Rudi Koertzen’s abysmal umpiring performance at the MCG on Sunday showed why cricket needs a referral system.
The South African official is in a slump of note. He was involved in the farcial finish to the World Cup final as a reserve umpire, when the game finished in the dark. This season he controversially gave Kumar Sangakkara out caught against Australia in Hobart as the batsman was approaching his double century. Replays showed the ball brushed Sangakkara’s shoulder, and Koertzen was replaced by Pakistan’s Aleem Dar for Sri Lanka’s next Test series against England (the ICC insisted he hadn’t been “dropped”).
Koertzen struck again on Sunday, this time in the CB Series match between Australia and India. Adam Gilchrist, on an emotional farewell tour similar to Shaun Pollock’s, was the first victim, being given out lbw for a duck when he clearly edged the ball onto his foot. Legendary commentator Richie Benaud summed it up perfectly when he said Gilchrist had “found himself between a rock and a hard place, because if there had been a short leg in place, he would’ve had to walk”.
Koertzen then made a second howler during India’s run chase, giving Sachin Tendulkar not out when the snickometer showed he’d edged a Stuart Clark delivery to Gilchrist. There was a noise as the ball passed the bat, which the umpire failed to pick up from the stump mic. Tendulkar, 24* at the time, went on to make 44 which in the context of a low-scoring match was crucial.
Both of these mistakes could have been avoided had Koertzen been allowed to refer the decision to the third umpire. Gilchrist would have been given not out, Tendulkar would have been sent back to the change rooms, and the course of the game may have changed.
By simply giving each team three referrals an innings, the ICC would prevent umpires from having such an impact on the game. If the team making the referral is proven to be correct by TV replays, then that team would still have three referrals left. If the umpire has made the right call, then the team would have two.
It’s worked in tennis, so what the hell is cricket waiting for? There is no room for amateur errors in a professional game.
By Simon Borchardt