I have never witnessed a more frustrating Test Match then the one that unfolded in Sydney recently. An Indian team, which was battered in Melbourne, tried very hard to come back. But every time they tried to rise above the ashes they were pushed down. There is nothing wrong if your opponent keeps pushing down, however if the person who is pushing you down is supposed to be an adjudicator of the contest, then there is a problem.
I tried very hard to recollect a previous occasion when the game was let down so badly by the umpires. Sharjah 1991 came straight away to my mind but Aqib Javed's hatrick was based on three LBW's and although those decisions were iffy, they were not as blatantly wrong as Bucknor's howlers. And the umpiring was definitely not as consistently bad as witnessed over the five days at the SCG.
The bigger question is ,how the Australians keep benefiting from this sort of assistance. Consider this………… Sri Lanka chasing 504 for victory at Hobart are 402/8, Kumar Sangakara ,playing the innings of his life, has added over 70 runs for the 9th wicket and the Aussies are feeling threatened. On 194 he tries pulling Stuart Clarke, the ball misses his bat and gloves by a long way. Yet the finger goes up.
Or consider this. England, who are 2-1 down have fought gallantly to reduce Australia, in their second innings to 120/6 in the fifth Test at Perth. The one person standing between England and a famous series leveling victory is Michael Slater. A run out appeal against Slater is referred to the Third Umpire. Television replays show Slater to be short but claming that he has insufficient evidence, the third umpire rules him in.
Tendulkar at Adelaide in 1999, Tendulkar again at Brisbane in 2003, Murali in 1996, Inzamam in 2005 are several other instances of umpiring in favour of the home team down under.
Either the ICC is completely blind or it is refusing to look at this obvious problem area. It seems Australia always enjoy the rub of the green. They never have umpiring decisions going against them. It is always difficult to win cricket matches when it is 11 against 11…… if you are playing Australia in Australia the way things are, it invariably is 11 against 14. No wonder Australia have such a proud record at home.
Make no mistake, Australia are a champion team. And amidst the frenzy and the furor surrounding the Sydney Test, we should not forget that the famed Indian batting line up could not survive 76 overs on a decent SCG wicket. Irrespective of the umpiring, this should have never happened. Worse, a team supposedly containing some of the best players of spin bowling lost half of its side to the partime spin bowling of Symonds and Clarke. But it is not end result but the manner in which it was achieved that has left a sour taste in the mouth.
Master cricket writer Peter Roebuck has quite appropriately summed up the match by writing today "It was a match that will have been relished only by rabid nationalists and others for whom victory and vengeance are the sole reasons for playing sport. Truth to tell, the last day was as bad as the first. It was a rotten contest that singularly failed to elevate the spirit. Until another shocking decision was made by a 61-year-old umpire, reliable in his time but past his prime, the fifth day of this unattractive contest was offering plenty of tension to put alongside the memorable hundreds contributed by capable batsmen on both sides. Thereafter they might as well have drawn stumps, as all interest had been removed. Once justice and fair play have been ejected there is no point in playing the game."
A match which had hundreds from Hayden, Symmonds, Laxman, Tendulkar and Hussey will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Therein lies a true story