Umpire Steve Bucknor, one of the longest-serving officials in the game, observed that his mistake in the second innings in the infamous Sydney Test between Australia and India in 2008 might have cost the visitors.
The Jamaican had a two-decade stint in international cricket, which ended in 2009 with 309 matches under his belt. Bucknor also officiated in five consecutive World Cup finals between 1992 and 2007. However, irate Indian fans (some of them at least) remember him for his errors at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The ill-tempered match has gone down in history for all the wrong reasons: Australia’s on-field conduct, the racism episode involving Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds, and, of course, a number of poor decisions made by Bucknor and co-umpire Mark Benson.
“I made two mistakes in the Sydney Test in 2008,” the 74-year-old, who now lives in New York, told Mid-day.
“Mistake one, which happened when India were doing well, allowed an Australian batsman to get a hundred. Mistake two, on day five, might have cost India the game. But still, they are two mistakes over five days. Was I the first umpire to make two mistakes in a Test? Still, those two mistakes seem to have haunted me.”
Andrew Symonds, the batsman Bucknor is referring to went on to score 162 after India’s appeal for a caught-behind was turned down. The Australian all-rounder was on 30 when a young Ishant Sharma drew an edge off his bat, which went safely to wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
India were on 115/3 on the final day chasing 333 when Bucknor once again made a controversial call, this time signalling Rahul Dravid out caught-behind when replays showed daylight between bat and ball. Australia took an unassailable 2-0 lead following Michael Clarke’s three-wicket burst with time running out in the match. Bucknor was subsequently dropped for the next match.
“You need to know why mistakes are made,” the West Indian said. “You don’t want to make similar mistakes again. I am not giving excuses but there are times when the wind is blowing down the pitch and the sound travels with the wind. The commentators hear the nick from the stump mic but the umpires may not be sure. These are things spectators won’t know.”
Bucknor, during his time, became a cult figure for his late decisions. He explained his style: “I created replays in my mind,” he said.
Bucknor added: “Did the ball pitch outside leg? Was it high? Is it missing off? These are the questions I asked myself. I was criticised in my own country when I started out. One commentator said that if there is an appeal in the last over of the day, Bucknor’s finger will go up the next morning.”
Bucknor’s Test record of umpiring in most matches was broken by Pakistan’s Aleem Dar in December 2019.