Marcus Hook’s Surrey CCC column: Disciplinary process needs a rethink

BY MARCUS HOOK

Umpires do an impossible job and the majority of them do it incredibly well. What really makes a difference is most of them are ex-pros.

Very occasionally, you see some debatable decisions. But the one Mark Stoneman copped at Scarborough on Monday, just after reaching his hundred, has to be right up there in terms of howlers.

You might wonder why, given there were no historionics from Stoneman, it should even be questioned. But because Stoneman was reprimanded in the corresponding fixture last year, he couldn’t risk Surrey being slapped with a points deduction.

Penalties remain in force for a period of 24 calendar months and the totting-up process could, according to the ECB’s regulations, result in a county being docked 16 points should a number of their players transgress.

I would wipe the disciplinary slate clean at the end of each year, rather than have the threat of more far-reaching action hanging over a player and a team.

Michael Holding was recently criticised for describing the umpiring in the Australia v West Indies World Cup clash as “atrocious”. Anyone watching the game wouldn’t disagree with the former West Indian fast bowler, especially with four dismissals being overturned on review.

County cricket isn’t in a position, yet, to bring in the Decision Review System (often referred to as DRS). However, the ECB’s website uploads clips of every dismissal from every championship game within just a few minutes. So, technologically, we are heading that way.

The replay of Stoneman being caught behind off Duanne Olivier showed, clearly, the ball was nowhere near the bat or the batsman’s gloves. To quote the official ECB match report: “the deflection may well have been off his right sweatband rather than his glove.”

Like me, Holding is a huge American Football fan. County cricket could take a number of leaves out of the NFL’s book, starting with the way officials are assessed.

The NFL’s officiating department meticulously reviews every official’s performance, by watching back every play from every game.

The top officials and crews are rewarded with the ultimate recognition – the privilege and responsibility of working a play-off game. The very best get to referee in the Super Bowl.

Perhaps the ECB should look at introducing something similar, thus ensuring that the best umpires get to umpire the biggest games.

Right now, every game in Division One seems to be a big game. Eyebrows have been raised at the downturn in Surrey’s form, but injuries have definitely had a knock on effect.

Also, from what I’ve seen, all the other teams have sat down and come up with a game plan that gets the very best out of their resources.

Just look at the two promoted sides. Who would have thought a year ago, while they were plying their trade in the second division, that Warwickshire’s Dominic Sibley and Kent’s Zak Crawley would be two of the names now being talked about in terms of who should open for England in the upcoming Ashes?

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