<b>Close-in:</b> Unsung heroes
Cricket was considered to be a gentleman’s game. No more. There’s a war out there with so much at stake and life for the two gentlemen in the middle is becoming difficult
The unprecedented incident of C Shamshuddin, an umpire stepping down from an on-field assignment shows the mental pressure that they are being subjected to. A crucial wrong LBW decision that he made regarding Joe Root in the second 20-20 encounter in the India–England series was the reason for his decision. The television replays are making life extremely difficult for the two controllers of the game and without the Decision Review System (DRS) to assist them, they are now being put into very tight corners. Their mistakes are blown out of proportion.
This was prominently brought out by the captains of the recently concluded Ranji Trophy semi-finals and the Irani Trophy. These few blatant mistakes could have been easily avoided by reviewing through the live television coverage. The ICC/BCCI should allow teams to be able to make the two reviews when a match is being televised with or without the DRS system. A thick edge or a no-ball can quite easily be seen by the third umpire and should be immediately rectified or else the umpires in the middle are subjected to criticism by one and all.
Cricket was considered to be a gentleman’s game and unfortunately, it is no more gentler or just a game. The stakes for performing well are high and rewarding. The effect of the technology driven scenario of social media and live viewership has made cricket encounters into a battlefield, where winning is the most important ingredient. The game is now not a social pastime but a huge business that has a significant impact on the commercial gains and profitability of several stakeholders.
Cricket matches at all levels, be it juniors, seniors, club or even friendly corporate matches seem to elicit the competitive spirit of aggression and win at all costs. The game of cricket is losing the very essence that it stood for earlier. It was a way of life where one encountered the highs and lows. The team was the important focus and not individuals. Cricket was played to enjoy the sport and showcase sportsman spirit and comraderie, even in the most adverse situation. One admired tales of captains and players taking back their appeal once they realised that they were in the wrong. One amongst them was when GR Vishwanath, as the Indian captain recalled Bob Taylor in the Golden Jubilee Test match at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai in 1982 against England. After realising that Taylor was wrongly given out he called the batsman back. Unfortunately for him, the crucial partnership between Ian Botham and Taylor got England out of trouble. India went on to lose the match, but to me and several genuine cricket lovers, the honesty and fairness shown by the Indian captain made him a true ambassador of the game.
Umpires in cricket are the unsung heroes. The responsibility of ensuring a fair and just game lies entirely on their shoulders. There have been occasions in the past, when one could have questioned their decisions, but the saying “take it in your stride”, prevented any cricketer from making it into a big issue.
Several incidents in the past of local umpires favouring their own teams led to independent umpires. This itself was a huge relief to cricketers some of whose careers were destroyed by wrong decisions. A cricketer just wants the umpires to be honest and truthful and are prepared to take a few mistakes in their stride. Therefore, an umpiring folly of an independent adjudicator was accepted as an unfortunate or unlucky call.
The modern technology of Decision Review Systems (DRS) with numerous cameras and angles, along with hotspots and other such innovative technology has reduced human errors but is also leading to disappointment when it is not in use. Life for the two gentlemen in the middle without it is becoming difficult.

The way things are heading, the manner in which the game is being played now could make umpires job a thankless profession. We may find cases of depression especially due to the stress that an umpire today is being subjected to. One needs to look at this seriously before we have an incident that we may all regret. There have been stray incidents in club matches of umpires being man-handled and abused. Therefore, a major decision of an International umpire, such as Shamshuddin stepping down to umpire a match is a serious situation and should not be taken lightly. England may have found solace in it, but it definitely does not augur well for the future. An umpire should be given respect and the complete authority to control the game, ask for reviews and utilize the technology whenever he feels it necessary. There should not be any restriction on him to utilise every avenue to make his decision. Similar to the way in which the Supreme Court has subjected the BCCI to conform. Challenging the highest authority was a mistake that the BCCI made like allowing an umpire to step down. Now every visiting side around the world not happy with a specific umpire will highlight this as an example. I feel this is a grave mistake and the ICC needs to forcefully do something about it soon.

(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Indian cricketer)
Yajurvindra Singh