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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Controlling a game

Has anyone else noticed the big difference between the Second and Third Tests against the West Indies this summer and the subsequent First Test against Pakistan?

Unlike Billy Bowden with his theatrics while utterly failing to actually exercise any authority with the players, we now have the likes of Rudi Koertzen in charge of things. Koertzen is an old-fashioned, no-nonsense style of umpire.

Good umpires are barely noticeable during a game as they are doing their job properly. More than once in this current Test, Koertzen has quitely defused testosterone-fulled situations by a simple quiet word, telling the players to get on with things. His fellow umpire, Billy Doctrove, seems similarly in control. Contrast that to Bowden's shameful ignoring the on-field shenanigans in Perth. He stood there, stoney-faced, taking absolutely no interest in attempting to defuse the altercation between Brad Haddin and Suilemen Benn. Ian Gould at square leg, must have been cringing.

There is little doubt in my mind that matters would not have escaleted in Perth as they did, if Bowden had done the job he is paid to do and done it properly.

This was far from the first time that Bowden's umpiring has been worth some negative comment. When he has a bad day, he has a shocker. The number of times he calls 5- or 7-ball overs is simply not acceptable from a supposed elite umpire. Doesn't he know how to use his ball counter properly? Why isn't he checking after the fifth ball with square leg that you are expected to do at club levels of the game? And what's the deal with the silly signals? During the last Ashes series, at one point he was giving such a strange signal that nobody off the ground, including the scorers, had a flipping clue what he was on about. Sure, Bowden was mildly amusing and different when he first appeared on the scene but his theatrics have become just so tired, boring and irritating.

Being a character is fine. Consider the likes of Harold 'Dickie' Bird or David Shepherd in England. They were definitely characters, especially with Shep standing on one foot to ward off bad luck when the score reached 111 or multiples thereof. But at the same time they were in clear control and obviously respected by the players. Bird would have been all over the players in Perth, pulling them back into line. Then there was a certain Australian umpire, subsquently imprisoned on sexual charges, who as an umpire would hand out Minties to players. I do not recall him having problems with controlling the game either.

Billy Bowden would do well to have paid close attention to the quiet, no-nonsense approach of
Koertzen and Doctrove in this Test and tried applying the same. Or better still, have the umpiring fraternity leave him on the outer until he has learned to apply himself to actually umpiring and controlling a game rather than stupid theatrics and bad decisions.

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