Nobody, not Mumbai Indians, not Royal Challengers Bangalore, and not the fans in India, deserved to go to bed late on Thursday with a bitter taste in the mouth.
For three and a half hours, the teams were engaged in a high-octane, no holds barred battle at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. It had all the elements of a dramatic Twenty20 game, including a nail-biting last-ball finish. All that slipped into nothingness when we were shown replays of the last ball – Lasith Malinga had bowled a no-ball and umpire S Ravi had not called it.
For everyone concerned, it was like being on a high after an emotional roller-coaster when reading a book or watching a movie only for all of those to be deflated in a fleeting second by being told that the printer had not included two crucial pages of the finale or the producer had clipped a few critical seconds at the climax. They were robbed of all emotions, but shock and disdain.
In a game where the match officials are deemed to have had a great time when they remain in the penumbra and let the contest between bat and cricket ball take centerstage, it is a travesty when an umpire’s decision or mistake becomes the focal point. It does take some doing, after all, to steal Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers or Jasprit Bumrah’s thunder.
With rich technology available, it should have been possible to ensure that the umpiring error, critical to the outcome of the game, was corrected quickly. If Andre Russell could be asked to return to the crease with the aid of technology after it was found that Kings XI Punjab had only three fielders inside the circle, surely the TV umpire could have stepped in on Thursday as well.
Cricket officials’ keenness not to slow the game down with too many interruptions is understandable but a Twenty20 tournament that does not hesitate to include breaks, fashionably called Strategic Time Out, can surely afford a small lapse of time to check for small things like a no-ball, especially in crucial moments.
It is a pity that most conversations have been about what did not happen rather than about the intense battle that the teams laid out for fans in the M Chinnaswamy Stadium and those glued to the screens of varying sizes. Not surprisingly, the two captains threw caution to the wind and expressed themselves unhesitatingly.
“We are playing at IPL level, not club cricket,” Virat Kohli said. “That’s just a ridiculous call off the last ball. The umpires should have their eyes open, it was a no-ball by an inch. It [would have been] a completely different game altogether. So, if it’s a game of margins, I don’t know what’s happening. They should have been sharper and more careful out there.”
Rohit Sharma could not but agree. “These kinds of mistakes are not good for the game. The over before that [Jaspirt] Bumrah bowled a ball which wasn’t a wide but it was called. You have to watch what is happening. As players, if we make mistakes we pay for it. Those crucial decisions can change the game. We prepare so much to win matches and those mistakes are not acceptable.”
There is one other thing that rankles. Should the broadcaster air such footage after such a long delay that it can make no difference to the game but only leaves teams, fans and critics with deflated emotions? Should the organiser, the Indian Premier League and its parent Board of Control for Cricket in India, not ensure that any twist in the tale comes within a reasonable time?
Of course, the umpires deserve the flak for their poor decisions – magnified by countless replays – but does the broadcaster not have a role in everyone being left with a bad taste in the mouth? At a time when the game has been won and lost, the footage of a no ball that was not called by the umpire need not have been broadcast at all.
Those bringing high-voltage entertainment to millions of homes should not be playing spoilsport at all. Of course, it can be debated that the broadcaster has a duty to show everything possible honestly. But just as there is a time frame to ask for DRS to be employed, there must be a restriction on showing footage at a time when nothing can be done about it.
One is not saying brush such a transgression under the carpet but if it is time-barred, do not introduce a new element to devastate everyone concerned. The instinctive decision to broadcast the replays of the no ball contributed as much as the umpire’s blunder, if not more, to everyone going to bed with a bad taste in the mouth.
Surely, the teams and the fans deserved to enjoy the high of a tingling evening’s contest between bat and ball.