Lack of experience, especially in Tests, will pose a “huge challenge” for Indian umpires when they get down to officiate in the post Covid-19 pandemic scenario, feel current and former officials.

The ICC Cricket Committee on Monday recommended the appointment of local match officials (umpires and match referees) in the short-term to avoid international travel in the wake of the pandemic.

“Given the challenges of international travel with borders being closed, limited commercial flights and mandatory quarantine periods, the committee recommended that local match officials be appointed in the short-term,” the Anil Kumble-led committee said on Monday.

But, in India, that presents a challenge as well opportunity.

With S Ravi dropped from the ICC elite panel of umpires last year, there is no Indian in the premier category from which match officials are usually picked for Tests.

The lower rung – ICC international panel of umpires – has four Indians but only one of them, Nitin Menon (3 Tests, 24 ODIs, 16 T20s), has experience of the longest format and that too has not come in high-pressure games.

The other three – C Shamshuddin (43 ODIs, 21 T20s ), Anil Chaudhary (20 ODIs, 20 T20s) and Virender Sharma (2 ODIs and 1 T20) – have no Test experience but they could now be in line to officiate a five-day game during England’s tour of India in January, should that go ahead.

Current appointment policy for match officials

Match Referee  Field Umpire 1  Field Umpire 2  3rd Umpire  4th Umpire 
Test  ICC  ICC  ICC  ICC  Host 
ODI  ICC  ICC  Host  ICC  Host 
T20I  ICC   Host  Host   Host  Host  

“It is a massive challenge but a great opportunity at the same time. Different formats bring different kind of pressure. In the Tests, the pressure is created by the close-in fielders while in limited overs cricket, the noisy crowd makes the umpires’ job tougher,” former international umpire Hariharan, who stood in 34 ODIs and two Tests told PTI.

“Not just umpiring decisions, factors like aggressive appealing and bad light also come into play often and there, the neutral umpires are more likely to take an unbiased call sub-consciously than local umpires,” he said.

Match referees need to be neutral in all three formats but for the current situation arising out of the pandemic, India has only one local option in Javagal Srinath in the elite panel of referees. Manu Nayar, V Narayan Kutty and GS Lakshmi are in the international panel of referees.

With local officials set to officiate more matches following the ICC Cricket Committee recommendation, the likes of Menon, Shamshuddin, Chaudhary and Sharma are set to stand in high-profile Tests.

A current international umpire said officiating only in home games makes their job much harder, a challenge they are unlikely to enjoy.

“If you are the home umpire and the home team is asking for bad light, you are more likely to give in to that demand than the neutral umpire. Same is the case if you are doing anything illegal with the ball, you are likely to get a longer rope from a home umpire,” he told PTI on condition of anonymity.

“The ICC introduced neutral umpire concept for the right seasons. So, I hope this arrangement is only for the short term.”

He also gave the example of how West Indian umpire Joel Wilson got away by not giving Ben Stokes out, off Nathan Lyon in the third Ashes Test last year though replays showed the ball was going to hit the stumps. Australia did not have DRS at that time, else they would have won the game at Leeds.

“It was such an important game. Imagine, if that umpire was not Wilson and he was also from England, then it would have become a huge controversy and he would have been called biased.

“I can tell you from my experience, most umpires don’t like officiating in home games because of the added pressure involved,” said the umpire.

However, teams will likely have extra review per innings in each format, potentially reducing the number of umpiring howlers.

“But there will still be a situation when a team runs out of reviews and a crucial call has to be made, putting tremendous pressure on the home umpire,” he added.

(With PTI inputs)

Below is the list of various officials around the world:

International Panel of ICC Umpires

Country Umpire Umpire Umpire Umpire
Afghanistan Ahmad Shah Pakteen Ahmad Shah Durrani Bismallah Jan Shinwari Izafullah Safi
Australia Shawn Craig Paul Wilson Sam Nogajski Gerard Abood
Bangladesh Sharfuddoula Ibne Shahid Tanvir Ahmed Masudur Rahman Mukul Gazi Sohel
England Alex Wharf David Millns Martin Saggers Mike Burns
India C. Shamshuddin Anil Chaudhary Virender Sharma Nitin Menon
Ireland Mark Hawthorne Roland Black Alan Neill Paul Reynolds
New Zealand Chris Brown Wayne Knights Shaun Haig
Pakistan Ahsan Raza Shozab Raza Muhammad Asif Yaqoob Rashid Riaz Waqar
South Africa Shaun George Adrian Holdstock Patrick Bongani Jele Allahudien Paleker
Sri Lanka Ruchira Palliyaguruge Prageeth Rambukwella Ravindra Wimalasiri Lyndon Hannibal
West Indies Leslie Reifer Gregory Brathwaite Nigel Duguid Patrick Gustard
Zimbabwe Langton Rusere Iknow Chabi Christopher Phiri Forster Mtizwa

Elite Panel of ICC Umpires

Umpire Country
Aleem Dar Pakistan
Bruce Oxenford Australia
Christopher Gaffaney New Zealand
Kumar Dharmasena Sri Lanka
Marais Erasmus South Africa
Michael Gough England
Nigel Llong England
Paul Reiffel Australia
Richard Illingworth England
Richard Kettleborough England
Rodney Tucker Australia
Joel Wilson West Indies

Elite Panel of ICC Match Referees

Match Referee Country
David Boon Australia
Chris Broad England
Jeffrey Crowe New Zealand
Ranjan Madugalle Sri Lanka
Andrew Pycroft Zimbabwe
Richie Richardson West Indies
Javagal Srinath India