This is the story of the first day of the Sydney Test between India and Australia, where three supposedly wise men made horrendous decisions to ruin India’s chances in what could have been their best shot at proving themselves in the ongoing Test series.
Umpires Mark Benson, Steve Bucknor and hitherto lesser-known third umpire Bruce Oxenford came up with inexcusable mistakes to let Australia make amends for a batting collapse. True, there is always somebody in the team to make a fight of it and rescue it from trouble. But the people in question were Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds. Benson adjudged Ponting not out when he had nicked the ball to the ‘keeper and then gave him out leg-before when he was clearly not out. Justice done to the Indians? Maybe. But he shouldn’t have been allowed to reach his half century in the first place.
Bucknor should have retired long ago. His umpiring in recent years has gone from bad to worse. Symonds was evidently out and started walking, when Bucknor’s decision in his favour made him stay on, denying Ishant Sharma a precious scalp. And then Symonds blatantly admitted in the press conference to having nicked the ball. Should Australia ever again profess that they play a fair, even game, this incident can be brought in evidence against their tall claims. Adam Gilchrist is apparently the only ‘walker’ in the team.
Finally, with Oxenford, a stumping appeal went awry. So the third umpires are not to be trusted either.
Much is said about how umpires are brought under closer scrutiny thanks to the increasing use of technology. That is true, and sometimes allowances have to be made for human error. However, there must be some limit to the number of such instances. Umpires have to up their standards if they feel they are under too much pressure from technology. Technology is here to aid them, not test them.
Three terrible decisions have already had an irreparable effect on the match. What remains to be seen is whether the ICC is going to come out of its closeted comfort and do something about the umpiring standards, or just wait and watch. For there are certain things more important than money- like the game itself.