‘Careless oversights must bring the umpires into play for cricket’s spotless future’ | Sunday Observer
Ex-Sri Lanka cricket secretary S Skandakumar tells ICC’s Simon Taufel in aftermath of Bairstow row…:

‘Careless oversights must bring the umpires into play for cricket’s spotless future’

9 July, 2023
Wisdom that should be sought! Skandakumar at one of his many high profile appearances
Wisdom that should be sought! Skandakumar at one of his many high profile appearances

One of Sri Lanka’s finest, if not the finest ever sports administrator S Skandakumar has joined the debate over fair-play following the dubious dismissal of England batsman Jonny Bairstow in the second Ashes cricket Test against Australia last week.

In the match at Lord’s, Bairstow ducked under a bouncer and stepped out of his crease when Australia wicket-keeper Alex Carey flung the ball back onto the stumps to have him ruled out sparking a major row.

Skandakumar was the Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in Sri Lanka when it was made up of honourable and eminent office bearers who also valued the role of the media.

The Letter:

Dear Mr Taufel, as you were an Umpire who was held in the highest esteem throughout your tenure, I read your comments on the Bairstow dismissal with interest.

Since it was an incident that raised comments from two Prime Ministers and turned the sacred long room at Lords temporarily into an angry English football stadium, I thought of writing to you.

I am not an International Cricketer but have played the game at the highest level in my country Sri Lanka and also been an administrator of the game having held the position of Hony Secretary and Vice Chairman of the Sri Lanka Cricket Board in times gone by.

I have also been a non professional Radio and TV commentator on cricket in the pre new millennium period.

In 1990 I attended on behalf of our Board a meeting of the Chief Executives of the seven Test playing nations of that time which was chaired by the late Sir Colin Cowdrey. The event was convened by the ICC to discuss the future of the game including its marketing and was held over three days in October of that year in the committee room of Lord’s.

On the Agenda were items as Match Referee, Third Umpire, A Chief Executive for the ICC and a Code of Conduct for Players all of which came to pass.

Thirty three years later, a serious review of the fourth item will reflect its own share of violations/infringements and yet through those sessions at Lord’s the main focus was obvious, viz to ensure an environment for continuing to play the game through the laws as laid down, whereby no player would be allowed to take any unfair advantage or be indisciplined.

Returning to your valid analysis of the sequence of events leading to the dismissal of Bairstow therefore, nowhere can it be said that he attempted any unfair advantage.

He was undisputedly at fault for walking down the pitch before Over was called, Carey was well within the rules and his rights to throw the stumps down and the Umpire was quite right in ruling him OUT.

My point here is should there not be mitigating considerations when no advantage is sought in a careless oversight?

I mention this for future consideration as I note that you are on a Sub Committee for the laws of cricket.

Could some thought be given for Umpire discretion being incorporated in matters as these where no unfair advantage is sought by a player in an unwitting action that results in his dismissal. Unruly behaviour is naturally excluded!

In fact it is my vague recollection that the Players Code of Conduct as framed then may have even encouraged men as Carey to have warned the batsman when the infringement was initially observed. One can well imagine the impact that gesture could have had on millions of viewers: one that may well have elevated the game and the Ashes to a premium level of goodwill, while the battle continued to be fiercely fought!

Finally I like to share my introduction to cricket sixty five years ago at age ten at Royal Primary School in Colombo.

On my first day in the nets, my cricket master took me to a Board on the boundary which read: “When that one great scorer comes to write against your name, he writes not that you won or lost but how you played the game”

I never ever forgot those profound words that one great scorer has long since passed on and those lines have seen progressive change to: “He now writes only that you won or lost and not how you played the game.”

Should we resurrect that One Scorer and ring in the old values?

The current laws with Umpire discretion may achieve that?

If the game has changed in its values since that crucial 1990 ICC meeting, it may well be because we have let it happen!

Kind regards and many blessings in your well earned retirement.

S. Skandakumar

(Sports Editor’s note: The writer is also a former High Commissioner to Australia and Chairman of the George Steuarts Group)