Tony Becca

4 March 1998

CRICKET: When umpire Darrell Hair walked on to the field at Bourda on Friday morning for the start of the fourth Test, hardly anyone knew him..

By the end of the Sunday's third day's play, everyone in the ground and around Georgetown was talking about the umpire from New Zealand.

On Saturday, Hair raised the finger, sent James Adams back to the pavilion leg before wicket to Phil Tufnell after the left-hander had played forward with his bat behind his pad and there were whispers.

On Sunday, Hair raised it for similar decisions, not once, not twice, but three times, and suddenly everyone knew almost everything about the umpire they dubbed ``Fast draw Darrell''.

Carl Hooper was sent packing when he paded up to pacer Dean Headley and Adams and Curtley Ambrose for playing forward to spinner Robert Croft with the bat tucked behind the pad.

All three batsmen were hit outside the line of the off-stump, and according to many, fans and officials like, and all West Indians, none of the four decisions were correct - simply because they believed the umpire could not have been sure the ball would have hit the wicket. Hair may not have been sure, but in his opinion, it would have - on all four occasions.

Was the umpire correct in his rulings?

According to Law 36 - the law dealing with leg before wicket, he certainly was within his right.

The law states: The striker shall be out lbw in the circumstances set out below:

(a) Striker attempting to play the ball: The striker shall be out lbw if he first intercepts with any part of his person, dress or equipment a fair ball which would have hit the wicket and which has not previously touched his bat or a hand holding the bat, provided that (1) the ball pitched in a straight line between wicket and wicket or on the offside of the striker's wicket, or was intercepted full pitch; and (2) the point of impact is in a straight line between and wicket, even if above the level of the bails.

(b) The striker making no attempt to play the ball: The striker shall be out lbw if the ball is intercepted outside the line of the offstump if, in the opinion of the umpire, he has made no genuine attempt to play the ball with his bat, but has intercepted the ball with some part of his person and if the other circumstances set out in (a) above apply.

According to the law, the umpire, who obviously felt that the ball would have hit the wicket on all four occasions, was correct, and remembering that (b) was introduced specifically to cut out excessive pad play, he was justified if, in his opinion and no one else, be believed the ball would have hit the stumps but for the pad.

Umpires do make mistakes, as may have been the case when Hair ruled Sherwin Campbell caught at short-leg and when Bucknor ruled Brian Lara caught at silly point. One never knows with bad/pad decisions. They are always close to call - television replay or not.

Leg before wicket decisions however, all of them, are always in the opinion of the umpire.

Remembering the number of times when batsmen, confused by tantalising flight, unable to deal with vicious spin, or baffled by the subtle disguise of those spin the ball both ways, simply kick away the ball and get away with it, too many umpires, in fact the majority of them, do not follow the law, and that may be one reason why spin bowlers, but for the very best, find it so difficult to get wickets.

On lively pitches, or pitches of unpredictable bounce, fast bowlers generally enjoy themselves against batsmen who have no answer - many prefering to surrender rather than suffer broken bones.

On pitches assisting spin however, in situations where there is no danger of bodily harm, batsmen simply push the front pad forward with the bat out of sight.

There are a number of fans who are fed up with timid batsmen, fans who remember the days when, on difficult pitches and against good spin bowling, batsmen used to chip and drive, and when the bowlers, forced to do so, pitched short, go back and cut or smash the ball away on the onside - sometimes for six. The really good ones, still on the back foot, would also drive the short deliveries back down the ground.

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

Contributed by CricInfo Management, and reproduced with permission

Date-stamped : 04 Mar1998 - 18:25