The Marylebone Cricket Club, considered the custodian of the game’s laws, did not buy Ricky Ponting’s idea of doing away with neutral umpires and press the best into service for the international cricket matches.
Formal Australian captain Ponting had advocated to do away with the neutral umpires as it was difficult to get the best umpires for the Ashes. Ponting had reacted following some glaring umpiring errors during the Ashes series.
However, MCC has backed neutral umpires in Test matches despite calls for a revamp after the opening Ashes Test was marred by a number of poor decisions.
As many as 10 decisions by rookie West Indian umpire Joel Wilson and Pakistan’s Aleem Dar were overturned by the Decision Review System during last week’s Edgbaston Test. There were at least five more errors that went un-reviewed.
Standing in only his 13th Test, Wilson equalled the record for reversals when eight of his decisions were successfully appealed by the players. Despite the gaffes, MCC insisted that neutral Test umpiring is still the best way forward.
“It was obviously a bit of a focus after the last match. Ricky Ponting mentioned the prospect of bringing back non-neutral umpires and it is something being discussed by the ICC Cricket Committee as well. But the feeling is neutrality still works,” MCC Head of Cricket John Stephenson has reportedly said.
Currently, seven of the 12-strong elite panel umpires hail from England or Australia and Stephenson said the need of the hour is to invest more in raising the umpiring standard across the globe.
During a two-day meeting of MCC’s Cricket Committee at Lord’s on Monday, which was attended by MCC chairman Mike Gatting, Stephenson and panel members Shane Warne and Kumar Sangakkara, it was also decided to increase the number of umpires in ICC’s elite panel.
“Unfortunately there is quite an imbalance with ICC elite-level umpiring panel where you have certain umpires adjudicating in certain series. But we think it’s time for the base to be broadened and to train up more umpires to get to the elite levels,” Stephenson said.
“Overall, we think neutrality does work. But with DRS and technology maybe it’s something we need look at in the future.
“In one-day cricket we have one non-neutral umpire standing and in Twenty20 we have it as well. Maybe further down the line it can be a thing,” he added.
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