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
Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Sport
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier leaguePlus updates from Everton vs Palace
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleFirst memoir extracts show she 'felt pressured' into going out with the Sex Pistols manager
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late
Sport
Lewis Hamilton in action during the Singapore Grand Prix
Formula OneNico Rosberg retires after 14 laps
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
News
peopleActress tells men: 'It's your issue too'
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

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam