To err, they say, is human. The question is, of course, what you do after the inevitable error has occurred.
Overnight developments have kept the issues relating to umpiring in what was always going to be a fiercely contested Ashes series firmly in the spotlight, and it’s reasonably certain those issues aren’t going to be disappearing any time soon.
I’ve done my share of umpiring over the years, and while I wouldn’t presume to second guess the thought processes of those who do it at the highest level, I think I’ve got a fair handle on what goes through your mind when you realise you might have made a mistake.
That little word might is the key element here. Sometimes, on further reflection, you realise that yes, you did. Other times, as you run back your mind back over it, you conclude no, everything’s cool. What you don’t want to do is dwell on the detail, that way lies madness and the likelihood of further error.
The last thing you want to do is to try to square things up. All that does is open the path to total disaster.
One thing that’s handy is to have some sort of pressure release valve, the sort of thing I used to use when I signalled byes and the batsman, aggrieved that I was doing him out of a run or two, claimed to have hit the ball.
“Fine,” was my standard reply. “If the wicket keeper had caught it I would have given it not out.”
That usually ended the complaints.
Test match umpires, of course, can’t do that sort of thing (or at least they can’t do it while anyone’s watching, and if someone was silly enough to try to do it behind closed doors he’d be asking for trouble).
It’s fair to assume that, having realised the error has been made, the first thing the umpire does is to look at ways of avoiding the possibility of a recurrence. That means (and I’m guessing this is what happened) after you’ve made an obvious mistake with a catch behind when there’s another appeal and you’ve got a distinct impression of a snick but a question mark over whether it has carried you’ll consult with your colleague at square leg who might be able to confirm whether it did.
This appears to have been the case with Clarke’s dismissal, though Pup’s subsequent squandering of the remaining referral will undoubtedly turn around to bite us on the arse some time tomorrow morning.
The umpires, for mine, will do a certain amount of self correcting, and if you leave them alone you’ve got a better chance of that ending up in your favour.