January 6, 2008

How Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson contributed to the cause of making Cricket an "un-gentlemanly" game

I must say that I wasn't amused by the habit of blogging which many netizens possess and as I write quite a lot I was repeatedly advised by friends and well-wishers to start blogging but I hardly paid heed to them. I just made an account and left it at that. Over the past year I always had a passing thought to actually begin blogging- if not for myself than for others, but something more important always came in my way. After more than a year of procrastinating I finally decided to start blogging. And the reason was my obsession with the game of Cricket (I like it so much that I have made it a proper noun!)

My day began on a sour note personally and to forget my own problems I decided to watch the last day's play of the 2nd Test Match of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Now, for those who don't know- the Border-Gavaskar trophy is the Test Series played between India and Australia and on this occasion India is touring Australia. The first 4 days of the test match have had their moments but what I will remember this Test Match for is for the rather (in)famous umpiring controversy due to some atrocious umpiring by Steve Bucknor and Mark Benson.

Now, lets look into each issue in detail:
Issue 1) Ricky Ponting edged a ball bowled by Sourav Ganguly and was caught by wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni when he was batting on 17 in the first innings. Given not out. Ponting went on to score 55. The decision was made by Mark Benson.

Issue 2) Ponting adjudged LBW to Harbhajan Singh when on 55. He clearly had an inside edge before the ball hit the pads. But that sort of made up for the earlier decision. This decision too was made by Mark Benson.

Issue 3) Andrew Symonds edged a ball to Ishant Sharma and was caught behind when he was on 30. Not given out by Steve Bucknor. Went on to make 162 not out- an expensive mistake.

Issue 4) Symonds was out stumped when he was batting on 48. Not given out by the third umpire. (Can you believe this? The Third Umpire goofs it up!)

Issue 5) Symonds was stumped again in the same innings but umpire Bucknor did not even care to refer it to the Third Umpire!

Issue 6) In India's crucial second innings, Dravid was given caught behind where the ball clearly went off his pad. Bucknor adjudged him out.

Issue 7) An edge off Ganguly's bat went to Michael Clarke. There was a doubt in umpire Benson's mind whether the catch was taken cleanly. Rather than consulting the Square Leg Umpire or the Third Umpire, he consulted Ricky Ponting. Why did he have to do that? Isn't it obvious that Ponting would say that it is out as Sourav Ganguly was the main obstacle in Australia's attempt to win the game?

This match also showed to what extent Team Australia can go to achieve their ends. Ricky Ponting had always seemed an arrogant man to me and I must agree to the famous saying- "Looks can be deceptive" But my feelings were limited to Ponting, Hogg, Johnson and Symonds. I never expected the entire team to be nothing but a bunch of cheats who can do absolutely anything to cling on to their "World Champion" tag! The very credibility of Team Australia is in doubt now. When Rahul Dravid got out, it was Adam Gilchrist who had claimed the catch. A few years back when Gilchrist was given not out when he was actually out, Gilchrist walked out of the ground saying that his conscience wouldn't have allowed him to continue batting as he would have been nagged by the fact that he was actually out. That decision by him, made many cricket lovers like me respect the man. After the batsman, it probably is the keeper who knows whether the ball actually nicked the bat or not and for a person of Gilchrist's stature claiming the catch while knowing the truth is shocking, especially after "walking" when he was sure of himself being out!

Then comes the instance of Michael Clarke claiming Ganguly's catch. It may be doubtful whether the ball bounced before coming to him or not but he wasn't in "complete control" of the ball after claiming the catch as the ball was clearly touching the ground! Ponting too unsuccessfully tried to claim a similar catch off Dhoni as the "complete control" definition came into view.

How can I miss making a comment on Man of the Match Andrew Symonds, who probably was the most fortunate man in the game after being given not out on three occasions when he was actually out and also taking Dravid's wicket in India's second innings, which by now we all know wasn't actually out. On the third day's play he complained to the Match Referee that Harbhajan Singh had "racially abused" him. And as I type news comes in that Harbhajan has been banned for 3 Tests for this very reason. I find it very difficult to judge the credibility of this complaint after all the above events. I feel this is nothing but a "mind game" by the Australians to remove Harbhajan from the attack. The press had reported that none of the umpires on the field had heard any abusing and even then Harbhajan is punished! What proof did the Australian's have? Can't they present it to the outside world to give us a clearer picture?

The unfortunate incidents in this test match have pained an entire nation where Cricket is an obsession and has a religious cult-like following! At the end of the day Cricket is the loser. I am deeply pained by this horrendous showing of favours by the umpires to the Australians thus proving that Cricket is not a "Gentleman's Game" anymore.

To sum it all up, I would quote what the Indian captain Anil Kumble said about the outcome of the match- "Only one team was playing with the spirit of the game, that's all I can say"

Other notable quotes after the match include-
  • "Batsmen usually say to each other 'you take care of this bowler etc'. [In] this match the Indians might have to say 'you take care of Bucknor, I will take care of Benson'."
    Ian Chappell on commentary during the final day of the Sydney Test following two doubtful decisions that went against India.
  • "If Steve Bucknor walks the streets of Mumbai, he won't be alive for more than an hour."
    A comment on a TV debate in India in the aftermath of the Sydney Test. The remark received warm applause.
  • "This has been going on in all countries for many years and it's only happening against India and has only been exposed because of TV. There were 12 decisions when we were batting and 12 when we were bowling."
    A balanced view on world cricket from an expert on the same show.

  • Former Indian Test Cricketer Syed Kirmani.
  • "Sorry I think you have got something wrong. There's no way that I would have grounded that ball and I think if you are actually questioning my integrity in the game, you should not be standing here. What I did in the first innings doesn't that explain the way I play the game. Well okay I am 100 per cent sure of that catch of Dhoni today. As it turned out wasn't that given not out. Am I right or wrong?"
    Australian skipper Ricky Ponting reacting angrily when asked by Indian reporter if he had cleanly caught Mahendra Singh Dhoni off the bowling of Brad Hogg. A ridiculous comment in my opinion.
  • "When you pick up a pack of Benson & Hedges you get a statutory warning: 'Smoking cigarettes is injurious to health.' From this day on, the firm of Benson & Bucknor may well have to come with some sort of warning. It's a shame when you have to spend more time talking about the umpiring than the wickets taken or the runs scored, but when the errors umpires make play a big role in deciding the course of a game, there's little choice."
    Cricinfo's cricket expert Anand Vasu in his post match bulletin.
  • "The umpires on the field are supposed to be neutral."
    Colin Croft starts 2008 with a controversial and ill thought-out on-air comment.
  • "How can the third umpire not see that? He's not got anything to do other than watch TV!"
    Sky TV's Charles Colvile offers a blunt take on the third umpire's decision to rule Andrew Symonds not out on a stumping referral.
  • "I was out when I was 30 - given not out. I can sit here and tell you about some bad decisions as well, but I won't. That's the game."
    Andrew Symonds tells it like it is about what went down on day one of the SCG Test.
  • "It was a match that will have been relished only by rabid nationalists and others for whom victory and vengeance are the sole reasons for playing sport ... It was a rotten contest that singularly failed to elevate the spirit."
    Peter Roebuck delivers his verdict on the second Australia-India Test in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Check out the links below for more on this issue-

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