The debacle in Barbados

Stabroek News
April 27, 1999

The crowd behaviour in Barbados on Sunday after Sherwin Campbell was given run out and the resulting decision to allow Campbell to bat again were unfortunate developments both for West Indian cricket and for the game in general.

Unfortunate first of all because this gave the impression that the result of a game can be decided by crowd behaviour. That is fatal to the spirit of any game and the manner in which it is played. Crowd support for the home side is normal and acceptable but it should never go beyond that and become intimidation.

Secondly, the decision brings the laws of cricket and the stature of the umpire into disrepute. Campbell was quite clearly given out by umpire Nicholls. If the umpire had considered that Brendon Julian had deliberately obstructed him in running he could under rule 7 of law 42 of The Laws of Cricket which deals with Unfair Play have called and signalled a dead ball and allowed the run in progress to be scored. Under rule 2 of the same law the umpires are the sole judges of fair and unfair play. It is true, as the manager of the West Indian side Clive Lloyd has pointed out, that umpire Nicholls could have invoked the ruling of the third umpire. That would certainly have been desirable if he was in any doubt about his decision. It would seem he was not, in any event he did not invoke the third umpire so his decision stands.

Could Campbell properly have been allowed to bat again? Rule 7 of Law 27 which deals with Appeals provides that in exceptional circumstances the captain of the fielding side may seek permission of the Umpire to withdraw an appeal provided the batsman has not left the playing area. If this is allowed, the Umpire shall cancel his decision. There appears to be no other law that allows an umpire's decision to be overruled.

Is there a residual discretion for the match referee to overrule an umpire's decision as part of his ruling on a match? This needs to be clarified. The announcement made at the ground was that the Australian captain had requested that Campbell should continue batting and this was accepted. Was that permissible within the rules of the game? Steve Waugh has since told the BBC that his team was told by the authorities that their safety could not be guaranteed if the game did not continue. In other words his request for Campbell to bat again, such as it was, was made under duress.

Steve Waugh said that on the resumption his team had lost all appetite for the game. So had many of those watching the game. One could not avoid the feeling that a combination of petty chauvinism and mob rule had prevailed and the game had been sacrificed. It was a dreadful day for cricket and for sport. Everything that followed, including the man of the match award, seemed somehow tarnished.