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Did Umpire's Decision Taint United Chargers' Victory?

By Sam Sooppersaud

Sept. 25th, 2009
This is the million dollar question reverberating in some people's heads at this time: the spectators who were present at the game and witnessed what took place, team officials, and players alike. Even crickets lovers who heard of this incident are debating the merits of one umpire's decision that may have well shifted the pendulum of victory. This all took place at the new Canarsie Cricket Ground, 80th Street and Seaview Avenue, Brooklyn, NY on Saturday, September 19, 2009. The game was the finals of the new New York Premier League (NYPL) and featuring United Chargers and Cricket Zone Enforcers – a game showcased in front of a packed crowd noisily encouraging their respective team.

Many who were at the park believed that as errant decision made by an umpire may have been the deciding factor in the outcome of the game. These include players and officials from both teams. Even many from the crowd supporting the team in whose favor the decision was made, were convinced that it was a wrong one. Now enough of the suspense. Let me get to the specifics.

United Chargers took first strike and as usual sent in their ace openers Glen Hall and Carl Wright. From the word 'go', they set about dissecting the Enforcers' bowling attack. With the score in the fifties uncertainty and mayhem showed its ugly heads. Paceman B. Blackwood bowled a short pitched ball outside of the off stump to Hall. The batsman had a mighty heave but only succeeded in getting a slight touch. The ball flew low and hard to the wicketkeeper Vishal Nagamootoo. The 'keeper dove full length to his right and with outstretched hands came up with the ball. "Howzat," was the shout, to which Umpire Nestfield immediately raised his right hand with the second finger pointed skyward. Sure indication that the batsman was out. Definitive judgment on the umpire's part that the wicketkeeper had taken a clean catch.

What happened from there on was a stunner. The batsman Glen Hall stood his ground. He turned and looked at the square-leg umpire Fitzroy Hayles, the non-ruling umpire during that play. (I later learnt that Hall had told the umpire that the ball was not taken cleanly by the 'keeper). Umpire Hayles without even looking at Umpire Nesfield shook his head from right to left indicating dissent to the ruling umpire's decision. On seeing this, Nestfield crossed his hands over his chest, the signal which is interpreted to mean that an umpire has negated a decision just made. Umpire Nestfield then ruled the batsman "not out," to the surprise and chagrin of some of the spectators, players, and even some opposing players.

The game was held up for a while during which time there were several discussions among the umpires, the umpires and the players, the batsmen and the players and the umpires, and so on and so forth..... In the end, the final decision of umpire Nestfield stood. Hall was not out. There was a loud murmur in the crowd. Even some of the spectators supporting the United Chargers were saying that the batsman should have been given out. The "beef" was that Umpire Hayles was not solicited for an opinion and had no cause to give any. Umpire Nestfield in the immediacy of signaling the batsman out, was in essence saying, "I am convinced that it was a clean catch." Why then did he change his decision? Is it a case of not wanting to step on the toes of a 'higher-up' umpire? Fitzroy Hayles is the President of United States of America Cricket Umpires Association. I leave that to you, the readers to ponder.

Yes, umpires are there to ensure fair play, and they are to do their very best to adhere to such an ethic. However, like the players, umpires are also governed by the Laws of Cricket. When and how can a non-ruling umpire get involved in a decision not within his jurisdiction? Let me quote from Tom Smith's "New Cricket Umpiring and Scoring," Cricket Law # 3.1 - The Umpires. A summarization given at the end of the subsection says this: "an umpire must adjudicate on matters within his jurisdiction. He is also required to offer support to his colleague whenever requested or required." End of quote.

Now let me give my interpretation of this Law #3. "An umpire must adjudicate on matters within his jurisdiction." The meaning of this statement, I think, is clear and needs no further explanation. Yes, he is “required to offer support to his colleague," but, and this is a big but, "whenever requested or required." Umpire Nestfield did not request help from Umpire Hayles. Neither did he require any help. In making his decision immediately after the appeal went up, Umpire Nestfield is saying in essence, "I'm sure that the batsman is out and I need no help from the other umpire."

Why then did Umpire Hayles step in, unrequested and unrequired? I have no idea. I am just reporting what I saw and heard transpired. You make the call!

By the way, Glen Hall was 26 when this controversy arose. He went on to score 77 runs; 51 runs scored after he was ruled not out. Cricket Zone Enforcers lost the match by 42 runs. Could the result of the match have been different had not this umpiring debacle occurred? You do the math. What's your opinion? I would like to know.

I invite comments from readers on this article. I take no offence to comments that oppose my views, once they are made in a civil, non-confrontational, and non-abusive manner. Please feel obliged to make your comments fully and freely. Please don't wait until you see me personally and then "throw the book at me." Send your comments to Ssamrajs@verizon.net ; other readers want to know what are your thoughts.

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