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Friday, June 7, 2019

ICC Cricket World Cup-2019: When The Umpire Wanted Gayle Out!

Photo: espncricinfo.com 

The headline above is not an allegation, it’s only an observation based on hard facts. However, this observation reflects badly on the umpiring standards in the biggest cricket event of the world.  We had recently seen ludicrous umpiring errors in Indian Premiere League-2019. ICC Cricket World Cup can hardly be compared with the former, and we fervently hope that standards would improve as this was just the first week of the tournament.

It all happened in the 10th match of the ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 at Trent Bridge, England between Australia and West Indies. Winning the toss West Indies put Australia into bat, reduced them to 79 for 5 thanks to fiery spells by Thomas and Cortrell that reminded us of the likes of Malcolm Marshall & Co of yore, and as was their wont, West Indies let go allowing the Aussies to amass 288. Still, it was not an impossible target, and West Indies seemed to be cruising nicely with Hope and Heitmyer going great guns. Again, as Caribbean old habits die hard, the batsmen snatched defeat from victory, preferring to go only for the big shots without any kind of pressure. And, they lost by a mere 15 runs. Now, back to our point of concern.

Only in the third over of the match Aussie pacer Starc appealed for a caught behind against Chris Gayle, and the umpire upheld it. Gayle was never known to have shown disrespect or mistrust in umpiring in his strikingly aggressive career, and never sulked after adverse decisions. Therefore, when he shook his head implying that there was no snick and asked for the DRS it was very believable and genuine. The review proved that the ball never touched the bat, and in fact, could have brushed against the off stump without dislodging the bails. Gayle won the DRS. In the same over Starc again appealed for an LBW, and the umpire promptly upheld it while this writer watching television live telecast could clearly see that the ball was veering away from the leg stump. Gayle raised his eyebrows in wonder and asked for the second DRS. The review showed how the ball was missing the leg stump by quite a big margin. Gayle won his second DRS and also opened up with his breathtaking shots. Perhaps, some people who mattered sulked.

The umpire and Starc combined all over again. The appeal was for an LBW with the umpire raising his finger immediately. This time Gayle looked a little bewildered, and asked for his third DRS. The review was not lost yet again, but since the ball was in line and seemed to have struck the top edge of the leg stump the umpire’s decision had to be upheld. And Gayle departed. He was allowed to score only 20 runs.

And then, the real explosion came. Later replays showed that the ball prior to the one that got Gayle out was a no ball by a big leap, but the same umpire never seemed to notice it. Therefore, the ball that got Gayle out finally was a free-hit ball where no batsman could ever get out.

The above observations do not intend to take away credit due to Starc who had a five-wicket haul thanks to consistent pace, line and length, and to Australian captain Finch who showed a thoroughly professional approach making West Indies play into their plans.

The other highlights of the first week, positively, included England, Bangladesh and India beating a beleaguered South Africa in their respective openers where mention must be made about Bangladesh’s aggression and the quality of both batting and bowling; West Indies routing Pakistan, and then Pakistan beating hot favourites England showing precision batting, bowling and fielding, and the fact that no mention by anybody was made as to why England offered batting opportunity to Pakistan on a platter, as the pitch was full of runs and the hosts were full of confidence; valiant Bangladesh losing in a tight match against New Zealand and Sri Lanka managing to register their first win over Afghanistan by a narrow margin.  

With the round-robin league in operation ICC Cricket World Cup-2019 promises to be a fierce battle between nations upholding their national pride and belief. Each one of the ten teams is capable of scripting history—one cannot even write off South Africa and Sri Lanka as yet. We only hope no cricketer suffers like Chris Gayle did in the exciting days of the tournament ahead. India has big matches coming up—against Australia on 9th June, against New Zealand on 13th June and the ultimate one against Pakistan on 16th June.

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