Saturday, December 4, 2010

One for the umpires...

It would be an understatement to say that the umpire's job has become tougher over the past decade and a half. Long gone are the days when the umpires could easily and quickly make their decisions (one has to see the earlier English umpires, the speed at which they either raised their fingers or declined the appeal was amazing). Now of course the men in white deliberate in their minds before taking a decision, ever aware that technology has virtually taken over their role, their slightest mistake cruelly exposed before the eyes of demanding fans. And if the batsman in question is a Tendulkar or a Sehwag, then the umpire is made the villian of the piece.

No wonder then, that the job of the umpire is similar to housekeeping, It comes into focus only when there is a speck on the floor or the flower vase is dropped. A spotlessly clean room is hardly noticed, let alone appreciated. So when there is an instance of an umpire making brilliant judgement consistenly over a test match, then it deserves to be applauded. Aleem Dar's umpiring in the first Ashes test at the Gabba belonged to that category. A series of excellent decisions, that survived the scrutiny of the UDRS, firmly establised Aleem as one of the two best umpires of the day (along with Simon Taufel). For me, Aleem's moment of glory came at the very first ball of England's second hit. Consider the situation of the game then: England were 221 behind on the first innings, and came out to bat with just an uncomfortable hour to go on the third day. The very first ball, Strauss padded up to a fairly straight delivery from Peter Siddle. I was watching on TV and my first reaction was that Australia had got off to the dream start. But Aleem was unmoved. The Aussies refered the decisions, and the replays showed that the ball was going a couple of inches above the stumps. Aleem Dar was one of the very few who picked that up. Had he, like most other umpires -especially the ones who do not like batsman padding up - given that out, I doubt that Strauss would have referred (though as captain you have that luxury of not having to consult many other people). And with 0 for 1 with 221 behind, its possible that the test match, and maybe the series, would have taken a very different turn. If England reclaim the Ashes with a series victory, they would do well to reflect on this moment as one of the game-changing ones. And they would need to thank a good umpire for his excellent judgement. 
Here's to you Aleem Dar, and all other umpires who have done a great job earlier !!