Cricket: ICC looks to old values: Seminar aims at improving umpiring standards and consistency

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The Independent Online
WHEN Lancashire and Gloucestershire invented pyjama cricket in a 1971 cup match at Old Trafford, there was a suggestion to the umpire that it might be too dark to carry on. 'You can see the moon,' Arthur Jepson replied. 'How far do you want to see?'

As a piece of jocular dialogue, it belonged to a different era. In a modern- day Test match, Jepson would doubtless have been fending off inquiries as to his parentage and his eyesight. The atmosphere in international cricket is nowadays so unpleasant that the game's administrators are desperately seeking ways of restoring old values.

The television replay is apparently here to stay, in the fatuous belief that this will help eliminate dissent, and a permanent multinational panel of 'neutral' umpires would by now be a fixture if the International Cricket Council could find anyone willing to stump up pounds 500,000 per year to fund it.

Starting today in Coventry comes the latest ICC initiative to promote higher umpiring standards, greater uniformity over decisions and player- umpire relations - a three-day umpiring seminar involving 18 officials from the nine full Test nations.

The 18 (Dickie Bird and Nigel Plews are England's representatives) will discuss issues including the front-foot no-ball, the leg-before laws, conduct, short-pitched fast-bowling, TV replays and how umpires are judged. In England, for example, an umpire lives and dies on the marks he is awarded by the county captains.

The ICC chairman, Sir Colin Cowdrey, and the chairman-elect, Clyde Walcott, will preside over the meeting, which also marks the first significant engagement for the ICC's new chief executive, David Richards. The speakers include Alec Bedser, Richie Benaud and Raman Subba Row.

It is a laudable initiative, although it seems that modern-day cricket has become too intense and combative for the basic problem - player dissent - to be altered by anything other than punitive action.