INDIAN CRICKET IS FLOURISHING WHERAS UMPIRING HAS BECOME THE STRAGGLER
Aug 19, 2022: The cricket calendar from 2023-27, as part of the Future Tours Programme (FTP) cycle announced by the ICC, has India playing 141 International matches. The International world cricket itinerary will include 777 matches and one can confidently say that cricket is definitely making its mark.
The interesting part would be as to how the various newly-formed T20 leagues around the world will find a slot in this heavily-loaded cricket calendar. The Indian Premier league (IPL), fortunately, has been given a leeway, as the months that it is held in has been left free for it to be played without any major matches being played elsewhere.
The BCCI quite rightly issued a statement that the Indian players are to abstain from playing in any other limited-overs league. The IPL is BCCI’s prime property and the Indian players are very important for it to succeed. Exclusivity is of prime importance to protect the IPL in every way possible, as without the Indian cricketers, other leagues will struggle to get enough eyeballs to make it into a lucrative proposition.
The worry, as I had mentioned in my earlier articles, will be in controlling the gambling, betting and match-fixing that may arise in order to keep the financially struggling leagues in play. One wonders as to how the respective boards as well as the ICC will be able to handle this.
Cricket, should not become a hot-bed for such activities as this would diffuse the very essence of the royal game.
The increase in the volume of international and domestic matches will require many more good umpires and qualified match referees. Indian cricket has flourished in the production of cricketers; however, umpiring is one area that is still lagging behind. The recent Level 2 umpiring exam held at Ahmedabad had a shocking result wherein one gathers only three managed to pass it from over 140 candidates.
The reason for such poor results is because the BCCI puts the onus on the state associations to nominate two candidates each for the exam. Unfortunately, this leads to favourites being sent by the respective associations. The time has come for the BCCI to structure a proper umpiring graduating system. It should be open to one and all and not be restricted through the associations. A proper system to grade every candidate and weed out the ones that are not suitable should be put into place.
Umpiring in the earlier days was a passionate pastime and one could not make a living out of it. In India, at present, umpiring has become a far more lucrative option for one to pursue than it was before.
In the IPL and in the Indian domestic cricket, umpiring has not been of a very good standard. One has a chance of a review in the IPL, whereas, in the domestic scenario without the DRS as an option, one sees some terrible decisions. Players have been strongly criticising the quality of umpiring that exists in India. This should be a wake-up call for immediate improvement. If the very judiciary of the game of cricket is questionable, then the authenticity of it is lost.
Cricket, as one says, is a religion in India. It is played in every corner of the land. The world envies the cricket structure that India has in place. One is, therefore, surprised that just three umpires have made it into the international panel since it came into existence. This is quite sad and difficult to understand. Umpiring is one area that is so crucial in cricket and somehow in India it has never been taken seriously from the junior cricket level onwards. One hopes to see a change soon.
On the other hand, the immediate concern for Indian cricket is in getting their team finalised for the Asia Cup to be held in the UAE from August 27, 2022. India starts their campaign against their arch-rival Pakistan on August 28. This encounter should be an interesting battle as India will be aiming at getting their revenge for the humiliating defeat which they faced against them in the ICC T20 World Cup in Dubai last year.
The Indian team looks formidable on paper, and one that should come out victorious. They have world-class batters in Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli along with three skillful all-rounders in Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja. India’s pace bowling is filled with a cupboard full of options and led by the most effective pacer in world cricket, Jasprit Bumrah.
The only concern for the Indian players is about their state of mind. Somehow, they seem to struggle playing Pakistan in the UAE.
One hopes that the Indian players come out firing on all cylinders in the Asia Cup, a tournament that they have been successful in the past.
(Yajurvindra Singh is a former Test cricketer. Views expressed are personal.)