Controversial decision that downed Sri Lanka | Sunday Observer

Controversial decision that downed Sri Lanka

4 September, 2022

The decisions of match referees are not faultless. There have been many instances where the fate of a match was irrevocably changed due to incorrect decisions delivered by match referees. The same fate befell the Sri Lanka team during the inaugural match of the 2022 Asia Cup.

On the day many international cricket commentators said that the fate of the match would have been far different if not for the incorrect decision delivered by the Indian third umpire Jayaraman Madanagopal that led to the dismissal of Sri Lankan cricketer Pathum Nissanka. In the end, Sri Lanka suffered a seven wicket defeat.

Perhaps the delivery of such a controversial and incorrect decision despite the presence of visuals is a sign to the International Cricket Council that the qualifications of match referees in the international cricketing field perhaps should be re-evaluated. While ICC has always sought to the improve the quality of cricket, the Decision Review System (DRS) was introduced to ensure fairness to both the batsman as well as the bowler. However, Madanagopal delivered this highly criticised decision at a time when the ICC is looking to advance the game through the use of new technology.

Madanagopal’s decision irked not only those back in the cricketer’s restroom but also those in the commentary box. As Sri Lankan coach Chris Silverwood and Sri Lankan players threw their hands up in frustration as Nissanka was declared out, the commentators also voiced their disbelief at the decision.

The ultra-edge technology of the DRS system allows for careful analysis to ascertain if the ball did in fact make contact with the bat to allow for fairness to the batsman. While the wicketkeeper rejoiced believing the ball had made contact with Nissanka’s bat only the visuals would have allowed to determine if it had. While Nissanka opted for a review, what was shown on screen was a murmur on Ultra Edge, not a clear spike.

“Where is the spike? “I have not seen something like this,” Sanjay Manjekar was quoted as saying on air. Many others felt perhaps the delay in asking for a review would have rattled the third umpire.

However, it is undeniable that a third umpire should be able to deliver accurate decisions nevertheless.

Despite not being a famous match referee and failing to display much talent during his cricketing career, 47-year-old Madanagopal who was born in Tamil Nadu, India was fortunate enough to join the list of 25 best umpires of the Board of Control for Cricket in India 7 years ago by meeting the required qualifications.

Madanagopal often highlights the importance of having played cricket in order to become a match referee. He said this assists an umpire in better understanding a cricketer’s body language. However, it now appears that Madanagopal has read too much into the body language of Pathum Nissanka.

The incident led to a controversy in the international cricketing field while both local and international media questioned the fairness of the dismissal. Digital media replayed the visuals of the incident and slammed the decision made by Madanagopal. Social media was also inundated with posts criticising the referee’s actions.

However, not much was discussed about the cricketing career of Jayaraman Madanagopal. In reality, Madanagopal has only played 33 first-class matches and 37 matches in the ‘A’ division while he has scored a mere 21 half centuries and three centuries in those 70 matches. He had last played a first-class match way back in 2007 and has not played any ‘A’ division match since 2004.

It is also interesting to note that the referee who delivered this questionable decision to Pathum Nissanka had also played in the Sri Lankan premier league. Madanagopal represented the Tamil Union team during the 2004 - 2005 and 2006 - 2007 inter-club matches. He had also played his last first-class and ‘A’ division match on Sri Lankan soil while representing the same club.

It is notable that he had displayed his talent in the inter-club field and scored half a century for the Tamil Union against the SSC in August 2004, helping the team to secure a win by five wickets. Perhaps as fate would have it, Hemantha Wickremeratne the SSC captain at the time who scored 74 runs against the Tamil Union was present in the player’s restroom as a team selector to witness this controversial decision by Madanagopal in Dubai.

Madanagopal’s final match in 2007 was against the CCC at the Oval grounds where the CCC won by five wickets. Madanagopla had scored merely one run at the match and was run out in a second innings for a duck. According to his fellow cricketer Lanka de Silva who played with Madanagopal in this match says he was a batsman mortally afraid of facing bouncers. In fact, Madanagopal had left for Chennai even prior to the end of the unsuccessful season. And at the time Pathum Nissanka was just a young boy of eight.