The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) recently celebrated the completion of the mega domestic season, but the Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) seem to be missing out on the basics. While the cricketers have made the country proud as Virat Kohli and boys are ranked no.1 in Tests and no.2 in ODIs, the lack of Indian match officials in the ICC Elite Panel is a worrying sign. The list of match officials released by the ICC for the 2019 World Cup in England and Wales has once again brought to the fore the lack of efficient functioning of the professional set-up of the board under the CoA. While the umpire’s panel has one member in S. Ravi (his last season as an elite panel umpire), the match referee’s panel has no Indian as Javagal Srinath (the only Indian in the elite panel) does only bilateral series. Also Read - West Indies May Never Return to Dominate World Cricket, Says Curtly Ambrose
Speaking to IANS, sources in the know of the functioning of the ICC panel said that former India pacer Srinath doesn’t do ICC events and has a 50-day contract as he has family commitments and needs to be in India. While that makes Srinath’s absence understandable even though he has done a great job in officiating in international games, the real cause for concern is the lack of alternatives. While India has over the years produced brilliant cricketers, the supply chain when it comes to match officials has stopped under the new professional set-up. Also Read - ICC Tribunal Clears Avishka Gunawardene of Corruption Charges
A BCCI functionary said that it was indeed an area that needed immediate attention as having just one umpire represent the country during a showpiece event is a sad sight. The functionary went on to add how the shambolic state of the National Academy of Umpires (NAU) is a sign of the step-motherly treatment meted out to this aspect of the game. “We are all focusing on the players, but we seem to forget that the game also needs officials to run it. If there are no umpires and match officials, who will ensure the smooth conduct of a match? The NAU is now used for archiving match footages. How exactly do you then expect the rise of match officials in the country? We have nobody to represent India as an elite umpire after Ravi even though the management is pretty aware that Ravi won’t be continuing as an elite panel umpire thanks to his poor ratings. Also Read - Bhuvneshwar Kumar's Absence From India's WTC Final Squad Draws Strong Reactions
“The professional set-up also fails to understand that there is a need to have more match referees in line to represent the country apart from Srinath. How is it that England and other countries have more than one representative in the elite panel of officials? They must be doing something right? Someone needs to do the dirty job in India as well. You cannot just be looking at the cricketers and their welfare. The aspect of handling this side of the game needs a DRS (decision review system),” the functionary told IANS.
The number of mistakes when it comes to officiating in domestic matches is on the rise and the lack of video footages at the start of this season meant that some of it even went unnoticed. A senior BCCI official said that the area needs immediate attention and the process cannot be overlooked. “It has been two years since the Umpires’ Committee functioned. The process that was followed earlier was that the umpires were assessed during the year by a panel of former umpires which was overseen by the Umpires Committee. The Committee members were free to visit and see the assessment being done. All of that went out of the window once the CoA moved in lock, stock, and barrel.
“Cut to 2018-19. There is no Umpires’ Committee in place and when you look a little deeper, there were not even enough umpires prior to the start of the season to officiate in the ‘mega season’ which was an unmitigated disaster if you ask me. So there was a hurried induction of umpires, which itself was riled in controversy since there were reports that one of the persons involved in the process was also running an academy to prepare umpires for these exams,” he explained.
“This situation, however, does not come as a surprise since we now have incompetent and inefficient people parading as professionals like wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are more concerned about PR than about substance. That’s why you have the PR agency fellow having more information than the CoA or the office bearers. The front of so-called ‘professionalism’ is masking the unprofessional and incompetent conduct and actions.”
Interestingly, under the office-bearers, there was an annual programme wherein former ICC Elite Panel umpire Simon Taufel would come to India and hold workshops with budding umpires and officials. That too has been done away with since 2017. Clearly, the board needs to give equal importance to producing quality match officials as it is giving to look after the welfare of the cricketers in the country.