A friend wrote a blog on the infamous Sydney (de)test, and a line caught my attention:
“[ICC] should also start an inquiry regarding match fixing for this match”
At this moment we’re all angry. Conventional wisdom tells that we’re not objective when we’re angry, and in general, only things that are thought out “with a cool head” are worth a serious discussion. But the fact remains that when there is a rage, there can be a real good reason.
Going back to the statement, what exactly is a match-fixing? It’s when a person who’s part of a contest abandons “fair” play to “fix” the results of the match in one direction. It’s argued that in general it’s hard to prove match-fixing, but what happened at SCG was nothing short of a well-directed script, where not the players but the officials who’re supposed to make sure that a fair play occurs, have indulged in unfair play.
Make no mistake about it, match-fixing is not just “throwing” away matches. It’s about affecting the outcome in an unfair way. Umpires are human. Humans err. But since when did humans started erring selectively? And mind you, this is NOT an isolated instance. Last tour, at the same venue, the same umpire denied plumb LBW decisions after another to deny India a possible series win. So if errors are supposed to even out in the long term, Bucnor should be statistically making errors that help India. The man has such a horrible record against just one team in the world that statistics would by now make sure that the bias is shifted towards the center. Alas, that requires an assumption: that Bucknor’s errors are innocent.
Lets go back a day. On fourth day, Kumble was on hat-trick. Walked in Andrew Symonds, the biggest beneficiary of umpiring generosity in modern times. Kumble bowled an excellent googly which he failed to read. He was hit on the pads, right in front of the stumps. The ball, as hawkeye predicted (yes, hawkeye predicts, not “shows”, and it can go wrong) would have gone over the stumps (middle to be precise). Kumble appealed. Bucknor declined. Fine, excellent, competent umpiring, right? Hold on, the next moment, Bucknor confronted the Indian captain and said a few words with a hard face. Only Kumble knows what was said, but even an idiot can see it was a reprimand of sorts. Fine, umpires don’t like excessive appealing. And every umpire has a different line of what is excessive.
Day 5, Symonds bowls a ball that Dhoni offers no shot to (this was before he was given out for a similar non-shot). Dhoni is quite forward, the ball is turning squarely, and it’s just impossible to predict for either hawkeye or the umpire where it will go. Bucknor rules not out. Symonds appeals and appeals, and goes and gives Bucknor a harsh look. Bucknor, like a Pomeranian being growled at by a bull-dog, looks away.
Excessive appealing? Warning? This man has, time and again, reprimanded the Indian team for excessive appealing. And what was happening all day long yesterday? I can understand split second decisions going wrong one way 12 times in a row as a however statistically improbable probability, yet I cannot understand a team getting stick and the other getting a look away treatment, consistently by the same man. I, for one, cannot say that that’s a fair play.
And if umpire is indulging in unfair play, it is match-fixing. Because, he has the maximum power – more than any other person on the team, however match-winning – to turn the outcome of the game in favor of one result or the other.
So, I ask again, if this is not match-fixing, what is?
If we want a semblance of fairness about the series, this match has to be “struck off” from the records. Pointing and Clarke have to be charged with disgracing the spirit of the game by claiming un-clear catches when the last word is fielders. With power comes responsibility, and as fielders trusted with claiming or disowning catches, if they’re not sure, they must say so. And the benefit of doubt MUST go to the batsman. If excessive appealing could hand over suspension to the players, then surely cheating must. Bucknor must be removed from umpiring. He’s the biggest disgrace to the game. Symonds, Pointing must be fined match fee for intimidating the umpires. The third umpire should be fined for giving a blatantly wrong decision, because he, unlike the umpires on the field, is NOT making decisions in a split second. He has no business making blatant errors. They cannot be excused as human (unless we have a very low opinion of the word “human”).
Of course nothing of the sort will happen. Bucknor will go out of the elite panel at most, or just be moved away from India matches. Benson might get a little stick too. The third-umpire will not even be reprimanded. And rest assured, NO Australian player will be reported/reprimanded, at all. And BCCI will make enough show to make sure that the opinion at home seems “good enough”, and stop right there. Sigh, the match-fixing is much much bigger than just this match.