“Will never regret my decision”: Umpire Dharmasena

The cricketing fraternity went into a frenzy after it emerged that umpire Kumar Dharmasena made an ‘umpiring error’ in the World Cup final between England and New Zealand, a decision that could’ve possibly altered the outcome of the game. An overthrow from Martin Guptill ricocheted off Ben Stokes’ bat and went on to clear the boundary ropes. Dharmasena awarded England six runs instead of five, which further resulted in the match being tied.

Post the debacle, Dharmasena presented his side of the story in an interview with a Sri Lankan publication, the Sunday Times. The umpire said that although it was a ‘judgemental error’ on his part, he will never regret the decision he made in consultation with square leg umpire Marais Erasmus.

“It’s easy for people to comment after seeing TV replays. I agree that there was a judgmental error when I see it on TV replays now. But we did not have the luxury of TV replays at the ground and I will never regret the decision I made. Besides, the ICC praised me for the decision I made at that time.”

What the law says

As per Law 19.8 of the playing conditions, the two batsmen at the crease should have already crossed before the fielder initiated the throw for the second run to count. But the replays suggested that wasn’t the case. Which meant the equation that came down to 9 needed off 3 balls and then 3 needed off 2 balls should have essentially been 4 off 2 with Adil Rashid on strike, not Stokes.

Dharmasena, a repeat offender

This is not the first time that Dharmasena has come under the public scanner for his on-field umpiring goof-ups. In England’s semi-final clash against Australia, a well-settled Jason Roy was at the receiving end of one such decision. The batsman was given out caught-behind after incessant appealing from the Aussies, but Roy claimed he hadn’t nicked it. Replays suggested that there was indeed no edge and the batsman was given out wrongly.

In an even bigger contest like the final, could the decision be referred to the third umpire for such a crucial decision?

“There is no provision in the law to refer this to the third umpire as no dismissal was involved,” he said. “So, I did consult the leg umpire through the communication system which is heard by all other umpires and the match referee. And, while they cannot check TV replays, they all confirmed that the batsmen have completed the run. This is when I made my decision.

Former umpire Simon Taufel, one of the best of his time, later confirmed that there was an ‘error of judgement’ in Dharmasena’s decision. But, he also defended the on-field umpires saying there were too many things happening at the same time. And one must not blame the officials for the outcome of the match.

Here’s how Dharmasena explained the situation:

“One must understand that there were too many things on our plate,” he said. “We had to watch the batsmen complete the first run, the ball being fielded, how it was handled by the fielder and whether the batsmen completed the second run. And where the throw would come from, the striker’s end or non-striker’s end. In this case, we were all happy that the batsmen had completed the second run because the ball ricocheted off Stokes’s bat at the time of him completing the second run.”

“So, we assumed that they had crossed each other at the time of fielder releasing the ball. These are things that happen in a cricket field,” he said. “For instance, an umpire can call a wide or a no-ball wrongly and just because the TV replays show otherwise, we cannot go back and reverse the match. This is one such incident.”