BCCI conveniently omits experienced umpires on age criteria to accommodate inexperienced candidates, writes Makarand Waingankar

Any selection process is only as good as it can be made out to be. Kiran More made a pertinent point that the system can be easily manipulated with the connivance of a majority. The topper in the Indian umpiring ranking system, S. Ravi of Karnataka, must be sharing the same view after his omission from the names nominated to the ICC.

The BCCI, to improve the process, decided to replace the three umpires and a committee consisting of S. Venkatraghavan, S.K. Bansal and V.K. Ramaswamy was formed to scrutinise the reports received from the captains and the Match Referees for assessments and interviews.

Last week, the Umpires' Committee (there is no umpire in the committee) in its recommendations didn't find a place for Ravi.

As per the ranking of 2005-06, Ravi (age 40, marks 17/20), Suresh Shastri (age 50, 16.70/20) and Sameer Bandekar (age 40, 16/20) ought to have been automatic nominees after four umpires of 50 plus (age) were disqualified. But neither Ravi nor Bandekar was chosen.

G.A. Pratapkumar, who was not in the list of top 20 umpires for the past two seasons, is now an ICC third (TV) umpire! The record shows that he hasn't officiated in any Duleep Trophy game for the past three years.

What is intriguing is the fact that the BCCI changed the cut-off age limit for umpires to 50 but for those who are doing only Ranji matches, the cut-off is 55, and for those who have officiated in ODIs or Tests, it is 58.

Cut-off age

When other countries have the cut-off as 65 for retirement, why did the BCCI reduce it to 50 for umpires to be nominated to the ICC when there was no such directive from the international body?

The manipulative mechanism is so obvious that the first three umpires have been disqualified as they had crossed the 50 age mark though they are well within the 58 cut-off retirement age.

For an umpire to be competent he has to spend enough hours officiating in first class matches. The problem is, howsoever good an Indian umpire may be he doesn't stand in more than four or five first class games in a season which means that after ten years on the first class circuit, he does not get more than 50 games.

Compare this to an English umpire who, on an average, officiates in 30 first class games per season. And when the Indian umpires have requisite experience of first class games, the BCCI very conveniently omits them on the age criteria to accommodate inexperienced candidates.

To specific queries, the ICC manager (media and communications), Brian Murgatroyd said: "The panel (ten at present) is selected on merit and selection is based on our assessments of their career performances and never did we ask the BCCI to choose umpires with first class cricket background only. Members make their own selections for their international panel of two on-field and one third (TV) umpire they are expected to select their best three officials as per their own internal assessment systems. No directive was sent by the ICC to any member that only those umpires who have first class cricket background should be selected".

The Umpires' Committee seems to have ignored the fact that though they may have nominated the umpires to the ICC for the next three years, the assessment at the ICC is so strict that if these nominated umpires receive a report for incompetent umpiring, they will be replaced immediately.

When asked whether he was part of the committee which nominated these three umpires, Venkatraghavan said: "The BCCI never consulted me on the appointment of umpires though they did invite me to discuss how to improve the standard of umpiring after they had finished their deliberations and nomination of three umpires."

One expects the BCCI President Sharad Pawar to ensure that all cricket-related decisions are approved by the Cricket Committee headed by Kapil Dev. Incidentally, according to Kapil Dev, the committee is yet to meet.

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