Lack of umpires is just not cricket

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 January, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 January, 1995, 12:00am

I WENT for a cricket match and instead witnessed a comedy which I would have found funny, if not for the fact that the competition was supposed to have a bearing on the territory's premier tournament.

It must be stressed that the farcical turn of events did not have anything to do with the two teams in action, the Hong Kong Cricket Club Scorpions and the Pakistan Association at Mission Road.

Rather, it was the absence of umpires which turned what was a glorious day of cricket into a travesty of justice.

This being my first full season as cricket writer for the South China Morning Post, I was surprised to hear that matches without officials were par for the course in the Sunday League.

It is a shocking state of affairs.

The Connaught Sunday League is the shop window to Hong Kong cricket.

It is this competition which showcases local cricket to the public.

At a time when steps are being taken to promote the sport, to find that the very essence of the game is being totally ignored is downright preposterous.

Cricket without an umpire is like playing soccer without an offside rule (although some people might think that would be a good thing too).

But on Sunday it was no joke to see a good and cleanly-contested game carry an aftertaste of doubt, especially for losing side, the Pakistan Association.

'All credit to the Scorpions for winning and we congratulate them but the fact that there was no official umpire leaves us unhappy,' said Pakistan Association official Farooq Sheikh.

It all started when the Pakistan Association were batting.

The umpires were players from the batting side and there were a number of unsuccessful leg-before appeals.

And the total number of appeals in both innings numbered around 20.

To go into a debate as to which leg before appeals were out and which were not out is not opportune at the moment.

But how would you feel about giving a player from your own side out, leg before?.

As it is, this is the decision in cricket which is most open to question, even when a fully-qualified umpire is standing.

It was no surprise that not one of the 15 wickets that fell were leg before decisions.

The situation became a fiasco when it was learnt that on Sunday six umpires were available for duty.

With five games played, it adds up that one neutral umpire could have been present at every ground.

But it seems that while the Hong Kong Cricket Club and the Kowloon Cricket Club are favoured hunting grounds of the men in black trousers, Mission Road is not.

The Hong Kong Cricket Association must see that every Sunday League game has a neutral umpire in the future - if they want to retain the credibility of their flagship tournament.