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Thread: How Do We Improve Umpiring Standards?

  1. #1
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    How Do We Improve Umpiring Standards?

    So, it is clear that we posters have no problem complaining about poor umpiring decisions, but if umpiring standards are an issue that needs to be improved, what would we do to fix it?

    Personally, I don't think the issue is as new as some others do. No question, sometimes umpires will make a few bad calls, and even less regularly a couple of umpires will make a string of bad calls and have a truly bad match. In my view, the difference between umpiring today and umpiring of eras past is more about the level of scrutiny than actual performance.

    Even if I am correct, the increase in professionalism of the game demands that umpiring standards improve, rather than (at best) stagnate.

    I am not a huge believer in using technology to make decisions, but I wouldn't have a massive issue with it, provided the implementation was well-considered and wasn't a detriment to the "humanity" of the game. The "hotspot" camera is probably the best new broadcasting technology of the past decade, and is definitely one method of quickly deciding contentious bat-pad and LBW decisions, and seems to be as close to perfectly reliable as is likely to be found. I would have no issue with this being used by the third umpire on referral from the field umpires. Also, I don't see why the ICC couldn't finance the use of high speed cameras at point and square leg for every international, to eliminate questionable run outs caused by the relevant moment being in between frames. It would also be used to call no balls with the right accompanying software, and would remove the problems with an umpire having to refocus from the popping crease to the batsman in a fraction of a second.

    I think that things like Snicko and Hawkeye would simply throw up more questions than it would answer, and are both a long way from being as decisive as Hotspot. Unless everyone was prepared to accept every decision they make, flaws and all, I don't see how they could be used as anything more than broadcast tools.

    More than that, I think that the most pressing issue is the quality of the umpires themselves. As is the case with most human skills, the way to achieve this boils down to two issues- training and assessment.

    Both of these factors require the ICC to make an investment in the game. Just as is the case with improving the standards of players, the ICC need to develop a system where potential umpires are identified as they come into the first class systems around the world, and then work out a method that will improve the umpires' consistency.

    The first way would be for the ICC to finance the exchange of umpires between national cricket boards. If a few of the better umpires in each country are sent to work in different countries for a year, they would not only learn to alter their decision making under different levels of latent noise and pitch conditions, but they would also learn to understand the cultural differences between different nations, and be able to more readily control the byplay that has caused a few incidents in recent times. Conversely, it would give the players from around the world the chance to be exposed to foreign umpires without the suspicions and mistrust of national bias, and give the players a chance to learn how play is controlled in other parts of the world. This could only be a good thing for the game, and the cross-exposure of the different cricketing cultures would somewhat homogenise the different cultures into a more unified, international game. Utopian? Perhaps...

    The pool of umpires must be expanded. I would remove the two tier international system, and simply have an international panel, and an ICC first class panel. The international panel would consist of the top fifteen or twenty umpires in the world, and the first class panel would be another twenty or thirty umpires around the world who are on a small retainer from the ICC (much like the players' board contract system), along with the supplementary income that they would make from the board that employs them. The umpires on the first class panel would be required to work overseas at least part of the time, to ensure a well-rounded base of experience.

    (Importantly, I would not assign any weight to having even numbers of contracted umpires from each country. Umpires should live and die on their performances, regardless of whether the make up of the panel is equitable or not. Excellence doesn't begin an end at a national border.)

    Umpires would be appointed to each panel for 12 month terms, with the terms offset so that half of the umpires are up for renewal every six months. The umpires' decision making performances would be quantitatively ranked each year, and any umpires that fall short of the required grade (whatever that may be, but I would suggest that it be somewhere between 90-95%) would be downgraded to the first class panel for the next twelve months. They would be replaced by the best performing umpires from the first class panel, who would likewise be ranked every year. You could also introduce pay grades within the two panels, so the best performing umpires are rewarded for their excellence.

    That way, you would only have the best, most in form umpires standing in the biggest games. With a panel that is so frequently assessed (and that has real consequences for poor performances), the need to national neutrality would be negligible, so there wouldn't need to be limitations on umpires never getting to work at home occasionally.

    So, you have introduced technology in a measured way, improved the way that umpiring talent is honed and educated, and implemented a system that rewards excellence and sidelines incompetence. The only drawback is cost- it would cost a fair bit to expand ICC renumeration to a panel of first class umpires, as well as financing the travel, assessment program and the like. It isn't as though international cricket is hard up for a shekel or two, though.

    Surely with all of the criticism of umpires in this forum, there must be some views on how this issue can be rectified outside of "Bucknor is a cheat". Your thoughts?
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  2. #2
    Hall of Fame Member chaminda_00's Avatar
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    Even though Australia and England don't produce the best umpires. I think maybe letting overseas umpire, who are below the elite panel, in domestic matches in those countries is an options. For me it seems letting these umpire just umpire home ODIs isn't working. As they seem ok in these one off matches. But so often they seem to get found out umpiring in the stress of a 5 Day Test. By letting them umpire in these domestic competition they are umpiring high standard of matches and maybe that will improve their decision making. Then again umpires like Parker and Davis have been umpiring in these comps forever they are useless.

    But the simple solution is to put more decision up to 3rd umpire, so the decision are closer to being correct. But that wont produce better umpire, just reduce the mistakes.
    Last edited by chaminda_00; 06-01-2008 at 05:05 AM.
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  3. #3
    International Captain Slow Love™'s Avatar
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    Yeah, some good suggestions, particularly circulating budding umpires through different countries and different conditions (one thing that occasionally comes up is LBW calls by subcontinental umpires on bouncier wickets overseas, when balls that might ordinarily knock over the stumps will likely go over the top - the same I'm sure applies vice versa).

    Technology aside, part of the problem is transparency. When an umpire is demoted/suspended, it's often very difficult for anybody to actually know this has occurred until quite a period later (if at all). I think the ICC needs to be more upfront about when it does take action over poor performances (and more consistent, because it's still the case that a guy like Rudi "Ahoy Me Hearties" Koertzen can put together a string of bad performances and seemingly face no noticable penalty.

    But it's all complicated by the fact that the pool of umpires to be used is fairly small, and it seemed a couple of years ago that the ICC struggled to increase the size of the International Panel, and maintain the quality they already had (their words, I'm paraphrasing). Obviously it's an occupation that draws a great deal of scrutiny, and most importantly, a degree of public animosity that is extremely high, and even dangerous at times. There are conflicting opinions as to whether the umpires are not paid enough or too highly paid (there's an article in one of the Aussie papers today having a go at Bucknor for his $400 an hour mistakes or similar), but I do think that a high income is necessary to try and entice a good pool of talented (because it requires talent) people to umpire at the highest level.

    I fear that whatever the ICC does, taking away the concept of neutral umpires simply won't work at this point of time. I think things would have degraded significantly more today had the umpire in question been Australian. I just don't think the concept of neutral nationality is something we can step back from ATM.

    Regarding the standards you mention (90-95%), it's my understanding, at least from what the ICC has sporadically reported, that the umpires already meet this standard on an annual basis, in fact I think it hovers around the 95/96% range. However I think the method of evaluation is a bit hazy (ie, an umpire makes many, many decisions per match - every ball there is a decision to make regarding the front foot of the bowler for instance) but what we are concerned with really are the really poor decisions that can significantly affect the outcome of a match, or a player's statistics, etc, etc, etc, so we're mainly talking about outs and not-outs. I honestly don't know how indicative or useful these figures provided are. I'd certainly like to see more visible consequences/rewards depending on performance, though.

    Where technology is an issue, I still think that it should be in the hands of the umpires themselves, rather than the players (in the sense of limited requests for referral to the third umpire and the like). One important aspect of the introduction of additional technology in the decision-making process has to be a balance between assisting the umpires to make better calls for the sake of the game being fairer, while trying to ensure that their respect and authority is not eroded further.
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  4. #4
    Hall of Fame Member social's Avatar
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    I'm all in favour of technology so long as it doesnt become too intrusive (e.g. NFL where I had to turn a game off that I was watching last week because of all the interruptions) and is a marked improvement on the naked eye (IMO, hawk-eye and stump-mikes are not)

    That being said, let's face it, the only decisions that people really care about are dismissals.

    Allow technology to determine whether it was a no-ball, pitched in the right areas or to determine whether a catch was taken legitimately i.e. use the cameras

    Somehow involve the crowd as in tennis challenges

    As for the umps themselves, I dont think that there is any secret - compulsory retirement age and encourage ex-cricketers to take up the job

  5. #5
    Global Moderator vic_orthdox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by social
    Somehow involve the crowd as in tennis challenges
    Haha, been thinking of something along these lines recently. Have like a checklist whenever an LBW is referred to the third umpire up on the scoreboard...

    Have like each box being ticked or crossed as you go along, instead of having the "3rd umpire decision waiting" displayed on the big screen.

  6. #6
    The Wheel is Forever silentstriker's Avatar
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    Have a referral system (with 2-3 max referrals per team per innings), and in addition to that integrate technology for the umpires, so that the third umpire can quickly tell the on field ones if he saw an edge, or ball pitching outside leg so that they can bring back the batsman or stop play until the third umpire can look at it more carefully (in addition to whatever we want to give the umpires to get the decision right in the first place).
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  7. #7
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    I think you can have a pretty straightforward referral system giving each team one referral per innings, which - as in tennis - they only lose if they get it wrong. I don't think you can really use TV replays for LBWs in terms of whether it's hitting, as this is a judgement call that can't be proved or disproved conclusively no matter how much faith you have in Hawkeye. I would envisage that - primarily - referalls would be used as follows:

    - batsman referring on basis that he hasn't hit it after being given out caught
    - bowler referring in opposite situation
    - batsman referring when he has hit it and been given out LBW
    - onfield umpire checking whether ball pitched outside leg/hit in line with stumps before confirming LBW decision (i.e. ump has already decided that it was going on to hit)

    I would assume that a knock-on effect of this system would be increased honesty among the players as frivolous appeals and failures to walk would be badly exposed.

  8. #8
    International Regular shortpitched713's Avatar
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    Technology for all imo. Really I think its only a matter of time before borderline lbw decisions are made by hawkeye, as it is so so much better than umpires at making the right call, even if it isn't infallible.
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  9. #9
    Cricket Web Staff Member luckyeddie's Avatar
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    1. Increase the use of technology (the 'hotspot' looks particularly interesting)
    2. Do away with the nonsense of asking a fielder if he thinks he's made a fair catch
    3. Sack Bucknor

    That's got rid of 90% of the bad decisions.
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  10. #10
    International Debutant Evermind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by social View Post
    I'm all in favour of technology so long as it doesnt become too intrusive (e.g. NFL where I had to turn a game off that I was watching last week because of all the interruptions) and is a marked improvement on the naked eye (IMO, hawk-eye and stump-mikes are not)
    Hawk-eye is much, much better than the naked eye, simply because you get to watch it all over again as many times as you want, and much slower. Even the bare replay, slowed down and watched repeatedly, would offer advantages over the onfield umpire's decisions.

    Wasn't it David Shepherd who predicted that one day there would be no umpires, only the computer? To me, that day can't come sooner.

    As for the umps themselves, I dont think that there is any secret - compulsory retirement age and encourage ex-cricketers to take up the job
    They should also undergo weekly tests of hearing, eyesight, and sanity.

  11. #11
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    Dilute the supreme authority vested in the umpires currently by fluffy rules like "showing dissent". Dravid could've been fined for staying there for 10 seconds.

    Captains should have some mechanism to remove certain umpires from future fixtures. This guy Bucknor may still show up in Perth and nothing anyone can do about it. (Bigger pool of umpires to make this practical.)

    Per match umpire performance review for that match.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bracken View Post

    Surely with all of the criticism of umpires in this forum, there must be some views on how this issue can be rectified outside of "Bucknor is a cheat". Your thoughts?

    It's not Bucknor that's the cheat, it's the players, and the umpires job is made infinitely more difficult than it should be because of the rampant cheating. The Symmonds decision, or lack of, was a poor one, but had it not been for the blatant cheating of the batsman it was a decision he would not have been called upon to make. If the players are happy to never walk and constantly appeal for everything on the basis that it's all up to umpire then they can't complain when mistakes are made.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lillian Thomson View Post
    It's not Bucknor that's the cheat, it's the players, and the umpires job is made infinitely more difficult than it should be because of the rampant cheating. The Symmonds decision, or lack of, was a poor one, but had it not been for the blatant cheating of the batsman it was a decision he would not have been called upon to make. If the players are happy to never walk and constantly appeal for everything on the basis that it's all up to umpire then they can't complain when mistakes are made.
    The players you cant expect much from - we are talking of folks who think nothing of calling their opponents obscenities that most people wouldnt tolerate at their places of work, just to gain a temporary edge through distraction.

    Best for the on-field guys to cede lot of their decision making in this scenario - and to use the third umpire heavily. Third ump has distance (from the appealers), physical comfort, technology and the ability to take his/her time going in their favor, and can even be replaced by a panel of 3.

    Yes there will be longer interruptions, but we are talking of a game that goes on for 5 days. Taking 2 minutes per important appeal is not a big deal, and the over rate fine means that incessant appealing will hurt the bowling team. So who pays for the delay is already spoken for.

  14. #14
    Cricket Web Staff Member Richard's Avatar
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    An idea I came-up with about 5 or 6 years ago would, IMO, solve all the problems it's possible to solve.

    It would be thus:

    Firstly and most importantly, get someone design something - the most inexpensive mechanism possible, so as it can be used at levels as far down as possible - that enables no-balls to be judged without the standing-Umpire having to look down at the crease. This should have been the very first thing ever to be used outside the naked-eyes of the standing-Umpires, before even run-out\stumping\boundary calls. So get it ASAP. The notion of free-hits because of no-balls disappeared with the front-foot no-ball rule and has been reintroduced by simply having the next delivery as a free-hit in one-day and Twenty20 games anyway. So the fact the no-ball is called in likelihood just after the batsman plays his shot really doesn't matter. This has two benefits: one, no-balls won't be missed due to human error (and some suggestions suggest quite a few no-balls are actually missed - I heard one cameraman estimate it was 20 a day ); two, the bowler's-end-Umpire will then be able to concentrate fully on the business-end.

    Then I$C$C put 10 cameras, perpendicular to the crease and behind each bowler, at EVERY Test-match (and the playing authority to the maximum extent that they can afford over all games under their jurisdiction - eg, The ECB at County Championship games and Cricket Victoria at grade games in their state). These cameras are those which are used by the authorities, taking them out of the mercy of TV producers. These cameras are removeable and can be passed around games, meaning it's not neccessary to have them perminantly installed at every ground.

    A line of communication is then set-up between Match Referee, two standing-Umpires, third-Umpire, and maybe fourth-Umpire too. They carry an earpiece and mic on each of them, enabling instant communication between all match officials for any reason. Also wired into this little network is stump-mic feeds and feed from the no-ball-detector. If this is possible (I'm no sound engineer) give the Match Referee a way to turn up and down the stump-mic too, without affecting what the TV producers are doing with it. This enables all officials to communicate instantly on any matter of any concern.

    The third-Umpire and Match Referee then watch the playing-authority-controlled picture on their monitor (independent of TV producers, just in case they've been lax with an ad-break, but with the option of tuning-in to the TV station instantly) behind the bowler as the bowler delivers. Upon an appeal for a nick \ glove, the standing-Umpire says "yeah, think I heard a nick there, didn't you?"; the reply comes, either "Yeah mate, no doubt there" or "Well, Aleem, I'm not absolutely certain - let's get Snicko on it". So we wait perhaps 10 seconds, the TV producers get Snicko out, and we make the decision. Or for a glove, he views a replay or two. Or upon an lbw appeal, the standing-Umpire says "looked pretty close to me Rudi, what you think?"; "Looked like it pitched outside leg to me, hang on a sec, let's get the red mat on it". So we wait perhaps 5 seconds, the TV producers get the red mat out, and the decision is made. Or if the batsman holds up his bat, "He's saying he's hit it Rudi, have a quick look would you?" and sure enough the inside-edge is spotted upon replay.

    Using this method, it's possible to basically eliminate all errors; if the standing-Umpire gives a hasty decision, it can be "hang on, Steve, hang on, that looked pretty close to me, wait a moment while I have another look at that". "OK, Daryl, sure". "Yes, mate, that was out!" "OK". And up goes the finger.

    Better still, we don't even need this silly big-screen-decision lark any more; the decisions where the third-Umpire is called in can be relayed in a few seconds, and the standing-Umpire can simply shake his head or put the finger up without needing to mess around making the "big screen" signal or get on his walkie-talkie.

    And best of all, no need for this referrals rubbish! There'll rarely be a need for a batsman to look unhappy, and if he does, the third-Umpire can check quickly, and if the batsman's making a fuss about nothing (or, indeed, if there's an appeal for something that any fool could tell was never out) the Match Referee is standing by.

    Quite why it's taken so long to implement this, and why no-one except Simon Hughes (who is the person who came-up with more of this than not) seems to have suggested it is beyond me. I cannot believe that in 2008, when it's been at least 10 years - at least - since TV viewers were able to tell beyond most reasonable doubt whether something was out or not, we still have a situation where Umpires do not always.

    One thing: I'd never, ever condone the use of HawkEye in decision-making. Red mats, yes. Snickometers, yes. Fading the batsman and showing the stumps, yes. HotSpot, best of all, yes, certainly. But HawkEye, no. HawkEye is the one thing which is merely predicting a probability; the rest of the aforementioned gadgets are all simply revealing facts. Snickometers sometimes (very, very occasionally in fact) don't reveal all the facts that you might want them to reveal, but they can never make a decision more likely to be wrong than right. So there'll still be the odd lbw that you can never really be sure about; in which case, the laws cater for this, if in doubt, not out. Unfortunately, it'll never really be possible to say for certain about catches which are far from the cameras either. But these are minor problems in an otherwise completely foolproof system. It must be implemented, and the sooner the better.
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  15. #15
    State Vice-Captain slugger's Avatar
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    the use of tech. will most likely excellarate from march onwards.. after its initial trial in pakistan. once the tech. becomes quite a norm, i believe 3 things will occur. 1st about great "modern" players, if any player scores a century + it would provee they got their on pure skill and ability alone, not no lucjk factor same with bowlers taken 5 fors etc.. the 2nd point is the teams ranks will become more compact.. ie australia will either slip back or another way of looking at it teams will catch up. there will also be less drawn matches..actually they would become pretty rare and under most circumstancers will be caused by poor or extended weather.
    Last edited by slugger; 10-01-2008 at 02:49 PM.

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