Amiesh Saheba offers possible explanation for umpires’ gaffe in AUS-NZ T20Is

Within two matches, the Australia-New Zealand T20I series has seen several interesting decisions made, © Getty Images

In what is Australia and New Zealand’s first series after the pandemic, the Aussies have managed to seal the T20I series in Brisbane with a game to go. They have looked every bit the superior side while the Kiwis appear to be struggling with their batting, failing to get the order right. However, one of the talking points in both the T20Is has been some contentious calls by the third umpire.

In the first match, Nicola Carey had seemed to have nicked a Sophie Devine delivery to the wicket-keeper, but the on-field umpire ruled it otherwise. Absence of the Decision Review System (DRS) for this bilateral series, unlike the England-West Indies one, meant that New Zealand were denied a wicket even though replays detected a nick.

In the chase, Alyssa Healy collected the ball and quickly whipped the bails off even as Devine, who missed her flick and was overbalanced, tried to get back inside the crease. It was referred upstairs and after a few looks, the TV umpire ruled the Kiwi skipper out.

In the second T20Is, the tourists were yet again at the receiving end of a couple of ‘grey’ calls. Amy Satterthwaite, who is making her comeback to the sport after a maternity break, was ruled out stumped after over four and a half minutes of deliberation by the TV umpire. While the square leg angle seemed to show a part of Satterthwaite’s back-foot inside the crease, the stump-mic angle showed otherwise.

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Later, Lauren Down was taken aback by the on-field umpire’s raised finger, after a failed sweep attempt saw the ball lob off her pads into Healy’s mitts. Replays showed that the ball had just missed Down’s bat and gloves but she couldn’t review it and walked back dejected.

While the presence of DRS could have reversed two of those calls, the dismissals of Devine in the first game and Satterthwaite in the second raised concerns about rulings in case of line calls. While being mic’d up in the second innings on Sunday (September 27), Katey Martin said, “let’s not talk about that!” when the on-air commentators egged her about the vice-captain’s dismissal.

India’s Amiesh Saheba, who has officiated in 51 ODIs, three Tests and four T20Is between 2000 and 2011 and numerous games in the domestic circuit before retiring in November 2019, offered his views on the protocols that umpires generally follow.

“When a referral has been made to a third umpire, if at all there is an inconclusive evidence, then the soft signal or the on-field umpire’s call will stand,” he explains to Women’s CricZone over a call, opining that generally umpires are happy to be corrected, because it’s the right decision that matters.

“You must have conclusive evidence that the batter is out of his/her ground; then and only then you can rule a batter out. If it’s inconclusive, as per the laws of the game, it is clearly said then the benefit of the doubt should go in favour of the batter only.”

However, Saheba gives the other side to the story as well.

“(However) there are some line calls – when the bat is on the line and simultaneously the bails are whipped off – and the camera angles are such that different camera angles show different things. If the cameras are not exactly in straight line of the popping crease, you will get different angles of the foot landing or the bat placed.”

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Saheba says that DRS has improved decision making a great deal, even though the technology for the same is expensive. For him, the presence or the absence of the review system doesn’t matter as generally “we get a split second to make a decision and you take a call on what whatever you feel at that time”.

One of the other points to have emerged from these calls was the colour of the bails – zing bails aren’t being used and the ones that are in use are in black colour. As a result, it was tough to figure out when they were getting dislodged, because of the dark-coloured Australian jersey.

Saheba said that in the games he used to officiate, they used to try and keep the colours of the bail in contrast with the colour of the ball. But at times “the colour of the bails is such that it matches with the colour of the wicket-keeper’s gloves and that becomes very difficult either for the on-field umpire or for the TV umpire to judge when the bails are dislodged”.

Will the colour of the bails change? Will New Zealand get the rub of the green? All that would be clear come Wednesday (September 30).