Covid-19 is a blessing in disguise for local umpires

ICC recommends the appointment of local umpires and match referees in the short-term to avoid international travel in the wake of the pandemic.

BCCI, being the richest cricket board in the world, surprisingly does not have an umpire in the elite panel of ICC. However, formerly, there used to be two umpires in the panel — Srinivasaraghavan Venkataraghavan and S. Ravi. While Venkat, who was formerly a Test cricketer, has retired from the umpiring, Ravi has been sacked from the panel owing to his attenuating performance.

ICC Cricket Committee, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, on Monday recommended the appointment of local match officials (umpires and match referees) in the short-term. “Where there are no Elite Panel match officials in the country, the best local International Panel match officials will be appointed,” said the ICC in a statement. With Ravi removed from the ICC elite panel of umpires, there is no Indian in the elite category from which match officials are usually picked for Tests.

However, currently the lower category — ICC international panel of umpires — has four Indians but only one of them, Nitin Menon (3 Tests, 24 ODIs, 16 T20s), has the experience in Test cricket, while the other three — C. Shamshuddin (43 ODIs, 21 T20s ), Anil Chaudhary (20 ODIs, 20 T20s) and Virender Sharma (2 ODIs and 1 T20) — lack the experience in the longest format of the game. Nevertheless, the trio is under consideration to officiate a five-day game during England’s tour of India in January.

It is a noteworthy fact that local umpires have not officiated in Tests since 2002, and it would be for the first time in 18 years if any umpire from the trio officiates the test match in January. However, it is unclear whether this would pave the opportunity for the local umpires to make into the Elite Panel. Hariharan, the former international umpire, while appreciating the ICC’s decision said that if the local umpires get the opportunity to officiate matches without spectators, it will make their work much easier, because cacophonous noise of 50 thousand spectators wouldn’t be there.

“However, In the Tests, the pressure is created by the close-in fielders making the umpires’ job tougher,” Hariharan, the former Indian umpire, added. The ICC Elite Panel currently has four umpires from England, three from Australia, one each from Pakistan, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

Among the lot, Pakistan`s Aleem Dar, who won the David Shepherd Trophy three years in a row from 2009 to 2011, is the most experienced umpire who has been an on-field umpire in 132 Tests, 208 ODIs and 46 T20I matches so far. The ICC Cricket committee has opened the way for a real test for Indian umpires. Now one of these four umpires will be seen umpiring in the home Test series against England in January.