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Cricket News & Views

Ponting rants for subdued Australia

THE futility of Ricky Ponting's argument with the umpires on the second day of the fourth Test in Melbourne was clear. Australia's captain did not seem to know that the burden of proof rested with the referring party for the third umpire to overturn an on-field decison.

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Only wicketkeeper Brad Haddin seemed to think there had been a nick off Kevin Pietersen's inside edge. The slips suspected nothing and the bowler Ryan Harris did not appeal. Yet when Hot Spot and the other electronic gadgetry detected nothing, as expected, Ponting claimed there had been a mistake.

England were taking a grip on the game, and the foul-mouthers were exposed as piss and wind. Peter Siddle escaped Cricket Australia censure for his cowardly 'send-off' abuse of Matt Prior after his dismissal in Perth, where Mitchell Johnson's sledging antics went close to unacceptable. So what were the bully boy posers saying while England built up a huge first-innings lead in Melbourne? They were quieter.

Siddle, the only Aussie success in the match at this stage, decided to project his personality to the umpires after the Pietersen decision before Ponting argued long and hard and later copped a heavy fine from the ICC after umpires Aleem Dar and Tony Hill reported him for breaching the Code of Conduct forbidding players from "arguing or entering into a prolonged discussion with the umpire about his decision".

The ICC said in a statement: "Ponting pleaded guilty to the charge, and as such under the provisions of the code the matter was determined by Ranjan Madugalle of the Emirates Elite Panel of ICC match referee without the need for a full hearing. The match referee imposed a fine equivalent to 40 per cent of the player’s match fee."

Explaining his decision, Madugalle said: "Ricky’s actions as captain of his country were unacceptable. A captain is expected to set the example and not get involved in a prolonged discussion with the on-field umpires and question their decision.

"While pleading guilty to the charge, Ricky understood that the discussion went far too long. He apologised for his action and stated that he has nothing but respect for the umpires and that his on-field actions were not intended to show disrespect to Aleem Dar or Tony Hill."

Australian cricket, post Warne and McGrath, is in a dreadful state -- there is little pedigree among the upper order batsmen apart from Ponting and no decent spinner in the country. The pace bowling looked no better than workmanlike on Melbourne's flat pitch. Nevertheless a drawn series remained possible with the final Test at Sydney to play, an outcome against this shower that would reflect poorly on English cricket, Ashes or not.

Posted by Charlie Randall
27/12/2010 14:53:42

MCC rein in boundary acrobatics

SOME laws of cricket have been amended today to counter a trend of gamesmanship, and one spectacular aspect of the Indian Premier League has been whacked into the shrubbery.

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The sight of boundary fielders in the IPL turning seemingly certain sixes into catches will become rarer now that the Laws define the legality of certain fielding tactics. The MCC, custodians of the Laws, announced eight changes today, including a new 'bad light' convention, tougher penalties on pitch scuffing and restrictions on the sort of boundary acrobatics seen in Twenty20 cricket.

The Laws, a fourth edition of the 2000 code, now state that a fielder’s first contact with the ball must be within the boundary or, if he is airborne, his last contact with the ground must be within the field of play. Knocking 'sixes' back into play for a colleague to catch or gather cannot be done jumping from outside the boundary. The fielder may subsequently step outside the rope, but a four or six will be scored, as to be expected, if he makes further contact with the ball while still grounded outside the boundary.

Umpires will now be the sole arbiters of whether play should continue in poor light, as has been the case in first class cricket regulations. "The batting side will no longer have any say in the decision, which was often made for tactical reasons," the MCC said.

At the toss at least one umpire will be required to attend, and the winning captain must notify his counterpart of his decision to bat or field immediately. "Previously, captains could wait until 10 minutes before the start of the game, but in some cases this was being exploited to the losing side’s disadvantage – and therefore contravened the Spirit of Cricket," the MCC said.

Other Law changes aimed at achieving more fairness between the teams include giving batsmen who damage the pitch only one warning before penalty runs are issued, rather than two – to mirror the punishment for fielders. Bowlers are prevented from delivering the ball with their front foot beyond an imaginary line between the middle stumps, releasing the ball as though they were bowling round the wicket.

Bowlers are forbidden to bowl the ball into the ground to a team-mate, which damages the ball and may waste time. Fielders will no longer be able to practise with a twelfth man or coach outside the boundary during a game, as this affords them an opportunity to prepare that is not granted to the batsmen in the middle.

The two final Law changes deal with very rare forms of dismissal. Law 28.1 has been amended so, if a batsman’s bat breaks in the act of playing a shot and the broken part of the bat hits the stumps, he will now be out. A new sub-section has been added to Law 29.1 to protect a batsman who is well in his ground – for example a sprinting batsman who has run past his stumps, but whose feet and bat happen to be in the air as the bails are removed. He will now be deemed to be in.

To explain the Law changes, MCC have produced a video with clips of international and MCC Young Cricketers illustrating both legal and illegal practices.

Posted by Charlie Randall
30/09/2010 16:00:18

Umpire Gould set for the Italian job

THE English international umpire Ian Gould is Italy-bound this week to officiate in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League Division Four, the pathway to World Cup qualification for minor countries.

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The tournament starts in Bologna on Saturday, with Gould adding experience to the umpiring panel and David Jukes acting as referee. Tension can boil over in these events, and the Division Five tournament in Nepal was scarred by serious crowd trouble. The United States and Nepal were promoted and compete in Division Four alongside Italy, Cayman Islands, Argentina and Tanzania on Aug 14-21.

Two sides will be promoted as they push towards inclusion in the ICC World Cup 2015. The Division Three tournament is to be held in Hong Kong in January 2011.

Commenting on the upcoming tournament Steve Massiah, the American captain, said: "We have good knowledge of Nepal, who we played against in February, and also Cayman Islands and Argentina, whom we have regularly played, including as recently as May in ICC Americas Division One and we beat them on both occasions. The other two teams we don’t know so well, but I’m confident we’re prepared and ready to continue moving up the World Cricket League ladder."

This will be the first global ICC event to be hosted in Italy. Matches will be played at three venues in the Bologna area at Pianoro, Medicina and Bologna.

WCL Division Four schedule

Aug 14: United States v Nepal (Pianoro); Italy v Cayman Islands (Medicina); Tanzania v Argentina (Bologna)

Aug 15: Italy v Nepal (Pianoro); Argentina v Cayman Islands (Medicina); United States v Tanzania (Bologna)

Aug 16: Rest/Reserve Day

Aug 17: Italy v Argentina (Pianoro); Nepal v Tanzania (Medicina); United States v Cayman Islands (Bologna)

Aug 18: Cayman Islands v Tanzania (Pianoro); Italy v United States (Medicina); Nepal v Argentina (Bologna)

Aug 19: Rest/Reserve Day

Aug 20: United States v Argentina (Pianoro); Cayman Islands v Nepal (Medicina); Tanzania v Italy (Bologna)

Aug 21: Final (Pianoro); third/fourth play-off (Medicina); fifth/sixth play-off (Bologna)

ARGENTINA: Esteban MacDermott (capt), Grant Dugmore, Agustin Casime, Alejandro Ferguson, Pablo Ferguson, Donald Forrester, Tomas Francis, Carlos Gibson, Diego Lord, Lucas Paterlini, Matias Paterlini, Pablo Ryan, Gary Savage, Martin Siri.

CAYMAN ISLANDS: Saheed Mohamed (capt), Pearson Best, Ryan Bovell, Kervin Ebanks, Paul Chin, Marlon Byran, Ricardo Roach, Jaylon Linton, Abali Hoilett, Conroy Wright, Alassandra Morris, Kevin Bazil, Ramon Sealy, Ronald Ebanks.

ITALY: Alessandro Bonora (capt), Roshendra Suroshan Abewickrama, Din Alaud, Dilan Shameera Fernando Arsakulasuriya, Damien Crowley, Gayashan Ranga de Silva Munasinghe, Thushara Achintha Kurukulasuriya, Damian Muthunamagonnage Fernando, Andrew Northcoste, Nicholas Northcote, Hayden Patrizi dell’Agnello, Peter Petricola, Michael Raso, Stanly Hemantha Samaraweera Kankanamge.

NEPAL: Paras Kadka (capt), Gyanendra Malla, Shakti Gauchan, Sharad Vesawkar, Mahesh Kumar Chhetri, Anil Kumar Mandal, Amrit Battarai, Basant Regmi, Binod Kumar Das, Sanjam Regmi, Rahul Kumar Vishwakarma, Mahaboob Alam, Manjeet Shrestha, Pradeep Airee.

TANZANIA: Hamzi Abdallah (capt), Abhik Patwa, Hasnain Damji, Khalil Rehemtulla, Seif Khalifa, Riziki Kiseto, Kassim Nassoro, Issa Kikasi, Enjo Kiongozi, Shaheed Danani, Rashidi Amiri, Benson Mwita, Harsh Ramaiya, Ally Kimote.

UNITED STATES: Steve Massiah (capt), Muhammad Asad Ghous, Steven Taylor, Rashard Marshall, Sushil Nadkarni, Timroy Allen, Orlando Baker, Carl Wright, Aditya Thyagarajan, Adrian Gordon, Lennox Cush, Khawaja Usman Shuja, Kevin Darlington, Nasir Javed.

Posted by Charlie Randall
09/08/2010 10:09:05

Gifted Muralitharan never 'chucked'

THE retirement of Muttiah Muralitharan from Test cricket marks the departure of one of the giants of the game, a player who made a difference. He is a man with a generous spirit and a love for cricket. And he is not a chucker.

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From personal experience I KNOW Murali has never been a chucker as so many people believe. Shane Warne felt Murali's action was legal, though he was worried that children would copy him and adopt throwing actions. This fear was well founded, and many children, mostly Asians, had to have hideous styles remodelled. That is an unwelcome legacy of this great bowler.

The difference between Murali and the rest of the world has been an arm deformity. The Sri Lankan cannot straighten his arms beyond about 30 degrees. Added to that he has supple wrists and a ton of off-spin talent.  Warne said in an interview with the Melbourne newspaper Herald Sun : "Murali's action has been passed by scientific tests. I always thought it was probably legitimate." It was understandable that Murali was no-balled at the highest level as eyes are easily deceived, but he knew himself he did not throw.

Exasperated, Murali once strapped his right arm into a rigid casing like a plaster cast in July 2004 and bowled to me in the nets at Shenley Park in Hertfordshire to prove his point. So, with his arm immobilised, how could Murali possibly throw his off-spinners and the doosra? The answer is: He couldn't.

The spinners fizzed and the doosra nipped away.  He achieved turn through a vigorous shoulder turn, fast arm and significant wrist action. I watched him from two feet away at the bowler's stumps and faced him at the other end. As always, he could not bowl a quicker ball unless he ran up faster. An ability to fire in something quicker from 'nowhere' is one symptom of a chucker, but Murali could not. That is because he was not a chucker, however much he looked like one.

There is a valid argumant that Murali and any bowler with a kinked action should never have been allowed to bowl whether analysed legal or not. Dubious actions -- the permitted flexion becomes visible at 15 degrees, the ICC limit -- are bad for cricket, but that is another debate.

Warne had a great deal of affection for his Sri Lankan opponent. "Murali simply loved bowling - he loved a challenge and was fantastic for the game," he said. "Sometimes he would pick my brain about different things and, although we always tried to outdo each other, we always got on well."

Muralitharan has one Test left to increase his tally of 792 wickets. Warne retired with 708 wickets. And unlike Murali he didn't have to bowl against Australia...

An afternoon with Muralitharan:

Posted by Charlie Randall
13/07/2010 15:47:30

Fury in the Shropshire shires

A GAP year student-teacher from New Zealand had his first cricket season in sleepy Shropshire interrupted by an umpiring incident that led to police involvement and the abandonment of a match, making news around the world.

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The Shropshire Star reported that a dismissal appeal against Rhys McCarthy was controversially turned down in a third-team Shropshire League Division Three game between Oswestry and Whitchurch on May 22, and play was abandoned in the day's 17th over due to alleged fighting. The Daily Mirror published a version of the story, and this unusual incident -- at least rare enough in England's quieter shires -- was widely circulated by news agencies.

McCarthy, an outstanding all-round sportsman from St Paul's Collegiate in Hamilton, was working in England as an assistant at Oswestry School, the venue of the match. He had motored to 84 not out, and the score had reached 128 for no wicket when he was reprieved in a bump-ball incident when apparently caught off seam bowler Chris Brothwood. An infuriated Whitchurch side subsequently refused to continue.

Neither captain would comment, but it seems clear that there was fighting that had to be broken up by West Mercia Police police officers. And McCarthy was denied the chance of a second league century in three innings. A lively start for the North Islander in England...

Dave Ralphs, of the FBC Manby Bowdler Shropshire Cricket League, said that the league’s disciplinary committee had been alerted. "I have asked for full statements from both teams and when those are received, the committee will consider the matter," he said. "All I can say is that the game was abandoned following an incident."

Posted by Charlie Randall
28/05/2010 10:56:27

Yorkshire umpire seriously injured

UMPIRE John Whittaker is recovering in hospital "significantly better", the ECB have said in a news bulletin, after a throw-in fractured his skull during a club league match in Yorkshire.

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Whittaker was officiating at Illingworth in the Halifax club's match against Harden in Division Two of the Airedale and Wharfedale League on May 1. Standing at square leg with his eye on the batsmen, he was struck on the left side of his head by a throw from the boundary. The blow knocked him unconscious for about two minutes, according to reports.

The incident was reminiscent of the awful accident in Swansea in 2009 that killed the widely respected umpire Alcwyn Jenkins, 72. He was struck on the back of the head by a throw from closer range while ready to adjudicate a quick single during a league match between Swansea and Llangennech.

The coroner recorded the formal verdict of accidental death at the inquest held in April. The incident was especially distressing for the umpire's family and for the fielder Stephen Davies, 29, who was coached by Jenkins as a boy.

Swansea and Gower coroner Philip Rogers said the Jenkins family had made it clear that they did not attach any blame to Davies. Jenkins’ son Paul had told him in a statement that he and the rest of his family also took consolation from the fact his father had been doing something he loved at the time of his death.

Whittaker recovered consciouness "completely disorientated", according to a witness Keith Goulden, father of the Illingworth captain Chris. He said: "The ball was hit down to the square leg boundary, where it was fielded and the ball was thrown in. The ball then hit the umpire on the side of the head, lacerating his left ear. He went straight to the ground." The victim was taken by ambulance to Calderdale Royal Hospital and transferred to Leeds General Infirmary.

In 1996 umpire Judith West suffered a fracture skull and concussion when she was hit by a drive at the bowler's end during a county second-team one-dayer between Gloucestershire and Somerset at Bristol. A couple of weeks later first class umpire Alan Whitehead was hit on the back of the head by the arm of bowler Scott Boswell during British Universities against Kent in a Benson & Hedges Cup game at Oxford. Whitehead managed to call "dead ball" before collapsing in pain.

Umpires in club cricket have been struck by lightning and have suffered attacks from players or spectators. Fortunately injuries from the ball have been very rare.

Posted by Charlie Randall
07/05/2010 12:17:13

England are making too much noise

PROBABLY Michael Vaughan was right to point out that a batsman will never 'walk' again with the ICC's introduction of the Decision Review System. So diminished sportsmanship is part of the price for more accurate decisions, but the England management's snick fury at The Wanderers was misguided.

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Like Vaughan, most people felt that Hot Spot and even Snickometer should have been available for the South Africa series. Cost was the reason for the absence, and the ICC should consider sharing the expense. The South African authorities could not afford the whole range of gadgets, and Hawk Eye was apparently horrendously expensive at the top of the list.

But the fact remains that these snick detectors were not available to the third umpire. So that any fine edges the on-field official fails to notice will have to be adjudged by video eye if DRS is applied. The claims made by England that the third umpire Daryl Harper did not have his monitor volume switched up enough might not be correct, but even if the accusation proved to be true it makes not a blind bit of difference.

What seems to have been forgotten is that Tony Hill, the on-field umpire, was not satisfied that the snick was bat on ball or that there was a snick at all. If batsmen were given out every time the ear heard something, cricket would be in a mess. John Crawley once 'snicked' a ball while batting for England A in South Africa and everyone assumed he was out, but the sound was actually his St Christopher neck chain flipping up against his helmet grille. The umpire also heard a realistic snick noise but turned down the appeal on a gut feeling -- a brilliant decision.

Harper could not have overturned the 'not out' decision against Graeme Smith on sound alone in any case, because the evidence has to be compelling through technology. A sound through a stump mike is not enough. In fact, it is absurd to claim that it should be. However, infra-red Hot Spot could certainly have settled the issue.

But as Hot Spot was not available at The Wanderers, England should not have started whingeing. Instead they should sort out why they produced yet another pathetic batting display, which virtually handed South Africa a series-levelling victory on the first day of the fourth Test.

The ICC agreed to follow up the protest from the England camp. The ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat said: "We have received a letter of complaint from the ECB and we will launch a formal investigation into the exact circumstances surrounding the application of the decision review system after completion of the Johannesburg Test match.

"There is a large amount of controversy, speculation and potentially unfair criticism circulating at present so it is important to establish the exact facts before reaching any final conclusions. This is early days for the DRS, and so far we are pleased with its effectiveness and the value it can add to the game in support of umpires. However, we have always acknowledged there is room for further improvement in the available technology and this investigation will be conducted in that light so the system becomes even more reliable."

The ICC's initial reaction was to play down the importance of the alleged low-set volume control. Roshan Mahanama, the referee, said:

"The third umpire, when reviewing the decision, used a range of technologies that were made available to him by the host broadcaster, including the slow-motion replays, amplified stump microphone sound (at normal speed and slow motion), approved ball-tracking technology and pitch mat generated by the ball-tracking technology.

"During the review the TV umpire followed the correct protocol and as he did not hear any noise to indicate the ball hitting the bat, he recommended Mr Hill to uphold his earlier decision. It must be noted that umpire’s decision is final.

"There have also been suggestions in a section of the press that Mr Harper had turned down the feed volume. It is clarified that the volume on the third umpire’s feed, right throughout the series, had been configured to optimise the quality of the audio, by both an SABC head engineer and the ICC technical advisor.

"It is also worthwhile to mention here that at no stage I indicated to the England team management that the third umpire had forgotten to adjust the volume of the speakers. I had actually briefed the England team management of the protocols that were followed during this review.

"If the audio level had been increased above its optimum level, distortion on the audio feed would have occurred and the feed might not have given a clear indication of the true sound. It should be kept in mind that the TV umpires sometimes receive feeds which are at a different level to what others are receiving for the simple fact that various broadcasters at times use different technologies while televising a match and the Johannesburg Test is a case in point.

"In the end, it must be remembered that there needs to be conclusive evidence to over-turn the decision of the on-field umpire as the Decision Review System has been designed to eliminate the obvious umpiring errors."

CHARLIE ASKS: Where are the batsmen capable of challenging for an England place? Why is Kevin Pietersen (a fine batsman) still regarded as a crucial player when events of 2009 proved that no one is indispensible?

Posted by Charlie Randall
16/01/2010 23:17:33

The lesson from Alcwyn's death

THE death of Alcwyn Jenkins during a club league match in Swansea last July has emphasised the importance of safety while umpiring and the need for the upmost concentration.

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Umpires have been severely injured by powerful shots standing at the bowler's end or at square-leg, but throw-ins can be equally dangerous, as was so devastatingly illustrated during the South Wales Cricket Association match between Swansea and Llangennech at the St Helen's ground.

Recruits at umpiring courses are aware that run-out adjudication should normally be made from the ball side, but they are told that any shot in the V must be treated with special caution and that the official should retreat to the safe side of the stumps. One umpire commented: "Theory is one thing, but it is very easy to forget with only a split second to think. You can easily find yourself on the thrower's side of the stumps and you can then get in the way of a throw to either end."

Jenkins, 72, a much-loved and respected umpire in South Wales, was hit on the back of the head and collapsed instantly. After frantic attempts to revive him, he died in an air ambulance on the way to hospital. The incident happened when the Glamorgan 2nd XI left-hander Rhodri Evans drove a ball from Llangennech off-spinner Stuart Goddard to mid-off and called a quick run to give the strike to his partner Rhodri Lloyd, on 99. Mid-off's attempted throw at the bowler's stumps hit the umpire a fearsome blow while he was looking at the crease. Swansea were captained by the former England A seam bowler Darren Thomas, and among his team-mates were James Harris (Glamorgan) and Daniel Rowe (ex-Leicestershire).

Steve Powell, a veteran member of the Swansea team, said the incident underlined the safety aspect. Umpires must retreat to the safe side as soon as possible even if their view of the stumps is impeded by the bowler or fielder.

Powell, no relation to the Glamorgan batsman Michael, added: "If there is any question of the breaking of the stumps, use the other umpire to confirm it was taken cleanly. Never, ever put yourself in a postion, that you consciously know as a cricketer is in line of the ball. We all know that feeling, so trust your cricketing judgement. If you get the other side there could be and argument you get in the way of anyone backing up and are still in line with the ball, but I feel your peripheral vision would help you ride any blow."

Jenkins' life was remembered at a packed funeral. "Alcwyn as a person was a one off," said Powell. "I toured Australia and New Zealand with him and knew him for 20 years. He was a friend of the players especially as an an umpire and dearly loved because of it. He understood the game far better than many who have encyclopedic knowledge of the laws."

In 1996 umpire Judith West suffered a fracture skull and concussion when she was hit by a drive at the bowler's end during a county second-team one-dayer between Gloucestershire and Somerset at Bristol. A couple of weeks later first class umpire Alan Whitehead was hit on the back of the head by the arm of bowler Scott Boswell during British Universities against Kent in a Benson & Hedges Cup game at Oxford. Whitehead managed to call "dead ball" before collapsing in pain.

Umpires in club cricket have been struck by lightning and have suffered attacks from players or spectators. Fortunately injuries from the ball have been very rare.

Posted by Charlie Randall
01/11/2009 19:27:38

David Shepherd, the unique umpire

THE DEATH from cancer of David Shepherd at 68 has shocked the cricket world and left a void only four seasons after his retirement as an international umpire.

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He was such a familiar figure, with his portly build, weather-beaten face and mop of white hair. His eccentricities, most notably hopping discreetly in mock anxiety whenever the score reached the bad luck 111 or multiple, but behind this he was a very sharp umpire, standing in 92 Tests and 172 one-dayers. He officiated in six World Cups, including three finals.

David Shepherd MBE, a former Gloucestershire batsman, was a good talker to the players around him and was keen to discuss his mistakes with apologies if warranted, as a man with humility. And the Devonian had a sense of humour. Once at Taunton when a bowler held up play by bowling looseners to mid-off 'Shep' signalled wide to the scorers.

He almost gave up umpiring when he was put under the severest media scrutiny at the England-Pakistan Test match at Old Trafford in 2001 for missing no-balls by Wasim Akram that resulted in wickets. Torn by self-doubt he was hurt by the criticism, but it was shown that Akram's rapid run-up and incredible arm speed made accurate judgement by eye of the bowler's foot placing very difficult. Carefully no-ball scrutiny was almost impossible because, in Akram's case, umpires had so little time to adjust their vision from the crease to the ball in flight, making lbw hard to judge too. Fortunately Shepherd did not resign and saw out his full term with the ICC until retiring in his 65th year.

If Shepherd had reached this age a couple of years later, he would probably have continued umpiring beyond the retirement cut-off in view of legal opinion on ageism in employment.

The current international umpires issued a moving collective tribute to a former colleague who was universally respected within their number."Shep was one of the truly great cricket umpires that we have seen but more importantly he was one of the true gentlemen of the game of cricket," said a statement.

"The international umpires will fondly remember his smiling face, his warm personality and his ever helpful demeanour. Shep helped so many umpires in so many ways and contributed to numerous umpiring careers – many are indebted to him. Every time we see nelson on the scoreboard, we will be thinking of Shep’s little jig and saying a quiet ‘thank you’ for having him as one of us.

"As Shep would always say to every umpire he worked with on the way out to the middle, we now say to him: ‘Good luck mate, and may your God go with you.’ Shep may have left us but his legacy of excellent people-management and top-class umpiring will remain with us forever."

ICC president David Morgan has expressed his sadness. "David was a true gentleman of the game," he said on hearing the news. "He was a fine player and a match official of the very highest quality. He will be remembered fondly by players, spectators and administrators who saw him as a great entertainer but also as one of the best umpires the game has ever seen."

David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said that he was deeply saddened and added: "Shep was not only one the greatest umpires of all time but he was also a friend to all involved in cricket.

"His cheery personality created a wonderful atmosphere at every match in which he was involved and he will be sadly missed by everyone involved in cricket throughout the world."

CHARLIE SAYS: He was excellent from the media point of view as a friend and professional. He would readily give a 'quote' on a current umpiring issue simply to help us out. He was reticent by nature,  but hated to let anyone down.

Posted by Charlie Randall
28/10/2009 19:11:50

MCC thinkers fear for Test format

THE THINK tank of cricket, based at Lord's, believes the time has come to implement a world Test championship operating over a relatively short period of time.

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The MCC's World Cricket Committee, an unpaid voluntary panel with many of the world's leading thinkers at the table, noted that, apart from certain icon series such as the Ashes, Test cricket throughout the world, and in particular among the lower-ranked nations, was in very real danger of dying.

According to consensus, a World Test Championship would re-invigorate players, spectators and broadcasters for what is the pinnacle of the game. Every series would have a meaning, and every Test match would have a context. Players would have the motivation to compete on the biggest stage and would have an annual or biannual chance of winning the title.

Neil Priscott, an MCC official, said: "MCC research has proved that attendances at Test cricket have declined in recent years. In addition, there is a growing ambivalence towards the longer format of the game from cricketers in certain nations, with player surveys revealing that an Indian Premier League contract was the main career aspiration for many. Indeed, the World Cricket Committee noted that the IPL is entirely market-led, as explained by its Commissioner Lalit Modi at the meeting."

The Committee reckons Test cricket is not marketed sufficiently around the world, certainly not to the same extent as other forms of the game, and that crucial to its success is a focused and well resourced marketing strategy.

The Committee also believes that a trial of day/night Test cricket should take place within the next 12 months. Trials should be conducted in first-class cricket beforehand to assess the suitability of the playing conditions and the type of ball used. After hearing endorsements from Shaun Pollock and Steve Waugh, who had both been involved with trials of various coloured balls, the committee were unanimous in their support of the pink ball, which would enable Test cricket to continue to be played in white clothing. The committee feels that a trial of day/night Test cricket could bring new audiences to the game, both in grounds and on television.

The Committee expressed concern about overkill, financial imbalance and the attitude to No Objection Certificates. The panel believes that national boards must carefully control the release of their contracted players to domestic Twenty20 leagues.

The No Objection Certificates required from boards for the release of players for domestic Twenty20 cricket are crucial and must be enforced. Domestic leagues must honour the current agreement whereby cricketers without an NOC are not permitted to compete for two years since their last international appearance.

The Committee is deeply concerned that the proliferation of lucrative domestic 20-over leagues, such as the Indian Premier League, will lead to the premature retirement of quality international cricketers. Those from the lower-ranked Test nations could be particularly susceptible to such a career choice, based on earnings alone.

In 2010 international cricketers will compete in the Indian Premier League, the ICC World Twenty20 West Indies and the inaugural English P20 within a matter of months. There will be no sustained opportunity for these cricketers to play first class or Test cricket in this period. The Committee feels that this is too much 20-over cricket and recognises that players might be forced to make a difficult decision between playing for their country or taking the money on offer elsewhere.

Lalit Modi, the Indian Premier League commissioner, addressed the Committee meeting on the impact of the IPL, outlining the successes of the 2009 tournament and potential plans for expansion in the future. The committee was impressed with the aggressive marketing campaign which resulted in a 93 per cent attendance rate in the grounds in South Africa, with 70 per cent of this audience seeing live cricket for the first time. Test playing countries must be proactive in their marketing strategies for the longer formats of the game.

The Committee endorse ICC’s umpire decision review system, noting three particular successes from the trial. These were an increase in the percentage of correct decisions being made, a marked improvement in on-field player behaviour and endorsement of the system from the umpires themselves.

The Committee was pleased to learn that ICC has sought to rectify areas of the system that caused problems or confusion. The Committee supports ICC’s proposed use of the predictive element of ball-tracking technology for LBW decisions, subject to the introduction of enhanced software which builds in a degree of certainty and would still give the benefit of the doubt to the batsman.

The full list of Committee members:

Tony Lewis (Chairman)

Mike Atherton

Mike Brearley

Geoffrey Boycott

Martin Crowe

Tony Dodemaide

Rahul Dravid

Andy Flower

Mike Gatting

Majid Khan

Anil Kumble

Shaun Pollock

Barry Richards

Dave Richardson

David Shepherd

Alec Stewart

Michael Tissera

Courtney Walsh

Steve Waugh

Posted by Charlie Randall
14/07/2009 15:13:09
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