From Donald Duff in Barbados
As the International Cricket Council’s General Manager- cricket, Australian Geoff Allardice has his plate full.
Allardice’s main role is to oversee the functions of the Cricket Operations team, all of the regulations that we put in place, the laws of cricket, the playing conditions, the code of conduct, etc., etc., etc.
He, however, comes well equipped for the post after serving 11 years with Cricket Australia in various positions including General Manager of Cricket Operations before filling the ICC post left vacant by Dave Richardson in September of 2012.
One of the key but often overlooked areas of cricket is in the officiating department. While most fans focus on the teams and the star players the umpires play key roles in that they are the ones in charge on the field of play for several hours a day.
With the outcome of many matches dependent on the competence of the umpires the ICC moved to set up an Elite panel comprising the best umpires in the world and also to try and avoid criticisms of hometown decisions by using neutral umpires as much as possible.
Allardice presides over the department of umpires and referees.
“We contract 12 umpires on a full-time basis for the Elite Panel which travels around the world and officiate in cricket matches,” he explained.
“We have seven match referees on contract. They are appointed to all the international matches that are played around the world by the full members, depending on the format.
“Test matches, we have at least two neutral umpires, if there is DRS (Decision Review System), we have a neutral third umpire as well. One-Dayers we have one neutral official who is appointed by the ICC and one TV umpire who is appointed as well if it’s DRS.
While the introduction of the DRS has in some cases made arriving at certain decisions easier for the umpires not all the countries are in support of its use.
One such country is India, one of the most powerful countries in world cricket today and Allardice explained India’s position as to why they are still not 100 per cent supportive of its use.
“At the moment it’s a choice for the members competing in a series. So, if two countries want to play each other in a series of matches then they agree on some of the conditions under which that series will be played and the use of the DRS is one of them. So we’re starting to see more and more countries using DRS when the opportunity arises.
“India isn’t in that position as yet. We’re just trying to get the system operating as well as we can.”
Allardice said that India’s position on the DRS was that they would support its use for ICC competitions.
“They have a position that they have stated quite frequently which is that they don’t support the use of it in bilateral series but they’ve acknowledged that when an ICC series takes place they will play so the World Cup used DRS and some of the tournaments that India has played in recently Champions Trophy, the 2011 World Cup all used DRS as well.”
He continued: ”It is their prerogative whether to use it or not in bilateral series. They’ve got their reasons. They have stated that they think that the idea of players challenging an umpire’s decision is something you’ve grown up to not do. You’re there to respect the umpires’ decision. In the past they’ve expressed some reservations around the technology and how many challenges the teams have. They’ve raised a number of issues but we’re just trying to improve the system and make sure it’s ready to go and if they do decide to use it make sure that they get a good result when they do.”
Criticism of umpiring
Asked to comment on the criticism of on field umpires in a number of the series and what was the ICC doing about it, Allardice said he begged to differ.
“When the DRS is used we get around 98-99 per cent of the decisions correct and the ones that we don’t get correct generally is because the team decides not to have a decision review.
“Our umpires at the World Cup got around 95 per cent of the decisions correct before the DRS was used. For us that’s a very good performance.
“We have series that go on around the world where umpires have good matches and sometimes they don’t have such good matches.
“What do we do then? We have a set team of coaches that move around and work with those guys and we have a fairly good training programme of resources that are available for the guys to prepare for matches including watching videos and reviewing videos of their good performances.
“They are like players they have good matches and they have not so good matches but overall I don’t think the level of criticism of the umpiring at matches have been exceptionally high in recent times. I think it’s been satisfactory and I think the Elite Panel has a high degree of confidence in most of the teams that are in play”, he said.
Wilson in focus
Allardice also singled out Trinidad umpire Joel Wilson as being one step away from being included on the Elite Panel.
“Joe Wilson, he performed exceptionally well and he’s on the Emerging Panel which is the next group of umpires just outside the Elite Panel and he looks like he’s got all the credentials to be a very good international umpire.
“Now it’s just building up his experience under different conditions and giving him the opportunities to develop even further. “He is probably the one from the West Indies who is highest in the pecking order.
Allardice said that contrary to popular opinion, he did not think that the captain’s report influenced the selection of umpires for matches.
“The captain’s reports aren’t everything. We’re always interested to hear how captains view umpires because at the end of the day the umpires work with the captains on the field to control the game.
“If a captain has a concern with the way an umpire is conducting the game then we’re interested in hearing that opinion.
“Sometimes the captains report gets coloured by whether the team wins or loses and sometimes the umpires’ reports that come from a losing captain aren’t always objective.”
Allardice said that there were error and assessment measures that look at decisions that the umpires make as well as the observations of the match referees as to how well they control the game and how correct the decisions were.