Carter's Call

December 15, 2016

Here’s something some may not know about me.

I’ve been a cricket umpire.

Two seasons in the Northern District association’s B grade competition.

Before that — considerably so — I spent a summer doing B grade games in the Hills association in South Australia.

Aside from it being a fun way to spend an afternoon involved in one’s favourite sport, I did cop the occasional verbal stick for a decision seen as disagreeable by a player.

Usually either a batsman given out leg-before or run-out, or a bowler not being given a leg-before.

But, as tough as being the bloke in white — or light blue — can be, I’ve never seen a situation that needed me to show any player a red card.

However, someone has.

Plans drawn up earlier this month by international cricket advisors have come at least one summer too late to save umpiring numbers from dropping in the Goulburn Murray competition.

It was noted during the past week that at least eight haven’t returned to the local league this summer — purely due to player behaviour concerns.

The England Cricket Board was handed a survey by Portsmouth University earlier this year that stated two out of every five ECB-affiliated umpires, from county to club level, had questioned their desire to continue standing in the role after a player abuse incident.

The same issue has clearly been playing out in the GMC.

A solution of sorts proposed by the World Cricket Committee — comprised of former players and officials — could at least come into effect in time to shore up, if not save, umpires from quitting their position this time next year.

The committee has recommended to law-makers that red cards be part of the sport from 2017 to deal with threatening and violent on-field behaviour against umpires, fellow players and fans.

So, will the new law proposal actually work at local level to improve player standards — as well as regain and retain the enthusiasm of umpires?

If the game’s long history is any guide, there will always be those who love to play and adjudicate it.

And try to get away with it — whatever ‘it’ is on any given gameday.

Cricket’s a resilient pastime.

And has remained remarkably consistent since a bunch of noble gentlemen from Kent, London, Hampshire, Middlesex, Sussex and Surrey sat down at the Star and Garter pub in Pall Mall on February 25, 1774 to draw up the six original laws.

Law 1 — 22-yard pitch, stumps at either end, team wins the toss can choose to bat or bowl.

Law 2 — bowlers’ feet behind a crease or no-ball, deliver from either side of the stumps, four-ball overs.

Law 3 — batsmen out bowled, hit wicket, caught, stumped, hit the ball twice, run out, handled the ball.

Law 4 — batsmen may wander anywhere once the ball is dead in the keeper’s hands, runs count if the ball is in the air before being caught, and batsmen can block a run out or catch with body or bat without touching a fielder.

Law 5 — wicket-keepers can’t move until the ball leaves the bowler’s hand and may not put the batsmen off by making any noise.

Law 6 — umpires give two minutes for a new batsman to take strike, are sole judges of play, allowers of new batsmen in cases of injury and only permitted to give someone out on appeal.

As Neville Cardus — cricket writer for Manchester’s Guardian in the inter-war years — once said: ‘‘the laws of cricket tell of the love of compromise between freedom and orderliness’’.

Maybe the new laws for next summer will again strike the same balance.

Between the freedom to chew on an Allen’s raspberry-red frog lolly before attempting to get the ball wildly swinging back into a right-hander’s pads - and the order to remove oneself from the field of play.

Being made by the umpire. While brandishing his own brand of raspberry-red fibrous laminate.

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