Cricket: Neutral umpires set for next year

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The Independent Online
THE prospect of Mike Gatting facing up to the likes of Shakoor Rana on his home turf at Lord's shortened yesterday when the International Cricket Conference moved towards the principle of one mandatory independent umpire at all Tests, writes Glenn Moore.

Given sufficient sponsorship, probably from National Grid, the scheme could be embraced in time for New Zealand's visit to England next summer.

The move follows the inaugural international pow-wow of umpires near Coventry, which ended after three days yesterday. David Richards, the ICC's new chief executive, said the umpires strongly supported the scheme.

It will not be as unpopular with England as might be expected. Although English umpires, being full-time professionals, are generally regarded as the best, many English players feel they undermine their impartiality by giving the benefit of doubt to the visitors.

The umpires also rejected the current one-bouncer-per-over law and will assist in drafting a new regulation based on a strict definition of 'intimidation'.

The 18 umpires backed the match-referee practice and those who had tried it also approved of using a third umpire with television replay access.

Sir Colin Cowdrey, the ICC's chairman, said one of the most valuable aspects was the chance 'for the first time in more than 100 years' for umpires from different countries to get together and discuss their job.

So presumably umpires will now be better acquainted with who walks (almost no one), who sledges most inventively and which team produces the most frequent and best choreographed appeals. Perhaps they could even make annual awards.

One aspect of misbehaviour that was given special attention was ball-tampering, with 20-odd used balls being passed around yesterday. If they included the one made famous by Allan Lamb last year no one was saying.