Sachin Tendulkar had his fair share of poor umpiring decisions in his career. Some might argue he got the short end of the stick more often than others. Especially in Australia, there were quite a few incorrect decisions that went against him. The LBW in Sydney in 2000, Brisbane 2003, Perth 2008 – they were all questionable umpiring decisions that saw the Little Master walking back to the hut disgruntled.
But among all of these umpiring howlers, the one that stands out, of course, is the infamous ‘shoulder before wicket’ dismissal from Adelaide 1999. For Indian fans, this is perhaps the first thought that comes to mind when one thinks of bad umpiring decisions.
It happened during India’s 1999-2000 tour of Australia. The first Test of the three-match series was played in Adelaide, with Tendulkar leading the visitors.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat first. They were all-out for 441, with skipper Steve Waugh slamming a fine 150. In reply, Tendular (61) and Sourav Ganguly (60) put up a fight but India could manage just 285. The hosts then declared their second innings for 239, setting the visitors a target of 396 runs.
India’s hopes rested firmly on Tendulkar’s shoulders. He was the captain and arguably the best batsman in the world at that time. He had to fire for his team to have a chance.
As it turned out, India found themselves in a deep hole with three wickets – Devang Gandhi, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid – falling for just 27 runs. The Aussies could smell blood and Waugh decided to attack Tendulkar. He put fielders at short leg and leg gully to set up for a bouncer. And it wasn’t a bluff.
It was the fifth delivery Tendulkar faced and it was banged in short by Glenn McGrath. Tendulkar saw it early and decided to duck underneath the ball. However, it didn’t bounce nearly as much as it should have and ended up striking the right-hander on his left arm, just below the armpit.
And then it happened. The Australian players went up in a loud appeal and umpire Daryl Harper didn’t hesitate before raising his finger. Just like that, Tendulkar was gone for zero. The shock on his face was unmissable but true to his character, there wasn’t any swearing or swinging of the bat.
India went on to get bowled out for just 110 to lose the match by 285 runs. They were even thrashed in the remaining two Tests as Australia completed a clean sweep. But perhaps the biggest talking point of that series was that LBW decision by Harper. It’s a decision that triggers Indian fans to date.
In an interview with ESPNcricinfo in 2009, the Australian umpire reflected on that dismissal and said that it is one decision from his career that he would like to forget.
“I’ve got the video clip on my laptop still, and you can see it is still out!” said Harper.
“Sunil Gavaskar was the commentator and he agreed, saying it would’ve been out lbw if the stumps were six inches taller. Sachin was the captain and he didn’t mention it in his report – always fair play with Sachin, and he is still a wonderful sportsperson.”
Harper, though, insisted that he doesn’t regret any of the decisions he made in the 174 One-Day Internationals and 95 Test matches he officiated in.
“No, I’ve never apologised [to a player],” he said. “I’ve made mistakes but there was nothing deliberate about any errors that I ever made. Replays find you out in these times, unlike in the old days, where umpires got away with anything.”
In January, 2020, while speaking at a session during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, McGrath admitted that he wasn’t convinced by that Harper decision in 1999.
“I bowled him a bouncer and Sachin is not the tallest guy going around. The bouncer will generally bounce and clear him quite easily, but that day when it bounced, it kept low and he ducked it and it hit him on his shoulder,” said McGrath.
“And because he is not very tall, when he ducked it… from where I could see, I could see the bails over the top and it was hitting the middle stumps. So, I appealed and the umpire gave him out and he was not happy. So he walks off. Is it LBW? Probably, it should have been SBW or Shoulder Before Wicket. Again, many Indians were not happy with that match and I got sledged a lot after that. But that’s the passion, people have for cricket in India, especially when it comes to Sachin.”
McGrath added that every time he meets Tendulkar, the batting legend doesn’t fail to remind him that the ball would have gone over the stumps.
Watch that infamous Tendulkar dismissal here: