Umpires on trial but errors are price of human touch

Disputed dismissal of Lara should not obscure the wider picture

Shivnarine Chanderpaul got a gritty and important hundred. Matthew Hoggard bowled sharply with the new ball. Andrew Flintoff did one of his conjuring tricks, with the ball rather than the bat. But until Freddie's customary heroics the man of the moment at Lord's yesterday was a 54-year-old from Adelaide named Daryl Harper, who was umpiring his 42nd Test.

His special moment had come at 4.53pm on Friday. Not long before he had given Chris Gayle out lbw when the ball pitched outside the line. Now a ball from Ashley Giles brushed Brian Lara's pad. Up went bowler, wicketkeeper and Harper's finger. Out went Lara, very reluctantly, for 11, another failure in an arena where he has managed only 84 runs in five Test innings. He was so disconsolate that, while he watched for an hour from the players' balcony, he could not be bothered to remove his pads.

Lara felt strongly enough to issue a statement. According to Channel 4 this read: "I still find it impossible to walk when I know I'm not out." Since Test players are not permitted to question the umpire's decision, this was a sensation of a kind.

Yesterday morning the statement was amended. What he had actually said was: "I still find it impossible not to walk when I know I'm out." By shifting the "not" he altered the tone. You don't have to be prize-winning textual analyst to infer the real meaning, but the match referee could hardly fine Lara for a statement of principle.

Harper drew attention to the mistakes umpires make at the end of a week in which the subject has received a sympathetic hearing from Sir Clive Lloyd in his Cowdrey Lecture at Lord's. "The challenge of umpiring in today's conditions is greater than it has ever been, and speaking frankly too many mistakes are being made," he said.

ICC studies suggest that umpires are right 91 to 92 per cent of the time, which means they make a mistake in at least eight appeals out of a hundred. Having discovered that baseball umpires appear to get things right 96 per cent of the time, the ICC has adopted this as a target. The élite panel of umpires has to improve productivity by five per cent.

Lloyd's solution is to rely on more technology: "If technology is going to be used increasingly to reflect on the performance of the umpires - both by television and officialdom - surely umpires should also have the opportunity to use it to improve upon or supplement their performance. It is time to use the technology to the full extent. Umpires should be able to defer to the precision of Hawkeye."

Lloyd's proposal would have enabled Harper to refer both the Gayle and Lara questions to the TV umpire, and it is inconceivable that either would have been given out.

But the answer is not as straightforward as this suggests. Brendan McClements, the ICC manager for corporate affairs, uses an example from yesterday's play to make this point. Giles appealed enthusiastically to Harper for an lbw against Dwayne Bravo. Harper said not out. Giles looked peeved.

Hawkeye suggested that the ball would have hit the stumps. Ungenerous spectators decided that, after his fraught Friday, Harper would give nothing yesterday, no matter how good the shout.

Then Richie Benaud pointed out that Bravo had taken a long stride down the pitch, and, having done so, could not have been given out. Harper was correct. Hawkeye was wrong. After Lloyd had spoken at Lord's last week, Channel 4's Mark Nicholas startled his audience by saying that he would not rely on Hawkeye. He never advertised Hawkeye when it breaks down, but, since one of the six cameras sometimes fails, no umpire can rely wholly on technological back-up. "The TV people are the first to tell us that," says McClements.

The ICC are not resisting change. In the Champions' Trophy in September, TV umpires will call no-balls, leaving the umpire free to concentrate on what is happening at the batsman's end. "We don't rule anything out," says McClements, "but we want the game to be umpired by humans. We're not going to use the technology to change the way the game's played."

Lloyd would like players to share responsibility: "There is too much unnecessary posturing on the field, and I regret to say not enough honesty in acknowledging dismissals... and thus helping the umpires who they too easily criticise if they believe they have suffered a bad decision."

On two occasions yesterday Giles, the keeper and the short-legs shouted loud for bat-pad catches. Harper was the umpire and both times he said not out. Giles glared at Harper. He had no reason to. TV replays showed that Harper was right both times, though that does not make Brian Lara feel any better, and the argument remains to be clinched - by either side.

News
people
News
people
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes