Aleem Dar—Three Howlers and OUT he should be
There is a striking moment in Ian Fleming’s Goldfinger when the criminal mastermind tells James Bond that once is coincidence, twice is happenchance and thrice is war ending in the dungeon. Well! On this comparison umpire Aleem Dar should be consigned to the umpiring dungeons or refuse bin. He has the distinction of committing the same type of horrendous umpiring error not once, not twice, but THRICE!
When a batsman nicks or plays a ball to one of the slips most human beings can perceive the splice of the process so to speak. But not Dar… Not once, not twice, but THRICE. I have a vivid mental image of all three moments.
Howler One: The first error on his part occurred when Sri Lanka played Australia at Darwin on a match scheduled over five days 1-5 July 2004 (though the mis-match ended in three days with an Aussie victory by 149 runs).[i] Langer opened and I think it was in the first innings that he played half-forward to ChamindaVaas bowling over the wicket and decided to leave the ball. The ball hit the face of his uplifting bat and went to first slip where Mahela pouched it low in front of his feet. What had happened was quite self-evident to me as a couch-potato in front of TV and should have been deciphered by any experienced cricketer. BUT, No! Aleem Dar as head umpire seemed befuddled and turned the appeal down when the puzzled Sri Lankans claimed the catch.[ii] Wow! There was no DRS those days and Langer was (and never has been) a walker, so Sri Lanka were denied a good start.[iii]
Howler Two: The second error of the same type by Aleem Dar occurred at Adelaide Oval during an ODI between the West Indies and Australia. I was a spectator on the ground and located at ground level in the Bradman Stand in front of the museum. Australia was batting and had a decent score when Ramesh Sarwan was brought on to bowl leg-spinners from the scoreboard end. Hayden cut at one of his balls and got a thick-edge which clipped the wicket-keeper’s pads and was then caught by first slip. Seated behind the wicket virtually everyone in the Bradman stand it was obvious that Hayden was caught out. But he stood his ground and Dar deemed it not out. Bernard Whimpress, Australia cricket-writer and historian,[iv] was seated next to me and made a laconic comment (details forgotten).
Howler Three: Well, we all know about this one when Broad got a thick edge off agar which went off the keeper’s gloves to first slip in the same fashion as Incident Two above; a and then brazenly stood his ground in the manner Hayden.[v]
Aleem Dar is widely regarded as a good honest umpire. He has received an umpiring award from the ICC, no doubt with some measure of justification.. Honest he probably is. However, when umpires make a series of horrendous mistakes, then they are quietly demoted (e. g. Asoka de Silva and Darryl Harper). Dar seems to have a blind spot which calls his cricketing nous into question. Not only did he make a serious error of the same type on three occasions. On all three occasions the error favoured the home side. Is this a coincidence? Well, Ian Fleming would call for Goldfinger justice.
Nick Pearce: “Ashes 2013: Aleem Dar feels the wrath of Australian newspapers after controversial Test defeat to England”
The Australian press set their targets on umpire Aleem Dar and batsman Ed Cowan after the baggy greens lost the opening Ashes Test by an agonising 14 runs.
Dar, who missed a clear edge from England tail-ender Stuart Broad on Friday, was accused of pro-English bias, with the Sydney Morning Herald suggesting that the royal baby would no doubt be named Aleem in honour of the umpire’s patriotic display. Andrew Webster, the newspaper’s chief sports writer, added that the result, and the manner in which it was achieved, was utterly inevitable.Webster made it clear, however, that Ed Cowan – a “nice bloke, in horrific touch” – and the “major deficiencies” of the rest of Australia’s top order made a more significant contribution to the first Test reverse.
“Of course it was going to be an inside edge about as thick as a Tally Ho paper. Of course there was going to be infinite doubt about whether it was out. Of course the decision would go against Australia. Then there is Aleem Dar. His performance in the past five days was so telling it would not surprise if Wills and Kate name their first born after him. Australia came so close despite some major deficiencies in its top order. They are major deficiencies that have been bubbling along and band-aided for several series. Major surgery is required before the second Test at Lord’s to fix it. Start with No 3.”
The Age, which shares the same writers as the Sydney Morning Herald, used its front page splash slot to complain of an “anti-climactic” end to the Test. It added that Haddin’s edge was more of “a graze, a squeak” than a genuine nick.
In the Sydney Daily Telegraph renowned Australia cricket writer Malcolm Conn also complained about the Test being decided by the Decision Review System (DRS), although the epic Ashes Test did not find its way onto the front page of the paper, with touring Manchester United receiving pride of place. England used DRS to review Dar’s not-out decision after Brad Haddin had edged the ball through to Matt Prior off the bowling of James Anderson. The replays showed a minuscule feather that Dar had missed, but for Conn this was unsatisfactory.
“What a tragedy that this brilliant first Test ended with the umpire decision review system making the final decision,” he wrote. “The DRS was originally introduced to get rid of the howler but in this match all matter of margin calls were judged by technology while the howler stayed. Until cricket finds a way of using technology to get rid of the howler then the game will continue to make a fool of itself.”
Writing in The Australian, Wayne Smith was more interested in scrutinizing Cowan after failing with the bat in both of Australia’s innings. Smith questioned why Cowan, some way short of being the Australians’ best batsman in the writer’s eyes, was placed at No 3 in the order. “In his first innings, when admittedly he [Cowan] was coming down with the stomach virus that had hit team officials, he launched an ambitious cover drive at a Steven Finn delivery so wide it was a wonder he could even reach it,” wrote Smith.
“Cowan went out to bat on Saturday knowing nothing less than a significant score would stop the wolves from circling him, but after having fought bravely for the best part of an hour to keep his wicket intact, he then threw it away on what turned out to be the last ball before lunch.
“Worse, he fell for the sucker punch – taking a swing at a tempting delivery from part-time England off-spinner Joe Root.”
The Western Australian made sure to include the fact that the Test was decided by the “replay umpire” in the introduction to their main match report, but aside from that the piece was fairly neutral. Instead the newspaper reserves its criticism for Cowan, with the Australian No 3 once again being called up for his underwhelming display at Trent Bridge. In a piece headlined ‘Cowan at the crossroads’, John Townsend suggests that Cowan “has one more chance to salvage his Test career”.
He added: “Time is now running out and his place is in extreme jeopardy. A golden duck and 14 in the first Test of the series are not sufficient in their own right to end a career, but Cowan’s declining performances and his identical means of dismissal at Trent Bridge suggests he needs to find an escape clause soon. Cowan passed 1000 runs during the second innings, but has only one half century in his past 13 starts. An average of 31 suggests that he gets out of the blocks well enough but cannot convert them into the substantial innings the team needs to create winning opportunities.”
[i] Australia batted first and scored 207 and 202 (Vass 5 wkts in first and Malinga 4 wkts in second) ; while Sri Lanka scored 97 and 162 (Jayawardene 44).
[ii] To viewers the issue was clouded by ian Chappell as commentator querying whether the catch had been taken fair and if the ball had nipped the ground – though to be fair to Chappell he was quite clear that the ball had come off Langer’s bat. Chappell was not playing funny games, but there was an error of judgment on his part too.
[iii] Langer scored 38 in the first innings and Hayden 38 before Langer got out at 72.
[iv] Apart from several achievements, he is the author of Passport to Nowhere (a history of Aboriginal cricket).
[v] I cannot recall any chorus of condemnation in Australia during the Hayden incident but am ready to stand corrected.