Umpires and bias

Hating on umpires for hating us.

Steve Bucknor was a top-level umpire for a very long time.

Like many other celebrity umpires, his talent as a decision-maker was overblown because of his eccentricities. But sometimes, so were his mistakes.

However, there aren't many umpires who survive a decade at the top level without great skill.

And he had a birthday, and Cricbuzz tweeted this.

It's just a random generated message. Big social media accounts do this to continue to create content when nothing is going on. But while for many cricket fans, Bucknor was an eccentric slow-moving umpire, some Indian fans thought he was biased against their team.

Bucknor certainly made errors against India, and I can only assume every other team he ever regularly officiated. He may have even made more against other teams, but that's not how this works, is it. We remember the ones against our team, and if they are at bigger moments, they stick even more. And it's not just fans; players believe this a lot.

My time working with teams suggests that players and teams believe that umpires have it in for them. And let's be honest, no professional is without bias or personal animosity. Umpires are prone to the same mistakes and personality flaws as pretty much anyone else. And when fans - or players moan about you - even if you had nothing against them at the start, you might by the end.

And this isn't a cricket thing; this happens across sports. Of recent times Chris Paul - the Point God - complained that his Phoenix Suns lost to the LA Lakers because one ref doesn't like him.

Phoenix barely hit a three, Paul was injured and played a poor game, while the Lakers came together to win easy. But Paul looked past more obvious reasons and settled on the referee.

Listen to any talkback radio in the world, and you'll hear fans say the same thing. There has never been a time when fans didn't blame the people officiating. It is such a part of sport right now, yet few people understand that much about umpiring.

In cricket - and I would venture, this is the case in most sports - umpiring has never been better. Professional umpires have taken what was once a hobby and turned it into a profession. Technology has not only meant that umpires have access to more accurate decisions, but the technology actually helps train them to make fewer errors.

If you don't believe that, go watch any sport under the top level, the umpiring is often disastrous. If you're a cricket fan, check out Robelinda's channel to see that until the early 2000s, we didn't understand the LBW law. Too often, decisions were made on all balls slipping down leg, spinners got nothing when a batter came forward and seamers never bounced the ball over the stumps. We've come a long way.

But umpiring will never be perfect. There will always be some subjective parts. We can see 35 angles of a run out and still get nothing near a consensus.

And personal relationships, crowd, and bigger team biases affect umpiring. Not to mention form. One of my favourite things in cricket umpiring that we don't say enough is that modern umpires hit the nets. They go down and watch players up close to get an idea on what they do, and they try to get their eye in for the next match.

But if they are trying to do that, that means they are just as likely as the players themselves to perform poorly.

Aleem Dar won the ICC Umpire of the year award three consecutive times. He was an outstanding umpire. But in Australia, he was often ridiculed for being poor, and that's because he had a shocking series there. Mistake after mistake came from his end; he really struggled. One day I did something similar to Cricbuzz and mentioned that he was a good umpire, and Australians went crazy.

How could he be good as they could remember him making a lot of errors in that series. Ofcourse, many great players have had terrible series.

The best response was from someone who said he only won those awards because he was a Muslim, and the ICC was trying to look politically correct. This person may not understand how world cricket is run.

What is interesting about all this for me is that we ask for umpires to be impartial robots who only look at facts. Yet, we are more biased in almost every way when we judge them. it's I ever focus on umpires, but you factor that into your analysis. Umpires make errors, just like all those dropped catches and poor shots the players make.

Anyway, on a completely unrelated note, here is some footage of Steve Bucknor giving out Nasser Hussain LBW to Saqlain Mushtaq off the middle of the bat.