isn’t always right
|By Ivo Tennant
“Give them the gizmos,” thundered Wisden nearly 10
years ago. Technological advances and camera angles
were such that the game at international level had
reached a stage at which it appeared that two
cricket matches were taking place simultaneously.
One was at the actual ground and the other on
television, often highlighting incidents unseen by
the naked eye of spectators and umpires alike
without recourse to replays.
Back in the old days, or at any rate in the 1970s,
Jim Laker would on occasion pronounce on the BBC in
his dry and succinct commentary on an unsuccessful
appeal or dubious decision with the aid of a replay.
Yet the BBC did not have the technological capacity
for the close-up pictures of today, and anyway, in
that era the angle often would be obscured by the
wicketkeeper, hence making scrutiny of marginal
decisions nigh impossible.
As the years and decades went by, however, it was
apparent that the wholly understandable stance of
officials - “the umpire’s word is final” - was an
outdated concept to anyone watching at home who
could see that, in actuality, the umpire’s word was
incorrect. Increasingly it was felt that, for
cricket and television to have a meaningful
relationship; cricket had to keep up with
Dr Paul Hawkins and his Hawk-Eye, the innovation
whereby there was a pretty clear view of whether a
ball was going to hit the stumps or pass over them,
and whether it had pitched outside the line,
initially ploughed a difficult financial furrow
until introduced on Channel 4 and Sky Sports in
2001. Technology now existed not just in the form of
replays but replays with a proof mechanism, even
though there was a valid argument that this gadgetry
was never going to be 100% accurate and that its use
would slow down further an increasingly sluggish
Based on missile guidance systems, something that
Laker’s generation would have associated only with
warfare, Hawk-Eye monitored the flight, trajectory,
movement and speed of the ball, both out of the
bowler’s hand and off the pitch. The information was
fed into a computer that almost instantaneously
produced an exact replay of the ball in virtual
reality, adding in its predicted path if it had not
hit the batsman’s bat or pad.
The umpires, of course, were concerned by
technological advances. Which one would have wanted
his decision overturned by a third umpire in some
distant eyrie? The estimable and likeable Mark
Benson was the first to suffer, in 2008 when
Tillakaratne Dilshan appealed successfully to the
television replay umpire, Rudi Koertzen, after being
given out caught behind in a Test between Sri Lanka
and India. Perhaps it was not coincidental that
Benson’s career on the ICC’s international panel was
short-lived. Others, such as David Shepherd, were
shown up for not spotting no-balls through a battery
of cameras that had not existed in Syd Buller’s day.
He talked, briefly, of quitting. Benson was to
revert to standing in county cricket in England,
which was only occasionally covered by Sky.
Run-outs and stumpings were somehow less contentious
than lbw decisions. Here, in an era in which batsmen
were increasingly flinging themselves at the crease
in the one-day game, was seemingly an acceptable way
of judging if a quick single had been properly
completed. Spectators enjoyed the expansive signal
for a replay, given particular dramatic effect by
Billy Bowden, and the tension while the television
umpire came to his decision.
There were, of course, endless debates over the
extent of the use of technology as its use became
more prevalent: why a camera could be used to
arbitrate over whether a ball had gone for four or
six, but not over whether it had hit a batsman’s
glove. Simon Hughes, the ultimate television
analyst, reckons technology is always on the game’s
side. “The day umpires are abolished, leaving the
running of cricket to people watching monitors, is
the day it ceases to be a sport and becomes,
instead, more closely associated with the security
industry,” he said.
In 2011 cricket is so reliant on television for its
income that it will follow television’s lead. Once
Sky had successfully pushed for greater use of
technology, the inevitable could no longer be
delayed. Yet this meant that Test matches would be
played under different circumstances around the
world, which was not ideal. The umpire may be well
remunerated nowadays, but at international level he
is under great pressure and deserving of sympathy -
which is not always forthcoming. Dickie Bird was
once officiating at a one day bowl-out, when no one
could hit the stumps. “And they expect me to give
lbws,” was his verdict. - [ESPN]
|Zimbabwe target Dizzy heights
Jason Gillespie’s favourite thing about coaching in
Zimbabwe is that no-one seems to know who he is.
“I’m pretty anonymous here,” says the former
Australia fast bowler, whose mop of curly black
hair, dark eyes and goatee beard were all too
familiar to the world’s top batsmen when he and
Glenn McGrath were terrorising them for more than a
“I enjoy just being able to go shopping
and I get around pretty unnoticed.”
Gillespie arrived in Zimbabwe in August along with
legendary South Africa paceman Allan Donald as the
star names in a restructuring of domestic cricket
aimed at raising standards in the country following
its voluntary withdrawal from Test cricket in 2006
after a run of pitiful performances.
They were named coaches of two of five new franchise
teams competing against each other in first-class
and 40-over competitions, as well as a sponsored
Twenty20 league, which has attracted the likes of
Andrew Hall, Lance Klusener and West Indies batting
icon Brian Lara.
Lara, who was reportedly paid $30,000 for a
three-match stint, has also been involved in
Zimbabwe’s preparations for the Cricket World Cup,
helping their batsmen prepare for conditions in
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India, where they open
their campaign against Australia on Monday in
Assistance from some of the biggest names in world
cricket, and the return of former players Alistair
Campbell, Grant Flower and Heath Streak (as chairman
of selectors, batting coach and bowling coach
respectively), has brought a sense of purpose back
to Zimbabwe cricket going into the tournament in the
subcontinent and their scheduled return to Test
cricket with a series against Bangladesh in May.
Gillespie, nicknamed “Dizzy” after the legendary
jazz trumpeter, was drawn to Zimbabwe by the
opportunity to launch his coaching career in a
country he had enjoyed touring as a player.
While he has been impressed by the competitiveness
of the new domestic competitions, he still believes
administrators can do more to create a platform for
young players to flourish.
“There are still lots of issues here and they need
to invest heavily in junior cricket, grounds and
facilities,” says Gillespie.
“You hear stories of players not getting paid on
time and some franchises still haven’t received all
their playing gear.
“It is not good enough to keep players waiting
when they have commitments themselves. They need to
work hard to make sure players are looked after
because players are the product.
“If you get that professionalism 100% right then I
think you will see a dramatic improvement across the
Zimbabwe’s ultimate goal is a return to the halcyon
days of the late 1990s when a team based around
Streak, the Flower brothers and Murray Goodwin
recorded a Test series victory in Pakistan and came
fifth in the 1999 World Cup.
The wheels began to come off in 2003 when Andy
Flower and fast bowler Henry Olonga wore black
armbands at a World Cup match in their homeland to
protest against the “death of democracy” in their
country under president Robert Mugabe. Fearing for
their safety, the duo retired from international
cricket and emigrated to England.
The situation worsened the following year when
Streak was replaced as captain by young black
wicketkeeper Tatenda Taibu. The move sparked a
walkout by 14 other players in protest against
political influence in selection policies. A series
of woeful performances from a sub-standard team
followed, culminating in the withdrawal from Test
cricket in January 2006.
Although Zimbabwe have continued to play one-day
internationals, several teams have refused to tour
the nation on moral and security grounds, while
their performances have generally been well below
the standard of the Test-playing countries.
Last year, however, there were marked signs of
improvement, with English coach Alan Butcher leading
them to victories over India, Sri Lanka and West
Indies and a series win over Ireland.
Olonga, whose autobiography Blood, Sweat and Treason
lifted the lid on the politics of Zimbabwe cricket,
is delighted to see Streak and Grant Flower back in
the national team set-up. But he believes the
appointment of former captain Campbell as chairman
of selectors in 2009 is of even greater
Although Peter Chingoka - the controversial figure
who sacked Streak and the other “rebels” - remains
chairman of Zimbabwe Cricket, Campbell has narrowed
the gap between the board and the players, says
“He has brought cricketing experience to an
administration that lacked people who had played
Test cricket at the highest level,” he states.
“Now the players in Zimbabwe can respect the board a
little more because they have former players
involved in the game.”
Zimbabwe’s chances of making an impact at the World
Cup rest on a handful of players living up to their
Brendan Taylor, who scored 145 not out against
South Africa in October, has emerged as an opening
batsman of genuine quality, Elton Chigumbura is a
powerful middle-order hitter, while spin trio Ray
Price, Prospero Utseya and Graeme Cremer could be a
force on the slow, subcontinent wickets in the World
“There’s a lot of talent here,” says Grant Flower,
whose brother Andy is England’s team director. “The
one thing the guys do have to develop and work on is
playing under pressure. That will only come from
experience. A lot of the guys do fall down when it
comes to executing their skills under pressure at
“But a lot of them have quite a bit of experience of
international cricket now so I think they can do
well at the World Cup.
“There’s more money in the game that’s being used
in a better fashion so I think there’s a lot of
promise for the future. Hopefully when we start our
Test programme against Bangladesh the guys will put
on a strong performance and show people we can play
Test cricket again.”
Zimbabwe could not have asked for a stiffer test
than their opener against Australia, winners of the
last three World Cups.
But Gillespie is not ruling out Zimbabwe pulling
off a shock to rank alongside the one in 1983, when
a side captained by former England coach Duncan
Fletcher stunned the Aussies on the opening day of
“It’s going to be an incredibly tough game, but they
have beaten Australia a couple of times in last few
years, so never say never,” he says. “Out of the
minnow nations they are probably the strongest team
and I think they could cause a couple of surprises
in this World Cup.”
In the long-term, Olonga believes the involvement of
so many Test veterans in Zimbabwean cricket will
improve performances, but thinks it will be some
time before his former side can once again make
waves in the five-day format of the game.
“The standard is very high and I think Zimbabwe
will find it tough, but they will improve with
time,” he comments.
“Once we can start bowling sides out, then we can
start winning Test matches. But it took us a long
time to be competitive as a Test nation.
“Even with players of the quality of Murray Goodwin,
Andy Flower and Heath Streak, we still used to get
creamed a lot of the time.
“There is nowhere to hide in Test cricket but this
team is definitely better than the team that took
over from Heath Streak and his rebels in 2004. They
have certainly improved, but by how much I don’t
know.” - [BBC]
|Do England have character to
By Jonathan Agnew
I will be surprised if England plays as poorly as
they did in their six-wicket win over the
I do not think it is possible for them to field as
badly as that for two matches in succession.
Captain Andrew Strauss and his men know where they
went wrong, they were off the boil to a worrying
extent with basic errors such as two fielders
leaving a catch to fall to the ground - and then
three men outside the circle, why on earth no one
picked up on that I have no idea.
The argument about scheduling is irrelevant because
they are here now and there will never be another
year with an Ashes series followed by a World Cup.
But they flew all the way out to Bangladesh, which
was a 12-hour journey, and are now off again to
Bangalore, which may not seem far but requires two
flights - it is relentless.
The question is do they have the character to lift
Everyone knew the Netherlands can play and have one
or two players who can compete at the highest level
but people were not expecting England to be so poor.
It will be interesting to see whether Strauss’s side
can pick themselves up, whether this is a team that
is simply exhausted or whether they can make one
last big effort. The skipper does not seem like a
beaten man, I spoke to him before the match and he
talked very positively.
I would like to see Michael Yardy in the team, he
and Graeme Swann bowled very well in tandem when
England won the 2010 World Twenty20 in the
Caribbean, when they looked like a very good one-day
Paul Collingwood does a decent job as a sixth bowler
but for him to be one of the main five, it leaves
nowhere to go and it only takes one of them to have
a bad day as James Anderson did here and you have
I do not think Collingwood will be dropped so that
would mean leaving out Ravi Bopara, which is harsh
because he actually played very nicely in this match
and that six when he took on long-off was of the
highest order, but five main bowlers are needed.
One thing I do not think we will see is tinkering to
suit the opposition, they will want to get a settled
team and get some momentum going.
Strauss was as culpable as anyone when he looped a
catch straight to the fielder when the job was
nowhere near completed. Jonathan Trott, who was
stumped off a wide down the leg side, and Kevin
Pietersen, who got himself in and got out, were both
England now faces the toughest of challenges on
Sunday against India, who are rightly one of the
favourites to win the tournament, and I hope we see
It is going to be very hostile, very intimidating.
There will be a handful of Brits supporting them in
Bangalore but England are going to have Virender
Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar and a very good India team
coming hard at them in front of very noisy
If Strauss and his men put in another performance in
the field as they did here they are going to be
ridiculed. It will be a huge test of character.
England is going to need a much more disciplined and
focused performance if they are going to beat India
in such formidable conditions.
A lot of the players will have very recent memories
of being roasted by the Indians, they were
absolutely destroyed 5-0 on the last tour and would
have lost the series 7-0 had it not been for the
Mumbai attacks in late 2008.
The way the tournament is structured it is not the
end of the world if they lose to India, but what
they have got to do is ensure they don’t lose to
teams like Ireland. - [BBC]