‘WHY DO WE NEED A FIFTH UMPIRE?’ yells an old man out of touch with the game, at the ICC headquarters in Dubai, as he slams the lid of his laptop onto the keyboard upon reading an email he just received.
“Why should I care about the IPL?” he adds, knowing very well that he does not have any other choice. “A sport like Football, which gives precedence to club over country, is inserting an international break every alternate week yet you’re telling me that we have to play slave and make wholesale changes to our sport based on the happening of a tournament which happened at the cost of a World Cup?.”
For the reader’s convenience, the old-man-out-of-touch-with-the-game shall be referred to as Mr. OM.
Time passes and Mr.OM’s rage pacifies. He cautiously opens his laptop once again in the hope that his screen is not shattered, and proceeds to actually read the content of the mail, the subject of which reads, ‘Desperate need to look into the possibility of having a fifth umpire in future matches’.
It is a detailed and descriptive mail sent by none other than Anil Kumble, the chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee, who is keen to make radical changes to the sport based on what he’d witnessed as the head coach of Kings XI Punjab in the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League.
Mr.OM, a person from the ICC Cricket Committee who considers Kumble to be a ‘snake’ owing to the latter’s IPL tie-ups, is pissed knowing that there are being proposals made based on the happenings of the IPL, a tournament he’s never watched in his life, but is now livid knowing that he now has to spend his next 30 minutes watching the footage of every umpiring error made in IPL 2020, sent to him by, of course, his boss Anil Kumble.
Again, knowing very well that he has no choice but to suck up to the orders, Mr.OM takes a pen and paper to note down the details, and rolls the footage.
*Footage 1: (RR vs CSK) Dhoni appeals for LBW but mistaking that he’s claiming a catch, the on-field umpire first rules it out and then refers to the Third Umpire (without the batsman reviewing it). The Third Umpire, unaware of the protocol, only checks for the catch, and not the LBW, rules Tom Curran not-out and makes Dhoni look like a buffoon.*
*Footage 2: (SRH vs RCB): RCB review a caught behind of Warner, ruled not out by the umpire. Hotspot is dodgy, the angles are deceptive, yet the third umpire, after coming across a debatable spike, is convinced that Warner’s edged it, and so goes against the soft signal to rule the batsman out*
*Footage 3: (RCB vs SRH) Isuru Udana bowls a shoulder-high full-toss to Kane Williamson, which is not deemed no-ball by the officials*
*Footage 4: (RCB vs SRH): Yuzvendra Chahal deflects a Wriddhiman Saha straight-drive onto the stumps at the non-strikers’ end. There is a clear deflection - i.e Chahal’s fingers have touched the ball - yet after pondering over the evidence for 10 mins, the third umpire rules that there is ‘no conclusive evidence’ to suggest that Chahal touched the ball……...only to find out later that Williamson, the non-striker, was inside his crease anyway*
Footage number of five of the on-field official ruling a Kings XI Punjab clean run as ‘one short’ is just about to play, but Mr. OM, appalled by what he’s just witnessed, yells, “STOP THE COUNT” and slams his laptop shut once again.
“This is bollocks,” he goes on. “You’re telling me THIS is the standard of umpiring in the IPL?” he says to himself, before realizing that a vast majority of the errors were made by the umpires in ICC’s Elite Panel. Unable to fathom what he’d just seen, Mr. OM, initially infuriated by Kumble’s proposal, calls up the leggie to hear his idea out.
OM: “So Anil, please enlighten me with your idea.”
Kumble: “We need fifth umpires, OM. We really do.”
OM: “Could you imagine any other sport where there’d be discussions about having a FIFTH UMPIRE - a second TV Umpire - owing to the incompetence of four men? Flabbergasting.”
Kumble: “Don’t drag the fourth umpire into this. It says a lot about our sport that the most famous fourth umpire is Charu Sharma, who Indians would fondly remember from the early 2000s. But the others, I agree. Here we are.”
“Charu who?” Mr. OM goes, before indulging in a deep, serious talk with Kumble regarding his proposed changes. The situation escalates, the process is fast-forwarded and in two hours, Mr. OM, with the approval of Kumble, comes up with a statement on the ICC website, which reads as follows:
“In light of appalling umpiring the world was exposed to, in the 13th edition of the IPL, the ICC can confirm that the council is actively looking to incorporate a fifth umpire in future matches. The fifth umpire will effectively serve as a second TV umpire, and will have a final say on all decisions. This virtually means that every single decision referred upstairs will have to go through both the third and the fifth umpire, with the decision of the latter being the final. The fifth umpire will also have the power to override the decision made by the third umpire.
“In addition to this, the fifth umpire will also have the power to interfere mid-match and overrule the decisions of the on-field umpires. This means that controversial wide-calls and disputable no-ball (height) calls will have more just outcomes. The fifth umpire will also be overlooking no-ball calls, alongside the third umpire, as it was recently found out that while TV Umpires called 38 no-balls in IPL 2020, they missed 116 of them due to sheer negligence. The introduction of the fifth umpire will eradicate wrong decisions all-together.”
This release on the ICC website fascinates one and all, but it is the line at the very bottom which breaks the internet. “Click here to apply” it reads, effectively meaning that the ICC are inviting applicants for the role of the fifth umpire.
“Are you an ardent fan who can differentiate between the ball hitting the bat and the ball hitting the crotch? Are you someone who, with the help of split screens, can apply common sense and figure out if there’s daylight between bat and ball? Do you have the basic understanding that a decision can be reversed only if there’s enough evidence to overturn the on-field call? Then congratulations, you are already better than 99% of our ‘Elite Panel’ Umpires who are boomers without the basic grasp of technology.
“We, here at ICC, are actively looking for shrewd individuals to take up the role of the ‘Fifth Umpire’. Apply now and stand a chance to overturn incompetent umpiring decisions,” reads a description, below which there is a google form, seeking applicant information.
The vacant application receives an overwhelming response, with close to a million people submitting their response within 24 hours, but Mr.OM, the very next day, shatters hearts and states that the ‘Fifth Umpire’ will be temporary and that the ICC have bigger plans in mind.
“The ICC are overwhelmed with the response for the opening for the Fifth Umpire, but it is to be noted that it will only be a temporary position. In the long haul, we are planning to let technology take over umpiring, from top to bottom. A seventh-sense robot in the making, named “Big 3 rules”, will process live ball-tracking and ultra-edge and display the decision on the big screen within microseconds.
“There will be chips and devices integrated everywhere in the field, including on the players, to realize the dream of real-time decision making. For instance, the moment a bowler oversteps, the batsman will be alerted by a device which will provide him with a ‘shock’, so that he, apart from going big on a free-hit, can also capitalize on the delivery which is a no-ball. Similarly, bowlers will have a similar device which will alert them of a potential mankading opportunity.”
Will that signal goodbye for umpires, altogether? Yes, according to Mr. OM.
“Sadly, it will bring about an end to the presence of human umpires. The first, second and third umpires will be of no use because of real-time decision making, and as far as the fourth umpire is concerned, there will be drones which will take care of providing new or old balls to the players. Match referees won’t exist too, for the robot, which will have direct access to the bank accounts of all players, will instantaneously deduct money from players’ accounts in case of slow over-rate or misconduct.”
This was certainly the weirdest dream I’ve ever had, although I’m disappointed that it isn’t real, for I so badly wanted to hear Josh Hazlewood yell, “Who the f**** is fifth umpire?”.