Harper calls for action on umpires

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The Independent Online

When the Australian Peter Burge was match referee in the West Indies last winter, the West Indian coach Roger Harper told him that umpires should be subject to the same discipline as players, and that umpires who made a number of proven wrong decisions should be struck off the Test list. After three Tests this summer, Harper is even more convinced.

When the Australian Peter Burge was match referee in the West Indies last winter, the West Indian coach Roger Harper told him that umpires should be subject to the same discipline as players, and that umpires who made a number of proven wrong decisions should be struck off the Test list. After three Tests this summer, Harper is even more convinced.

Television replays now make it possible to assess accurately an umpire's performance, and Harper rejects the assertion that, because they put umpires under pressure, replays are a bad thing. "Players are under pressure all their lives, and these guys are taking decisions that affect their careers, their lives. So why should they be any different?"

He accepts that there are excusable and blameless umpiring errors, and he is anxious to stress that he does not want to blame umpiring decisions for the outcome of any of this summer's Tests, but he asserts that Jimmy Adams has received three bad decisions, and that Wavell Hinds is "disappointed" by a number.

Courtney Walsh was especially upset when Peter Willey failed to give an lbw against Michael Vaughan off his slower ball at Old Trafford. Walsh would then have taken five wickets in an innings in five successive Tests.

Harper also detects a willingness among umpires to compensate for bad decisions. "He gives one out, so he gives the next one not out. He's made two mistakes instead of one." Harper's solution is to make it part of a match referee's job to look at replays of all appeals and mark the umpires. When an umpire had reached a specified number of black marks, he would be dumped.

Harper reports that Burge said he thought it was an interesting idea. Will anyone run with it?

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