsman was 2.7m down the track. The benefit of the doubt had to go to the batsman in such a case! But in the case of Ian Bell last night, there was no place else that ball was going to go to other than the stumps! That is, of course, if the UDRS was being used as a decision aid by a clear thinking human!
Instead Bowden thought: That’s it. Another 2.6m (say) to go. 2.6m is greater than 2.5m. Hence, this ball was headed for the moon. Not out was my original decision. And it will stand!
If I am a player in this World Cup, given this laughable precedent, this is what I should do! I would mark out 2.5m on the pitch! I’d bat outside this 2.5m mark and I’d try and thwack every ball with bat. If I cannot do that, I’d give it a flying kick while pretending to play the ball! If I am given out LBW, I’d ask for a review! Bowden has set a precedent. I just cannot be given out! If I am given not out and the fielding captain reviews it, it has to be given not out!
Now let us look at what the actual playing conditions state. The playing conditions state that, in the case where a ball has more than 2.5m to travel “the on-field umpire shall have regard to the normal cricketing principles concerning the level of certainty in making his decision as to whether to change his decision.”
Bowden used no cricketing principles at all. I don’t know what went through his crooked mind. But he got his knickers in a knot, may have thought about the Dhoni-Zaheer field-placement incident and ruled “not out”.
Contrast this with what happened during England’s recent ODI series against Australia. In the seventh and final match at the WACA, the Australian batsman Tim Paine was adjudged not out to Liam Plunkett, and England reviewed the umpire Paul Reiffel’s on-field decision. The replays showed Paine was hit more than 2.5 metres from the stumps, but Hawkeye suggested the ball would have crashed into the stumps halfway up, and on that occasion Reiffel decided not to argue with the technology, even though he would have been within his rights to stay with his not-out call. He swallowed his ego and went in favor of HawkEye. His decision was assisted by technology because he adopted a common-sense cricketing principles approach!
Not Silly Billy Bowden, though!
Sorry! The man and his crooked finger have to go. There is no other way to call this!