— by SOHAM KATKAR
Last week, in the Third India West Indies Test, the man who was trying to make a comeback, Rohit Sharma, was wrongly given out on 41. He was well set and was looking in perfect rhythm to convert it into a big score quickly. But in the very first over of Day 5, he was given out LBW even after getting a thick inside edge. This decision hardly had any effect on the game, but it was a personal blow for Rohit who could have proved his Test worth by scoring a fifty.
What impacts do such umpiring errors have? Shoaib Akhtar says “Such errors make the game interesting and it all gets balanced out in the end.” Sometimes they are negligible but sometimes they make a huge difference.
Well, there is one such decision which changed the Indian Cricket history marginally.
After losing the first three Tests and already losing their no.1 Test Ranking, India headed off to Oval to play the fourth Test. India were low on morals but wanted to finish the tournament on a high, or at least prevent a whitewash. All eyes were on Rahul Dravid who was brilliant throughout the series. He didn’t disappoint. After England got 591/6 (Bell 235, Pietersen 175), Dravid scored 146*, the famous innings when he carried the bat as he opened the innings. India could score just 300 by tea on Day 4. There was a lot of rain on Day 1 which meant that India got a chance to draw the match. They had to bat for 120 more overs and their job was done.
By the end of Day 4, India were 129/3, Sachin was batting on 35 and Amit Mishra on 8. Determined to save the day, both Sachin and Mishra were able to play out the first session on last day, both getting their fifties. The touch in which Sachin was, he was sure to get his 100th century as well as the match was going to saved. How nice is that, his most important century coming in a match which saved the whitewash! Mishra was bowled by Swann on 84 when Sachin was batting on 91. In the next over Bresnan bowled a ball which swung in quite enough to miss the leg stump. Sachin stepped out of the crease, missed it, the ball hit his pads. There was a huge appeal and the umpire Rod Tucker in pressure gave the decision as OUT!!! Sachin fell short of his 100th hundred by just 9 runs, that too on a wrong decision. The hawk eye displayed that the ball was just clipping the top of the leg stump and it showed “umpire’s call.” When a batsman steps out of the crease, the advantage is generally supposed to go to the batsman, it was the other way round here. In his autobiography, Sachin said, “I was standing well outside my crease and the ball from Tim Bresnan came back a long way to hit my pads as I tried to play it to midwicket. While batting, you can usually sense the trajectory of the ball and there was little doubt in my mind that the drift would have taken the ball past the leg stump, so I was surprised to see umpire Rod Tucker raise his finger. A sense of helplessness descended on me. All the good work of the morning had been undone and it was going to be difficult to save the match with so many overs left in the day. The decision, replays showed, was not the best; luck, a key ingredient in cricket, had once again deserted me. When I met umpire Tucker later in the year he jokingly suggested to me that his friends were not happy with the decision and had given him a lot of grief for it. It was good of him to come and speak to me and we both decided to forget it and move on.”
Now let’s see how this incident affected the Indian team and its players.
The Indian team: Sachin’s wicket meant that India lost 6 wickets for 21 runs and conceded a victory by an innings and 8 runs (be it 1999 or 2011, Sachin’s wicket means that it’s all over) England completed a 4-0 whitewash.
The team which was low on morale after a huge overseas whitewash, headed to Australia to pull a draw at least, but suffered another 4-0 whitewash. Had this decision gone the right way, India would have prevented a whitewash as it would have ended 3-0 and also as they had a successful home series against WI, they would have gone to Australia with a lot of confidence and forget about just drawing and losing matches (like 2014-15), they would have gone on to win Tests (2007-08, Perth Test, Ishant vs Ponting) This decision changed the Indian Test cricket history.
Sachin Tendulkar: Well, he was obviously the most affected player due to the decision. First of all, because he was the victim. Sachin had scored his 99th century vs SA at Nagpur in the World Cup match in March 2011 and just as he reached in his 80s vs Pakistan in semis, it was displayed that Sachin has a total of 99 centuries if 51 in Tests and 48 in ODIs are combined. Sachin got out on 85 in that match but the issue of his 100th century lasted as long as 370 days!! He could have closed the case in the first tour itself if he scored that century here.
But the wrong decision denied him the historic century. The pressure on Sachin went on and on and took another 3 months to reach closer but fell on 94. Reason: Pressure. After another 4 months, he finally got the historic ton of tons. Had this decision gone in Sachin’s favour, he could have scored 7-8 more centuries in the years to come and about 500 runs more in both the formats. But it just didn’t happen and there were a lot of questions on his forms, his place in the team, his weakness pressure and many more negative things. People considered he was playing just for records. He scored 94 at Mumbai and 80 at Sydney, two of his favourite grounds. Had he finished the pressure job in Oval, he could have got centuries in both these innings. Sachin was India’s best batsman in Australia, that too without scoring a century because of this pressure. Whenever Sachin’s name will be taken in years to come, people will talk about the time he took between his 99th and 100th century. But only true cricket fans will understand the pressure he was under. For the matter of fact, between his 99th and 100th century, Sachin scored 1 IPL and 2 Ranji centuries.
MS Dhoni: The second person in the list of the affected. Dhoni suffered the first whitewash of his life, followed by Australian whitewash. And as mentioned earlier, a right decision would have meant that India didn’t suffer either! It would have saved Dhoni’s reputation as an overseas captain. It was this very reputation which made him retire in 2014-15 even though he had successful home seasons including the return whitewash of Australia in 2013.
Rahul Dravid: He scored 3 centuries in the England tour and was the Man of the Series. That was the perfect time for him to retire. He would have retired after that drawn test and a prevented whitewash. He would have given his retirement speech with the MoS trophy in his hand. But instead the series ended on a losing note and a 4-0 whitewash made Dravid delay his retirement. He knew he had it in him to take his team to a series victory in Australia if he continued his brilliant form. But then what happened to him was that disastrous Australia tour. He had to retire after another whitewash, and also on a low individual performance. It prevented Dravid from a dream retirement.
Other players: Amongst other players were Harbhajan Singh who lost his place in Test side due to poor performance. He says that a spinner cannot be blamed for not performing on a pitch which gives advantage to the pacers. However, this gave Ashwin a chance to make his Test debut in November vs WI and he started on a high.
So such was the effect of that one bad decision. Today, on 22nd August 2016, exactly 5 years after that incident at Oval on 22nd August 2011, India have recovered well and are back at No.1 spot in Tests, a thing Indians must be proud of…