Fair or even: The dilemma every player-umpire faces | Cricket coaching, fitness and tips

Fair or even: The dilemma every player-umpire faces

Would you cheat when you do your umpiring stint? 

Imagine standing at the bowler’s end, hearing and seeing the slight nick and not giving it out. That’s cheating.

I was returning to the game after a 5-year absence. During the second game, we were in the field, I was wicket keeping and we had appeal after appeal turned down by the opposition umpires. I was convinced a couple of times that the batsman had got an edge, or been plumb in front.

The umpire didn’t agree.

At the level I play, there are rarely appointed umpires, so players from the batting team fill in.

During the break our captain came over to me and said because their umpires had been strict, we should have the same attitude. Don’t give them anything. Be strict on the wides.

Then it got worse.

He told me to throw in a few no balls, don’t give anything out LBW and unless the batsman walks, do not put the finger up for any edges.

I was flabbergasted.

This is my new team. My new captain and here he is asking me to cheat. What is even worse, after 14 overs one of our batsman got a slight edge and I stood still.

No finger.

I’m still not sure why I didn’t give him out. Then the bowler started screaming at me, opposition captain running over, pointing his finger, calling me a cheat. I had cheated. Thankfully, a couple of wickets fell soon after and I was due to bat. I walked into the changing room.

Our captain gave me a pat on the back, for cheating.

I could not stop thinking about it. New team, new captain, early season game and I hated it.

I spoke to the captain in the pub at the end of the game. I explained it was wrong, to me anyway, to umpire is the same manner as the opposition team. Yes, they had been wrong, and we did win the game. Our best batsman, the person who edged it, who I did not give out, got a run-a-ball 80 to see us home. I did not enjoy the victory and tried to convey this to the captain. He nodded, and did not ask me to umpire for the rest of the season.

I left after that one season.

The lesson taught me that you have to think about your approach to the game. Here are my tips to anyone else in the same dilemma:

  • Decide how you want to play the game.
  • Do not be afraid to speak your mind, the other players will respect you for it in the long run.
  • If you are ever asked to umpire, and you are sure the batsman is out, always give them out. The game is meaningless without integrity. Moreover, so is any subsequent victory.
  • Strict umpiring is different from blatant cheating. Remember, the benefit of the doubt always goes to the batsman.
  • Enjoy umpiring, it can teach you a lot about the rules, how the pitch is playing and the opposition bowlers.

To learn how to umpire properly as a player, get the online coaching course The Umpiring Survival Guide for Players, Coaches and Non-Umpires available now on PitchVision Academy. 

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Interesting topic. My attitude when I go to umpire is that I give my own team as much benefit of the doubt as possible. I am a very hard umpire to get an LBW from, it has to be plumb beyond all doubts. You could say that my team gets a fair bit of leeway.

Ideally, you would want every umpire in the league to be scrupulously fair. However that doesn't happen, so you just have to hope they're at least consistent, and give out the obvious nicks and the plumb lbws. Making up imaginary no-balls is just plain weird.

I've played in many a game with player umpires and you are right AB, you expect not much to be given because it's tough for the guy doing the umpiring to trigger a guy when he is on the same team and still to bat!

See, I may be a little naivé, but I go by the way that I'm always fair, and hope that If I am fair It will spread. It has served me well before, such as in football, sometimes I'll make a fingertip save (keeper) and it will go out for a corner, only to be given as a goal kick, will always tell the ref... and you gain respect from the other players and the referee.
If I think it was LBW , it was LBW.... I famously gave out a player from our first team (filling in the 2nds) out LBW because he made no attempt at a shot when it hit him outside off stump...

This sums up pretty much why I avoid umpiring at all costs. I'm not one for cheating but the general consensus is that you give the benefit of the doubt to the bat. LBW's are only given if they have to be (plumb in front of the wicket) - I reckon you'll probably see less than 5 given per team per season (out of potentially 180 dismissals).

Saying that, it is the lack of consistency that really gets me, coupled with players umpiring who have a tenuous grasp of the rules at best.

Personally I really enjoy the challenge. I like the banter with the opposition players and I always aim to be fair and consistent. It does pay off sometimes. If I give an LBW on the front foot (tantamount to murder in the eyes of some of my team) because it was out, then the opposition players seem to be a little warmer to the idea when they are umpiring. Sometimes. Occasionally. OK once a season maybe.

Can you imagine the carnage if the bowling side provided the umpires? A team scoring more than 50 would become a rarety.

There has been murmurings of making teams providing umpires for other games taking place locally. The idea is that team A would send off two players to go and umpire in a game between team B & C. Team B would send players off to a game involving team D, team C to the game involving team A and so on (or in whatever combination).

The idea behind it is to stop the batting side having to umpire and the arguments/rows that occasionally crop up. I think it's more of an idle threat than anything that will happen but it does put a new spin on things. Seriously - would you be willing to give up one/two games per year to go off and umpire elsewhere for little more than petrol money?

We usually have a central umpire in my league but occasionally you have to do it yourself. The best thing is actually to ask your own batsmen to walk if they nick it. This saves a lot of hassle and arguments. In regards to LBW's, well you have to give the benefit of the doubt as the rules state. Only if your 100% sure the batsmen is out, should you give him.

I find the hardest part remembering all the signals for byes, leg byes etc.. after the event has occured, have had a few fielders have to remind me.

And we actually do play with a team that does cheat when they umpire. Things like nicks to first slip not given out! And yes, the other teams in the league absolutely dispise this team. Lucky they are no good and finish bottom every year. SO my advice would not be to cheat, call it as you see it. And make sure you have a drink with the opposition after the game.

The social side is very important, especially if you see the same guys year after year. If you cheat you quickly get a reputation that's hard to break.

I had a similar situation where me and another guy umpiring had given an LBW each (My one was deadset plumb). Captain came out to bat and says to me and the other bloke, Ok boys thats enough LBW's for them now. Made me sick, i told him hit the ball with the bat and you get no problems from me.

Great answer Bryan. It's important to stick to your guns and have a bit of banter, even if it's with your own team mates. I've been in situations where it's not quite as good fun where certain opposition players have got very upset and I've had to say "Look, someone has to make the decision, I've made mine now get on with the game".

Well the unthinkable happened, I gave an LBW last game, I think it is the first LBW I've given in 3-4 years. Mind you it was absolutely plumb.

I bet the batsman was still gutted.

Well the guy I gave out is a pain in the arse at the best of times, but I haven't received any feedback as yet. He stepped towards off and tried to flick a full ball on the leg side. It hit him in front of middle with the leg stump in full view. If I didn't give it, there would have been a riot.

I like to umpire quite fairly (e.g. try not to favour my own side), and as a leg spinner who almost never gets decisions, I have a tendancy to umpire as if I was the bowler. I'll always play cautious on LBW decisions, because they are so contentious, but I will give them if I think its out. And I'm usually quite lenient on wides, purely because it annoys me how harsh some umpires are for my own bowling. If I think an edge is involved I'll always give it, but you always know which of your team mates are walkers or not. So if I know they are honest and would walk, I'll simply leave it in their hands. Players that I know don't walk then I have to make a decision.

The biggest problem with LBW's is that genuine batsmen, especially the older generation, believe that they should never be out LBW. I've had my own players that wouldn't talk to me after the game because I gave them out. Its wrong that you should ever feel the need to apologise for an umpiring decision, players should simply accept it. That isn't to say that I don't argue myself though haha. But only if I feel genuinely aggrieved. e.g. if I got an edge on an LBW, or got given out caught on something I didn't touch. Players that get forward and then complain about being given out LBW because they got a stride in do my head in. On club turf wickets at 50mph from your average "pace" bowler, the ball hardly ever gets high enough to clear the stumps on a driving length lol. So the argument of height becomes rather irrelevant. If it hits below the knee roll then its probably out. Some batsmen just don't get it though.

I give everything as I see it, in the hope that other players will do the same for my own bowling. It rarely works, but you've got to stick to your principles. And most of the time its good fun umpiring, I love the banter.

I agree James, especially about LBW. I have heard "but I was on the front foot!" as a genuine reason for thinking it was not out at least 10 times a season (not all given out by me I hasten to add). OK, it's harder to judge, but it's still perfectly possible to be out that way.

I also agree about the wides. I often get a hard stare from my team-mates when I give the bowler the benefit of the doubt and keep my arms down. "We are not playing a Twenty20" is my usual reply.

Good banter.

I've had one where an elder statesman in the club has been out plumb a number of times, including first ball, and I've kept saying "going down the leg side" and eventually I've given him out, and he STILL complains afterwards.

I tend to modify my wides judgement based on the pace of the bowler. For one thing a slow wide delivery is easy to get across to, whereas a fast ball even just a foot down leg is unplayable. And secondly I reason that if they're that quick they've obviously played and bit so they've got no excuse.

I've been on the other end of it before many a time though. Young lad in our club gave me out lbw when the ball pitched a foot outside leg. You know its a howler when the opposition captain comes over and apologises as you're trudging off in disgust!

But he didn't call you back! That's rubbing salt in the wound.

We have a team rule in the side I captain. When umpiring ourselves I demand that batsmen walk if they nick it. That way, in theory, only lbws can be contentious and in my experience they are rarely THAT contentious due to everyone understanding that we are endeavouring to be as fair as possible. Having said that we do have one player who simply refuses to walk for anything. But since we all understand the team rule no-one has any qualms putting the finger up when he gets an edge.

Thats a very good example to set Dredge. Your club has a good culture: I bet everyone here knows of clubs who have the exact OPPOSITE approach!

I've just finished a game where the opposition where the most badly behaved side I have come across. They were absolute co#%heads. Just thought I'd share my disgust, makes a mockery of the game. There were 5-6 occasions when a brawl was almost on.

What did they do?

Well it was a much anticipated top of the table clash, the other mob were about 30 points clear of us in second place. Now these blokes come from a club which has a reputation for being absolute dingbats, across all grades. They were thinking they are so far in front they will give us a hiding, they had 3 of the top run scorrers in the competition in their side and we rolled them for 101. We came ready to play, they didn't and we had them in all sorts to the extent they were having a go at their own player who was umpiring for giving out two plumb lbw decisions.

They didn't make breakthroughs early on as they needed, they are very frustrated by now and were blowing up at every lbw shout that was turned down, arguing over wides that almost pitched off the wicket, trying to intimated the umpires and players both verbally and physically, really dumb shit. The fact that you are getting hammered by the opposition is no excuse to carry on like idiots and was just appalling. And the worst thing is, most of this was instigated by their captain. It made the team song that much sweeter, I can tell you.


The problem is, considering the level of umpiring in club games, it is hard to imagine that they get the easy decisions right, never mind the difficult ones.

A great stride forward is not only about height, but also movement....

I guess you are a bowler, and I was a batsman. I can't tell you how often I went out LBW with a ball that bruised my thigh (and I'm 6'4'')

I am sure most club players will have been through something similar, yesterday whilst umpiring in a club game I caused fury with the oppo. The bowler, who was bowling off spin was coming in very close to the wickets and as he delivered his back leg was flicking up, and on the ball in question his boot just caught the stump dislonging both bails, the ball was driven back very hard by the batsman, hit the bolwer's boot and then ricocheted into the stumps, with the non striking batsman well out of his ground, there was a loud appeal and the non stiking batsmen walked without waiting. I then called him back as when the ball struck, the bails were already off. Having re -read the laws, I think I was right, but the oppo were pretty cheesed off, as I don't think any of them saw the bails had been dislodged (to be fair the oppo skipper later apoligised for his outburst), hey ho - PS I always give it as I see it, but am very conservative on giving LBW's, as having watched the DRS in action for me it's got to be 100% sure