Bucknor up to his old tricks
The twilight twist
With gloom settling in and bad light almost certain to be offered, enter India’s favourite umpire, celebrating his 100th test. Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid were in the midst of a rescue act, quickly transforming into a match-turning one. Tendulkar had just completed his half-century, with a rasping square-drive off Abdul Razzaq.
Razzaq, in the middle of a disciplined and varied spell, started testing Tendulkar with short balls. In his next over, the first ball was again short, it went past Tendulkar’s outside edge and swung away after going past his bat. As replays confirmed, the ball missed the outside edge by some distance. Kamran Akmal dived to take the catch and appealed meekly, as did Razzaq, protractedly. Nothing came from Steve Bucknor, Tendulkar moved away from the crease and as Razzaq’s appeal withered, Bucknor suddenly raised his finger. Tendulkar jumped as if facing another short ball, stunned, Pakistan went ecstatic and the match took, on a day of twists, one final controversial one. A case perhaps for offering light to the umpire?
In this match, I think Bucknor has done a very fine job
before now – he has made the odd error (the no-ball etc), but basically he has also made some excellent decisions.
This decision today however was awful – but not just because
it was a poor decision IMHO. He just seemed annoyed by
the appealing for bad-light, and seemed to be more and more
unwilling to even consider the appeals out of annoyance
(as the light was getting worse). The Indians didnt help
by appealing repeatedly – maybe just a quiet word would have
worked better. But still, that isnt how one should react as
umpire – Hair seemed much more amenable even with the appealing.
I really do think, give how long he waited to make the
decision (again, long even by his standards) that he might
not have gotten a great look at the ball – and that was probably
*because* the light had faded so much. But, almost on
instinct, he gave it anyway. I dont think he’s biased – he
has made basically fair and pretty good decisions for 3 days
so far other than this one. But it seemed almost that he
was just pissed off at the Indians for their appeals against
the light, and it felt as if he let it cloud his judgement
on the caught-behind appeal. Which, IMHO, is worse than
actually just making a poor decision to give it out.
Relations were deteriorating even more after that happened –
Tendulkar looked unhappy as he walked off, but first I thought
it was just frustration due to the light-issue, it was as he
neared the boundary that he clearly seemed upset by the decision
itself (and replays confirmed it wasnt close). Ganguly obviously
thought so too – he came in shaking his head and asking about
the light before he played a ball, and continued to ask for
it almost every ball. After being turned down a couple more
times (almost lost a bouncer directed at him once, taking
his eyes off and hooking/fending), he smacked a ball thru
cover for four almost out of spite, and then still shook his
head as if he couldnt believe he wasnt being given the
light 🙂 He talked to Hair about it too, at square-leg
IIRC. Finally it was in the middle of next over that Hair
walked over to Bucknor again, and they decided to offer
Tendulkar, though, will have no part to play in what promises to be an intriguing penultimate day. A few weeks from now, jealous mediocrity will crawl out of the woodwork and nibble at his reputation, citing that inability to apply the finishing touches. In a democracy, that must be tolerated, as were the Philistines who mocked and persecuted Galileo. Only those who sat and watched a gorgeous sunrise obscured by a man-made storm can appreciate how close a supreme batting artist came to painting in the one blank space in an otherwise breathtaking canvas.