Very recently, there was a controversy surrounding the Indian cricket team and Daryl Harper, an umpire from Australia – which eventually ‘forced’ Daryl Harper to step-down from his scheduled last test match in his career. Who was correct in this case is not my topic of debate. Only thing that I can say is that with technology / video footage, people can analyse the value of correct umpiring and parallelly, a team as a single entity do have the right to express their opinion. If ICC stops that freedom, then they should also stop anyone from criticising the wrongs – starting from the commentators to experts, press people, etc.
People always say that umpires are ‘neutral’ and hence they always act in the interests of the spirit of the game. Well, if that’s true, why is it that certain teams very often find reasons enough to doubt that very principle ? Let’s take up the cases of Darrel & Daryl – Darrel Hair and Daryl Harper.
Mr. Hair, in his first test match between India and Australia in 1992 probably did exceedingly well in neutral umpiring – in that test match, as reported by Wisden, the match was full of controversy in LBW decisions – “eight times Indians were given out, while all but two of their own appeals were rejected” .. but I am sure all his decisions were ‘correct’ and ‘neutral’. He became more famous subsequently when he started to no ball Muttiah Muralitharan seven times in three overs for throwing. Only catch was that Murali had already played 22 tests earlier and no other umpire no-balled him on the same reason. Either all the earlier umpires who umpired Murali were morons, or Mr. Hair was simply extra-ordinary. Then in 2006 came the dubious incident involving Pakistan and England when ball-tampering was alleged against the Pakistan team. I am sure Mr. Hair was always correct in all these incidents because he could brand the Pakistan cricket team as “cheats, frauds and liars” – Mr. Hair, like many Australian cricketers, seems to know many things that other’s don’t know and as always, they believe that they are the only ones who are always correct ! One similarity amongst all these incidents were the involvement of Mr. Hair against all Asian teams – a strange coincidence indeed !
For Mr. Harper, Indians had a lot of grudge against him – one of the reason being that Mr. Harper gave a howler of a decision against Sachin Tendulkar, which (to be fair) was later on regretted by Mr. Harper later on.
But the Indians were not alone – in 2010, Mr. Harper apparently could not hear properly the sound of an edge while being a third umpire in a match between England vs S. Africa. This incident forced such a strong reaction from Nasser Hussain, the then commentator, that he stated :
“we have to keep Daryl Harper away from any big decision on or off the field……” It is no coincidence that the TV umpire in Jamaica when things didn’t work was Daryl Harper.”
And let’s go through what Bob Willis had to say against Mr. Harper :
However, Mr. Harper became angry when Indian players criticised him – probably, he was not aware (or had forgotten) what others had said about him earlier.
My point here is that whenever we have umpires who consistently makes stupid mistakes (not just an one-off mistake), what does the ICC do ? They impose many ‘restrictions’ on the individual players when it comes to ‘protesting’ decisions (though the yardstick seems to vary depending upon the teams playing), but why don’t they evaluate umpires more transparently and remove the non-performing ones quite quickly ?