Cricket (Steel, Lyttelton)/Chapter 5
(By A. G. Steel.)
If anyone were to ask us the question 'What class of useful men receive most abuse and least thanks for their service?' we should, without hesitation, reply, 'Cricket umpires.' The duties of
Eton v. Harrow.
'Guard please. Umpire.'
an umpire are most laborious and irksome; they require for their proper performance the exercise of numerous qualifications, and yet it is always the lot of every man who dons the white coat, the present dress of an umpire, to receive, certainly no thanks, and, too frequently, something which is not altogether unlike abuse. Nowhere can any notice be found in the history of cricket of the first appearance of umpires as sole judges of the game; and from old pictures, and notably the one at Lord's, it is evident that, in the early days of cricket, there were no umpires. The scoring was done by the 'notcher,' who stood by and cut a notch in a stick every time a run was made, and who also most probably would be the one to decide any point of dispute that might arise amongst the players. The earliest copy of the laws of cricket that we have is dated 1774; the heading is 'The Laws of Cricket, revised at the Star and Garter, Pall Mall, February 25, 1774, by a committee of noblemen and gentlemen of Kent, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex, Middlesex, and London.'
These laws are the foundation of those which now govern cricket, and in them rules were laid down with regard to umpires, some of which, with certain modifications, are still in force. Although these laws, promulgated in 1774, are the earliest authenticated, there is still in existence a much older document, though the date is unknown, which contains a few remarks on the game, entitled 'Ye game of cricket as settled by ye cricket club at ye Star and Garter in Pall Mall,' and then it goes on, 'Laws for ye umpires,' showing that in considerably earlier days than 1774 umpires were recognised institutions in the game.
It has always been the custom, till within the last few years, for each side to choose its own umpire, even in the most important matches, except those played at Lord's and the Oval. The system of each side providing its own umpire existed till 1883. It thus happened that aged and decayed cricketers were rewarded by being chosen as umpires to watch over the interests of their old colleagues.
It was quite impossible for men who were thoroughly imbued with a strong spirit of partisanship to remain perfectly impartial; however honest and free from suspicion a man might be, his opinion, at a critical stage of the game, could not fail to be unconsciously biassed in favour of the side with whose name his own had been long associated. Many men became alarmed at the idea of obtaining a reputation for giving partial decisions, and would go to the other extreme, and decide against their own side oftener than the facts justified. There were also men, no doubt—but these were few and far between—who used their important position to unfairly enhance the chances of victory for their own side. This system was a bad one, as it made the position of an umpire so extremely invidious; but it was not till 1883 that the present practice was introduced. At the beginning of the season each county now sends up the names of two or more umpires to the secretary of the M.C.C. Then from the list of names nominated by the different county committees the secretary has to appoint two umpires for every county match, neither of these two being the nominees of either of the counties that are playing in the match. This system works very well and is a very fair one, as the judges of the game are not now exposed to the charge of partiality, so frequently made under the old rule, their interests being connected with neither side. The list of what may be called the official umpires is almost totally composed of elderly professional cricketers, who, as young men, were themselves famous players, they are consequently men who, having spent many years of their lives in the active pursuit of the game, possess a thorough knowledge of its laws and practice. And our experience of the way in which those arduous duties are performed is that, considering the difficulties of the situation they are placed in, our English umpires, taken as a body, give good and correct decisions. We think that this opinion would be indorsed by most leading cricketers.
The difficulties of an umpire are many, and the nice distinctions he is called upon to draw over and over again during the course of the match may be gathered from the fact that bad decisions in first-class matches are not infrequent. And yet we adhere to the commendation given above. It is an absolute impossibility to find an umpire who will not make mistakes at times. The most likely slip for him to make is, perhaps, when he is appealed to for a 'catch at the wicket.' Let us just glance at some of the difficulties which may, and often do, arise as to this decision. The umpire has to satisfy himself that the bat or the batsman's hand (but not the wrist) has touched the ball before it has lodged in the wicket-keeper's hand. There are often cases where there is no doubt that the bat has touched the ball; the batsman strikes at the ball and hits it so hard that the sound of the 'click' may be heard by every fieldsman on the ground, and even sometimes by the spectators; and then, of course, the umpire has no difficulty. But supposing a batsman in playing forward to a ball just outside the off stump apparently misses it, and the ball turns after the pitch and, without any sound or 'click,' lodges in the wicket-keeper's hand, what has the umpire to say if appealed to? He sees the ball turn after the pitch, and he sees it pass the bat dangerously near, but he hears no sound; perhaps in this case no one on the field but the wicket-keeper knows for certain what has taken place; he knows that the ball turned from the pitch, just grazed the shoulder or edge of the bat, and came into his hands. The batsman, perhaps, has in his forward stroke touched the ground with his bat at the very moment the ball grazed the bat. The jar of his bat on the ground has nullified the effect of the touch of the ball, and he doubtless considers that if the appeal is answered against him he has met with injustice. In a case like this the umpire gives, or should give, the batsman the benefit of the doubt that exists, and No. 1 bad decision is chronicled against him by the fielding side. No blame can be attached to the umpire, he has done his very best to give a correct decision, but the circumstances have made it absolutely impossible for him to be certain on the point. Again, it is sometimes next to impossible for an umpire to be sure whether a ball has just grazed the tip of the indiarubber finger of a batsman's glove or not; for often in such a case no sound can be distinguished. The batsman feels and the wicket-keeper sees it, but none else in the field knows anything at all about what has happened. The umpire can see the ball pass very close to the glove, but whether they have actually touched he cannot at a distance of twenty-four or twenty-five yards decide. An umpire may often be deceived, too, in his vision, if the ball pass the bat quickly and the stroke of the bat towards the ball has been a rapid one; he may hear an ominous 'click' that sounds like a touch, and yet he may think that he saw daylight between them at the moment the ball passed the bat. We have more than once in a first-class match, in which two good umpires were engaged, struck a ball fairly hard and seen it lodge in the wicket-keeper's hands, and heard in answer to a confident appeal, 'Not out; he was nowhere near it!' and this when everyone in the field heard the sound, and knew it could only have been caused by the ball meeting the bat. And again, supposing a slight noise or 'click ' to be heard just when a ball is passing outside the legs of a batsman, should the ball be taken by the wicket-keeper, it is often a most difficult thing for an umpire to be certain whether the 'click' has been caused by the bat and the ball, or the batsman's leg or pad-strap and the ball. The click of the ball hitting a strap or hard piece of cane in a pad is very like the sharp sound caused by the bat hitting the ball, and this, added to the impossibility of the umpire actually seeing whether a leg ball passes close to the bat or not, makes appeals for Inside catches at the wicket extremely hard to answer with any degree of certainty.
These are a few instances of the many very difficult cases which an umpire may be called upon to decide at any moment during a match. Many others will probably occur to the minds of most of the readers of this chapter, at any rate of those who have any practical experience of the game. We do not, however, propose to mention all these cases at present; some of them we shall have to refer to later on.
We think enough has been said as to the difficult nature of the post to show conclusively that it is an impossibility to find an umpire who will not be liable to give bad verdicts. It is most unfortunate that all umpires, in addition to having to bear the heavy weight of knowing that they may at any minute be called upon to give a decision about which they are uncertain and consequently liable to err, have also too often to suffer from the abuse of those who consider themselves aggrieved by wrong decisions. The chief principle that tends to harmonise the game, and make it the quiet English pastime that it is, is that the umpire's decision shall be final. It would be impossible to play the game if this' were not so; how would matches ever be finished satisfactorily if every batsman had a right to remain at the wickets until he himself thought he was fairly out? And yet, though this principle is universally known as the main one on which the prosperity of the game depends, we unfortunately find but too frequently, and even amongst some of the leading cricketers of the day, a tendency to revile and abuse the unfortunate umpire whenever an appeal has been given against them. If a batsman considers he has been given out wrongfully, he has a perfect right, of course, to give his opinion of what has taken place privately to anyone; but he has no right to stand at his wicket wrangling with and abusing the umpire, nor has he a right to declare publicly to the pavilion on his return from the wickets that a wrong decision has been given. Too often one sees a sulky, bad-tempered-looking face arrive at the pavilion, and in loud tones declare he was not within a yard of it, or 'it didn't pitch within a foot of the wicket.' Such conduct is unsportsmanlike and ungentlemanly, and, what is more, is unfair, as such a statement is a public accusation made against the professional capacity of an absent man who has no opportunity of refuting or contradicting it.
First-class amateur cricketers should remember that it is impossible for them to pay too much deference to the decisions of umpires, as it is from them that the standard or tone of morality in the game is taken. They should ask themselves, if they wrangle and dispute with umpires in first-class matches when a large assemblage is present, what will happen in smaller matches, when there is not the same publicity and notoriety to restrain the rowdiness which has before now been the result of a wordy warfare with 'the sole judge of fair and unfair play.' We admit that there is nothing so disappointing and annoying to a batsman as to be given out by what is really a bad decision. Take, for instance, a man who cannot for business reasons get away as much as he would like to indulge in his favourite game. He has been looking forward for weeks to a particular match, perhaps one of the greatest importance; he has been practising hard for the last month in his spare time in the evenings after business hours. The eventful day comes, the time for his innings arrives, and just when he has settled down with ten or fifteen to his score, and has begun to find himself thoroughly at home with the bowling, his hopes are dashed to the ground by a bad decision. He is maddened with anger and disappointment for the moment, and every cricketer will heartily sympathise with him; but if he allows his feelings to get the better of him, and indulges in an open exhibition of anger against the umpire, that man should never play cricket again until he has satisfied himself that, come what may, he will be able to curb himself sufficiently to prevent such exhibitions, which act so greatly against the true interests of the game.
The majority of cricketers, we are happy to say, are not open abusers of umpires and their decisions, though a considerable number have earned this unenviable notoriety. But by far the greater proportion of batsmen, though not open cavillers at the umpire's verdict, always refuse to allow that his judgment, when adverse to them, is correct, and especially in cases of l.b.w. It is one of the most extraordinary things connected with the game that, no matter how straight the ball may have pitched, how low down it may have hit the leg, and how straight it is going off the pitch to the wicket when stopped by the opposing leg, there is not one batsman in twenty who will allow that he is fairly out. 'The ball pitched off the wicket; ' 'It would have gone over the wicket;' 'It was twisting like anything and would have missed the wicket;' and 'How could it be out? I hit it hard,' are the usual excuses that are made to a knot of the crestfallen batsman's friends and sympathisers after his return to the pavilion. Sometimes, no doubt, one or more of these excuses may be perfectly true, and the batsman has been unfortunately dismissed by an error in judgment on the part of the umpire; but in far the larger number of instances they are simply sham excuses invented by the player to cover his own discomfiture. In some cases a batsman may really believe that the ball would have missed the wicket or did not pitch straight, and if so he has a perfect right, if he thinks fit, to tell his own friends what his opinion is; but as a rule the umpire's judgment is right and the batsman's is wrong. The
mere fact of a ball hitting the leg when it is pitched so nearly straight and would have so nearly hit the wicket as to justify an appeal to the umpire, shows that the batsman has seriously erred either in his judgment of the pitch of the ball or in his stroke. He has made a mistake— the ball hitting his leg is a proof that he has done so; and yet, with this proof staring him in the face, he comes out and states positively what practically comes to this: 'The ball must have been very nearly straight and would have very nearly hit the stumps, or else the bowler would not have asked; I mistook the pace, or the pitch, or the flight of the ball, or all three of them at the same time; but now that I have had time to think over it, I know for certain the ball was not pitched straight or would not have hit the wicket.' This is the logical conclusion of the vast number of excuses that are made with regard to decisions of l.b.w.
When a batsman says that he has hit the ball, it does not always follow that it is correct, for under certain circumstances he may imagine he has touched it when in fact he has not done so. For instance, if he plays forward with the bat close to his left leg, he may slightly touch his pad or his boot, which may produce in his mind the same impression as if the bat had touched the ball. In a forvard stroke a slight touch on a hard ground with the end of the bat will often convey the same idea. There are one or two well-known cricketers, thoroughly keen and honest players of the game, whose habit of finding fault with umpires' decisions adverse to themselves has often provoked great amusement. We remember on one occasion taking part in a match in which one of these critical gentlemen was playing. Shortly after his innings began he missed a perfectly straight ball, and just as it was going to hit the centre of the middle stump it came into contact with a thick well-padded leg. He had to go. Shortly afterwards in the pavilion he was overheard replying in answer to a friend, 'Out? why, it didn't pitch straight by a quarter of an inch!'
One of the worst features connected wnth the play of the different Australian teams that have visited this country is the tendency they have always shown to dispute the decisions of the umpires. We believe that the chief reason why the Australian cricketers have not achieved that popularity which the excellence of their play would seem to merit is owing to this unfortunate habit. Nothing is so apt to breed bad decisions against a side as public knowledge that the members of it always refuse to abide peaceably by the fiat of the umpire. Men who are continually wrangling and disputing about the decisions of umpires, and who have earned the reputation of so doing, have in the long run more real cause to complain than their more peaceable confrères. Umpires are after all but mortal, and if they once realise that a man objects to being 'given out,' when it is palpable and plain that no other verdict can be rightly given, they get what is popularly called 'their backs up,' and are inclined to hesitate before giving that man the benefit of any doubt there may be. This feeling in the minds of umpires is brought about unconsciously, and would certainly be denied if the direct question were asked them, 'Do you treat a man with a wrangling, contentious disposition in exactly the same way as you treat another?' The Australians have always, and especially in the season of 1886, earned for themselves this unenviable notoriety; and if, as they allege, they have had to fight an uphill battle on English grounds against the bad decisions of our umpires, we firmly believe they have brought this unfortunate result upon their own heads. We wish to say nothing against our Colonial antagonists except in this respect; they have always proved keen and worthy opponents of our English cricketers. But if the future teams that may visit our shores from the Colonies will accept a hint, and make a firm resolve that the decisions of our umpires shall be accepted without murmurings and disputings, they may rest assured that they themselves will become more popular with our cricket-loving public, and their stay in England will be made more pleasant in every way.
What has been said with regard to the duty of batsmen to abide by umpires' decisions applies equally to bowlers. What can be worse form than a public exhibition of temper on the part of a bowler because an appeal is not answered in his favour? 'Wha-a-a-t?' shouts a bowler at the top of his voice, after a negative answer to an appeal, his eyes glaring at the poor unfortunate umpire as if he wanted to eat him. 'What is out, then?' Perhaps in the next ball or two the batsman is palpably out, either bowled or caught. 'How's that, then, sir?' says the bowler in sarcastic glee, as if his success was directly due to the former verdict of the umpire. All this sort of thing is very poor cricket, and not calculated to promote the true spirit of friendliness which should distinguish every match if the game is to be enjoyed.
It is in club cricket that there is always the greatest number of disputes about umpires' decisions. This is owing to the foct that the only way in which umpires can be procured is by each side bringing its own. As a rule the professional bowler of a club stands as umpire in all matches, and this system, as before mentioned, cannot fail occasionally to cause a little wrangling. Supposing, for instance, a side has to get half a dozen more runs to win a match with only one wicket to fall, and the umpire of the fielding side, by giving the last hope out leg before wicket, decides the game in favour of his employers, it must inevitably stir up some angry feelings, especially as a batsman is scarcely ever known to admit the impeachment of being fairly out l.b.w. Considering the keenness and anxiety to win of every cricketer worthy of the name, the fact of serious disputes being almost unknown is a remarkable instance of the generosity and manliness of English players.
But it is in bonâ fide country or rustic matches that there is most often good reason for finding fault with the decisions of umpires. We are not speaking of matches between clubs who can boast enough members to enable them to engage a professional bowler, level a good large square piece of turf, and erect a local habitation in the shape of a neat and pretty little pavilion; but of matches between clubs in remote villages, where the village common, rough and uneven as it is, suflllces for practice on the week-day evenings and for matches on Saturday afternoons, where the only weapons of the batsmen are the old wellworn and usually desperately heavy club bats, where the ullage barber is the bowler, the village baker the best batsman, and the umpire, on whom his side relies for victory more than on all the other men in the village, the publican. There are still such clubs in existence, though not nearly so many now as in days gone by. The increased popularity of the game, and the greater facilities for getting about the country, have caused many of these old village clubs to become large and well-to-do. One of the greatest treats that any cricket-lover can have is to take part in a match between two really primitive village clubs. The old fast under-arm bowling, now sixty years at least out of date in first-class cricket, still preserves its pristine efficacy on the rough uneven turf, and against the untutored batsmen. The running and the shouting and the general excitement when the parson misses a catch, or the butcher is bowled, is very pleasing to one accustomed to the stateliness and publicity of a match at Lord's or the Oval. But the village umpire is, perhaps, the most interesting personage on the ground. He is usually a stout elderly man, who, grown too grey on the head and too thick in the girth to give his side any more active help in the field, assists in quite as efficient a manner in his new post. He is generally a genial, jolly sort of fellow; devoted to the game, he fondly imagines that he is an infallible judge of every point that can arise in it, though really he is wofully ignorant of the whole subject. He is, however, looked up to by the whole village as an authority whose opinion cannot be disputed; probably he has once in his life, many years ago, been to Lord's, and has there, while watching Carpenter. Hayward, and George Parr, laid up a store of information connected with the play of great cricket celebrities which has sufficed ever since to maintain his reputation as a cricket savant.
Before the beginning of a match, he may be seen diligently rolling the stubborn ground with a small hand-roller, in the hopes that some of the numerous adamantine hillocks may be compressed to something like a level with the surrounding dales and valleys.
After this labour of love has been ineffectually bestowed he proceeds to mark the creases. And what marvellous works of art they are when finished! Long crooked lines, some three or four inches in thickness, suggest that straightness and neatness have been sacrificed to the desire of using as much whitening as possible. When it is time for the match to begin, he marches solemnly to the wicket, with a bat over his shoulder, chaffing and joking with the players as he goes. Then, what numerous appeals are made to him! Catches at the wicket, l.b.w., runs out, all follow one another in quick succession. His decisions are always given with deliberation and evident doubt, and often are preceded by questions to the batsman, such as, 'Did yer 'it it, Jack? ' or, 'Whereabouts did it touch ye?' Thus the length of a man's innings is often in the same ratio as his moral obliquity fn concealing or perverting the truth. However, there is wonderfully little disputing, the good-natured batsmen being quite willing to abide by the fiat of the great authority; and if decisions are given rather more against than for them, they are induced to keep quiet by the knowledge that they have their own village judge at the other end, who, when the time comes, will do his best to equalise matters.
One of the most primitive rustic matches we ever saw was on a village common in Hampshire. We always look back to that match as one which produced more real fun than any we have ever taken part in. The village umpire there, a jolly good-natured old man, but absolutely ignorant of the laws of cricket, caused us the greatest merriment during the whole day. In addition to his official post as umpire, he was the village caterer at all public entertainments, and consequently supplied luncheon at all the matches. It was evident his thoughts in the field were divided between the responsibilities of his two duties—at least we inferred so by his occasionally allowing the bowler to bowl as much as ten or more balls in an over, and giving as his reason, 'If Mr. —— doant have a bit o' exercise, he woant relish my steak pie. O'im vaamous for steak pies, yer know, sir,' he added by way of apology for introducing the subject. This worthy old umpire gave certainly the most astonishing decision we ever saw. A man was batting at one end who was evidently one of the swells of his side. Owing to the roughness and slope of the ground, the slow bowling that he had to play was going about
in all directions. Now a ball, pitching nearly a wide to leg, would twist in and pass the wicket on the off side, and then one pitched wide on the off would hit or pass the legs of the batsman, who, after many wild and futile attempts to strike this, to him, peculiar style of bowling, determined, as a last resource, to treat it with supreme contempt. He therefore, whenever the ball pitched wide, got in front of his stumps, turned round, and presented the back portion of his person to the bowler. The umpire watched these proceedings with a somewhat perplexed smile on his broad good-humoured face, but said nothing. Shortly, a ball that pitched a couple of feet on the leg side, twisted in, and struck the batsman on the seat of his trousers. This caused some laughter amongst the lookers-on, and when the mirth had subsided the umpire walked slowly a few yards down the pitch and addressed the batsman thus: 'Why, Jack, that ain't cricket. O'im a pretty favourable umpire as a rule, you know, Jack: but when a man stops the ball with that, he must be out. You must go, Jack.' Nothing would induce the injured batsman to remain; we implored him to stay, but no; he had been given out and was going out; and for the rest of the day he enjoyed the importance of being an injured man—an importance enhanced by the opinions of his admirers that, had he not suffered an injustice, the village scorers would have had on that occasion anything but a holiday.
The well-known crack player who now and then plays in village cricket matches usually enjoys perfect immunity from the vagaries of the village umpire; in fact, he runs only a ver)slight chance of ever being out at all, unless he is palpably caught or his stumps knocked down. The old style of umpire that we have attempted to describe is immensely delighted at the prospect of seeing what he calls 'real cricket,' and whether the 'swell' is on his side or against it, he fully makes up his mind that it will be no fault of his if spectators are not treated to an exhibition of the real article. The bowlers may be hoarse with appealing, but the umpire remains obdurate, and it is with real sorrow he at last sees the great mango.
We remember on one occasion coming across a strange umpire in Scotland. It was in a country (very country) match. The writer was batting, and his co-partner at the other end was a well-known sporting baronet. The latter was the continual cause of appeals both from the bowler and wicket-keeper for l.b.w.'s and catches at the wicket. All were answered in the batsman's favour, much to the disgust of the fielders. Thinking that the latter were really being treated rather badly, the writer ventured humbly to ask the umpire whether the last appeal (an enormous thigh right in front of all three stumps to a straight one) had not been a very near thing. 'Lor bless you, sir,' was the reply, 'I have been his valet for fifteen years, and I dussn't give him out; he gets awful wild at times.'
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing to umpires as well as everyone else. A ball in a country match hit the batsman's leg, skied up in the air, and was caught by point. 'How's that for leg before wicket?' shouted the bowler. 'How's that for a catch?' said point. The bewildered umpire had not an idea what it was, but no doubt he thought such loud appeals meant something, and so said, 'Out.' 'What for?' said the batsman; 'it didn't pitch anything like straight, wouldn't have hit the wicket, and what's more, never touched it.' 'Out,' said the nonplussed umpire; 'it hit you below the wrist,' This story, although told of an ignorant umpire, illustrates a principle which the best umpires should have in mind, but which many of them seem never to have learnt, or else to have forgotten, and that is, never give your reasons for a decision. This is a golden rule for all umpires. An umpire is engaged to say 'Out' or 'Not out' when appealed to, and not to state the reasons which have induced his verdict. When a man adds to his decision, 'It didn't pitch straight,' 'Your toe was up in the air,' 'Your bat was over the crease but not on the ground,' it has a tendency to create useless discussion and waste of time. Besides, an umpire may occasionally be right in his verdict, but may be brought to grief by explaining his reasons. For instance, suppose an appeal for a l.b.w., and the umpire says 'Not out.' The wicket-keeper and the bowler may know that the point for decision is whether the ball pitched straight or not; the umpire adds, for example, 'The ball would have gone over the wicket.' Well, this may be so, but both the wicket-keeper and the bowler think not; if the verdict had been a decided 'Not out,' both of these two would have been satisfied—a doubtful point had been given against them, no one was to blame for it, better luck next time, &c. &c. But since the umpire has been guilty of stating reasons, which, according to them, are not satisfactory, he has branded himself with a bad decision in the eyes of the fielding side.
Some umpires—in fact, the majority of them—have a habit of putting their hand and arm in the air and pointing to the skies when they give a man out. A verdict propitious to the batsman is given by a solemn 'Not out,' but one adverse by an annoying silence and a most inappropriate wave of the arm in the air. It would be far more to the purpose if the finger were pointed downwards instead of upwards, as the batsman's hopes are shattered. We never like to leave the wickets till the umpire's voice is heard. The arm may go in the air involuntarily, or the umpire be surprised into a spasmodic upward arm-jerk; but a good honest 'Out' can never be doubted.
With regard to the qualifications that a man should possess before he can hope to perform satisfactorily to himself and others the duties of an umpire, the first essential is that he must have been at one time a good cricketer. By good we do not mean first-class, or that he must have had his name amongst the list of the best players of his time; but he must have been fairly proficient in the game, and must have had a large practical experience. The qualifications of a good judge are, no doubt, of a different nature from those for a good advocate, but before a man can sit on the Bench he must have passed through the wear and tear of the bar, and had, when there, varied experiences in the practice of law. So with an umpire; it does not absolutely follow that a first-rate player will make a good umpire, but it does follow that a man who has had great practical experience in the game will be better qualified to decide the nice points that arise than one who has only made cricket a theoretical study. Assuming that a man has sufficient knowledge of the game to stand as umpire, he must possess quick and keen sight, a good sense of hearing, powers of rapid decision, and last, but not least, he must be very fond of cricket. The necessity of the first two of these qualifications for good umpiring is apparent. For most decisions a good power of sight only is required, but in appeals for catches at the wicket an umpire has both to be guided by his eyes and his ears. Many cases occur where the ball and the bat pass each other with such rapidity that it is impossible for an umpire to be certain from his eyes alone that they have touched one another, and he must then, to a great extent, be guided by what he has heard. Both sight and sound must help him to come to his conclusion, and he must give no decision if it is inconsistent with the effect of either of these senses on his mind.
No umpire should ever be chosen to stand in first-class matches unless he possesses the perfect use of these two senses. More than once in important matches we have seen an umpire with his ears stuffed full of cotton-wool. This, no doubt, was an excellent preventive against catching cold in the head, but it was a monstrous thing to see the result of a match of some interest depending upon the amount of sound that could penetrate through two or three layers of wadding.
An umpire should possess powers of quick decision, because every time his opinion is asked he has to give it at once, and with firmness. If he shows any signs of doubt or hesitation, he destroys the confidence which it should be his constant endeavour to see reposed in him and his judgment.
An umpire has to concentrate every particle of his attention on the game, every minute of the five or six hours he is in the field has to be devoted to studiously watching every ball that is bowled and every incident in the play. Once let his attention be distracted, or his interest lessened in what is going on around him, and he will make a mistake. The powers of concentration necessary in an umpire are so great, and are required for such a lengthy period, that it is impossible to find them in any man unless he is imbued with a thorough love of cricket. It is this devotion to the game which enables our umpires to fix theii attention on it for such long weary hours, in all conditions of weather, and in our most important matches, with such a heavy weight of responsibility upon their shoulders. Firm, free, and unbiassed in their judgment, our English umpires have the satisfaction of knowing that unbounded confidence is placed in them by the players and the public, and that never in the history of modern cricket has there been the faintest whisper of suspicion against their integrity or fair fame.
And now let us discuss the actual duties of an umpire connected with the game. The two umpires before the beginning of the match should be present when the ground is chosen and measured. By rights, it is the duty of the umpires actually to choose the pitch; but this is seldom done, as so much care and attention is spent on all grounds at the present day by the ground-men, that the wicket intended to be used has been generally prepared with diligence for two or three days previous to the match. They should, however, be present, and see that the ground is the proper measurement, and that the stumps are so fixed in the ground as to satisfy the sixth rule of the game—namely, 'Each wicket shall be eight inches in width, and consist of three stumps. . . . The stumps shall be of equal and sufficient size to prevent the ball from passing through, twenty-seven inches out of the ground. The bails shall be each four inches in length, and when in position on the top of the stumps, shall not project more than half an inch above them. Umpires should be very careful to see that these provisions are complied with both with regard to the width of the wicket and the ball passing between the stumps.' We have often seen stumps in a first-class match so wide apart that the ball would pass between them without dislodging the bails; over and over again have we taken hold of the ball and passed it between them to show the umpire that the stumps were too far apart; but we have never seen a bowled ball pass between the stumps without removing the bails in a first-class match, though this often happens in smaller matches. Umpires should themselves measure the ground between the wickets; groundsmen, as a rule, do this, but they occasionally do it in a careless and slovenly fashion, which may result in the distance being a foot too short or too long. The slightest difference in the usual distance of twenty-two yards from wicket to wicket makes a great difference to the bowler, and so it should invariably be checked by the umpires themselves using the chain.
Before the match begins, the umpires should settle what the boundaries are to be. This, of course, will only apply to those places where the boundaries have not been finally settled, as at Lord's and the Oval and other well-known grounds. The usual practice, however, is for the visiting team to accept the boundaries that are customary on the ground; but should there be any dispute on this subject, it must be settled by the umpires. Having arranged all preliminaries connected with the pitch and the boundaries, the umpires should go to the wickets punctually to the very minute agreed upon for beginning play. A vast amount of time is on many grounds lost owing to unpunctuality; and if the umpires appear on the ground at the appointed time, irrespective of whether the players are ready or not, it has a good effect. The umpire at the bowler's end, when the bowling is over the wicket, should stand as near as he can to the wicket without inconveniencing the bowler in his action; he should stand sideways fronting the bowler, but with his head looking over his right shoulder down the pitch. The object of this attitude is that as small a surface of his body as possible should be permitted to be in the line of sight of the batsman and the ball. There are some umpires who stand as much as five or six yards from the wicket, no doubt under the impression that so long as they are in a straight line with the two wickets they can see everything; but this is a mistake, as it is evident that the nearer the umpire stands to the wicket the better he can see and judge the points that arise for his decision. Before umpires were required to wear the long white coats which now render them so conspicuous, their dark ones often greatly interfered with the batsman's view of the ball, but now this inconvenience has been done away with, and the batsman can never rightly complain of his sight being obscured by the umpire.
The umpire should stand perfectly still at the moment the ball is delivered; he must not even move his head, as any moving object directly behind the ball, and especially as near to it as the umpire is standing, may distract the batsman's sight from the ball. He must watch the bowler's hindmost foot to see if it touch or cross the bowling crease, in which case it is a 'no ball,' and must almost at the same time watch the bowler's hand and arm to guard against any infringement of the rule against throwing.
The rule with regard to 'no balls' is, 'The bowler shall deliver the ball with one foot on the ground behind the bowling crease, and within the return crease, otherwise the umpire shall call no ball.' The umpire must, therefore, call 'no ball' if the hindmost foot of the bowler is, at the moment of delivery, even touching the bowling or return creases. This rule makes it important that the bowling crease should be neatly and correctly marked. The rule with regard to the bowling crease says that it 'shall be in a line with the stumps, 6 ft. 8 in. in length, &c.,' but says nothing about the width of it. We must, therefore, infer from the words 'in a line' that the bowling crease should not be of greater width than the thickness of the stumps. If it is drawn of this thickness only, it is a very narrow line, but is correct according to a common-sense interpretation of the rules 7 and 11; for supposing, as is often the case, the crease is thicker than the width of the stumps, it would then be a manifest injustice to 'no ball' a bowler because his hindmost foot has just touched the edge of it. These two rules evidently mean that the hindmost foot shall be behind the line of the wicket when the ball is delivered. If the crease is too thick, the foot may just touch it and yet not transgress the spirit of the two rules taken together. With regard to the necessity, laid down in rule 11, for the hindmost foot to be on the ground. . . . when the ball is delivered, we think umpires may take it as settled that it is quite an impossibility for a bowler to deliver a ball with this foot off the ground. Let anyone try to bowl with only the left foot on the ground, and he will at once see the practical impossibility of doing so. A 'no ball' should be called quickly and distinctly directly the ball has been delivered; an umpire must not shout 'No ball' as soon as he sees the foot touch or overlap the crease, but must wait till the ball is actually bowled; otherwise he may land himself in a difficulty should the bowler stop and not deliver the ball. We remember an umpire, who is generally supposed to be about the best in England, making this mistake in 1886; he called a 'no ball' so very prematurely that it gave the bowler time to stop before the ball left his hand.
A wide ball is one that, in the opinion of the umpire, is not within reach of the striker. It therefore does not make the slightest difference where it pitches so long as, in the umpire's opinion, it has never been within the batsman's reach. Some people entertain the idea that if a ball has pitched fairly straight but afterwards twisted beyond the batsman's reach, it should not be called wide; but this is wrong, as the rule says positively that 'if it is not within reach of the striker, the umpire shall call "wide ball." 'It is often a very nice point as to what is or is not within reach of the striker, and umpires' opinions vary on this head. We think the true reading of the rule is that, on the off side, the batsman's reach should not be limited to what he can only reach when standing still in his original position, but should be extended to what he can conveniently and comfortably reach with either leg across his wicket, say for 'cutting' or 'off driving.' On the leg side we think a ball should be called 'wide' if the batsman in the ordinary swing of the arms and bat for a leg hit could not reach it. It thus follows, that a ball may be a 'wide' on the leg side which would not be one if at an equal distance from the batsman on the off side. If the ball passes so high over the batsman as to be out of his reach, it is a 'wide.' This very rarely occurs, but umpires should remember that if the batsman can touch this ball by holding the bat in the air, it is not a 'wide,' It does not follow that it is a 'wide' because the ball goes over the head of the batsman without being played at—most batsmen refuse to strike at such a ball because of the attendant risk—but it must be so high that the batsman cannot reach it when holding the bat in the usual manner.
When the bowler is bowling round the wicket the umpire should stand exactly in the same place as he does for 'over the wicket' bowling, but should of course front the bowler's side of the wicket. He should be watchful to see that the bowler keeps within the limit of the return crease; if he touches this with his hindmost foot, it is a 'no ball' and should be instantly 'called.' Round-the-wicket bowlers often have a tendency to bowl as far as possible round the wicket, and as this is done with the object of making their bowling more difficult, umpires should be careful to keep them within the prescribed limits. There is rather a slackness in many umpires about calling 'no ball' because the return crease is touched; but they ought to be quite as particular in this respect as in the case of the bowling crease— in fact, even more so, as a ball delivered an extra inch from the line between wicket and wicket makes more difference to the batsman than one delivered an inch nearer than usual.
The principal duties of the umpire at the bowler's end are those we have discussed—viz. calling 'wides' and 'no balls,' answering decisions for leg before wicket and catches at the wicket—and there are some few other points he may occasionally be called upon to decide. Before mentioning these, let us see what the laws say with regard to the several duties of the two umpires. Law 47 says, 'The umpire at the bowler's wicket shall be appealed to before the other umpire in all cases except in those of stumping, hit wicket, run out at the striker's wicket, or arising out of law 42 (the law relating to any part of the wicket-keeper's person being in front of the wicket, or to his taking the ball before it reaches the wicket); but in any case in which an umpire is unable to give a decision, he shall appeal to the other umpire, whose decision shall be final.' It will thus be seen that the umpire at the bowler's end must be appealed to first in all but the excepted cases; he therefore has to decide all questions relating to catches but if he is uncertain, or from some cause has been prevented from seeing the circumstances of the catch, he may appeal to the other umpire, whose decision shall be final. It is sometimes a very difficult thing for an umpire to be certain whether or not the fielder's hands have got under the ball before it has touched the ground; if he is at all doubtful, he should at once appeal to the other umpire, whose position may probably have enabled him to get a better view of the 'catch.' A difficulty occasionally arises in connection with what is commonly called a 'bump' ball. A bump ball is one which the batsman, playing hard on to the ground and close to the bat, causes to bound in the air. Should it be caught by a fielder, a question often arises whether it touched the ground after the bat or not. Sometimes these decisions are hard to arrive at with certainty, and especially so if the ground is dry and dusty and the batsman in striking stirs up a cloud of dust, as the actual contact between the bat and the ball is then partially, if not altogether, obscured from the umpire's view. Perhaps the most historical decision on this point is one that was given in the University match of 1881. C. F. H. Leslie, the well-known old Rugbeian, had just begun his innings; A. F. J. Ford was bowling. Leslie made a half-hit at a well-pitched-up ball, and raised a cloud of dust around him; the ball came straight back to the bowler, who caught it, and Leslie instantly left his wicket for the pavilion, evidently under the impression that he was fairly out. Before he had reached the entrance of the pavilion circumstances arose which caused the other batsman then at the wickets to appeal to the bowler's umpire for a decision as to whether the catch had been made off a 'bump' ball or not. This umpire, not being able to give a decision, appealed to the other one, who, after some discussion with his colleague, decided in the affirmative, and consequently Leslie resumed his innings.
When an umpire has to decide the question of a 'bump' ball or not, he must be guided by its length, its flight from the bat, and the way in which the latter has been used; the state of the ground sometimes must be considered, as it is unlikely, when the turf is in a soft, spongy state, that a ball will bounce high or far from it.
As will be seen by the latter part of law 47 (just quoted), the bowler's umpire may occasionally be appealed to on matters which are primarily in the discretion of his colleague. If the latter cannot decide, for instance, a question of stumping, which, by the law, must first be referred to him, he may appeal to the bowler's umpire. This power of appealing in cases of stumping is rarely used—in fact, we have never seen or heard of a single case of its exercise, though we once saw a case arise in which an appeal might very rightly have been made. In the University match of 1878, A. H. Evans was batting, he ran out to a slow, hit at it with all his might, missed it, and let the bat slip out of his hands. The ball was taken, and the wicket put down by the Cambridge wicket-keeper, Alfred Lyttelton; but the umpire had seen the bat flying straight at his head, and not wishing to risk a broken crown by sticking to his post, had fallen down with his head averted from the wicket, and was consequently unable to give a decision on a case which he had not seen. Evans was some three or four feet out of his ground when the bails were knocked off, but as no decision was given against him he of course remained at the wickets. This is exactly the case which this part of rule 47 is framed to meet; the other umpire would have been quite able to have given a decision on a plain case like this, and no doubt would have done so had there been an appeal made by him.
Under law 43 many points arise for the decision of the bowler's umpire, two of which merit discussion here. This law says, 'The umpires are the sole judges of fair and unfair play, of the fitness of the ground, the weather, and the light for play; all disputes shall be determined by them, and if they disagree the actual state of things shall continue.' But law 46 says, 'They (the umpires) shall not order a batsman out unless appealed to by the other side.' So that no umpire can really decide anything, except wides, no balls, and boundary hits, unless an appeal is made to him. As will be seen from law 43, appeals may be made on the fairness or otherwise of the play. These appeals happily are seldom made, but circumstances may arise in which it is the duty of the umpire to give his opinion under this rule. For instance, should the bowler so cut up the pitch with his feet as to place the batsman at a disadvantage when opposed to the bowling from the other end, it would be the duty of the umpire, if appealed to, to say that such tearing or cutting up was unfair, whether done accidentally or not. When the Hon. Ivo Bligh's team was in Australia in 1882-3, an appeal was made to the umpire by one of this team as to whether the way in which Spofforth was cutting up the wicket was fair or unfair. There was no doubt the wicket was being seriously damaged; the appealing batsman of course made no imputation of intentional unfairness against Spofforth, but only asked for a decision whether such damage was fair to the batting side. The umpire asked to see the soles of Spofforth's shoes; these were held up for public view, and as they only had about one spike each, it was decided that there was nothing unfair. It, is, however, a well-known fact that when ground is cut up, it is done by the force with which the boot is brought on to the ground; the edge of the sole is often answerable for the damage, and the number of spikes that are worn is quite beside the question.
As we have before noted, the umpire at the striker's end has to decide some few points; his duties, however, are not nearly so onerous as those of his colleague at the other end. They are decisions on stumping, hitting wicket, running out, and matters arising under law 42. This umpire should stand quite square with the wicket, so near as to enable him to see accurately all that happens without placing himself in any risk from a hard square hit. He should take care that the popping crease is clearly visible to him: if it has got worn out and difficult to see, a pinch of sawdust placed at the end of it will give him its correct line. It is always best, however, when, either of the creases has become indistinct to send for the whitening and re-mark it. Stumping rarely gives much difficulty to the umpire; his position is such that he ought always to be able to see whether the bails are off before the bat or foot are within the line. If the toe of the batsman is on the crease and no part of his foot within it, of course the decision must be against the batsman. If the batsman relies on his bat being in his ground when the bails are off, the umpire should recollect that the bat must be in his hand according to law 19. We recollect once seeing in a county match a batsman after a tremendous futile swipe fall prostrate outside his ground with the force of the unsuccessful stroke; he was lying some two feet out of his ground, and his bat was within the crease with the handle resting on his shoulder when the wicket was put down. The umpire wrongly gave him 'not out,' no doubt thinking he was justified in doing so as the bat was connected with a portion of the batsman's body. The bat must, however, be in his hand to prevent a decision against him, unless 'some part of his person be grounded within the line of the popping crease.'
It is generally easy for an umpire to see when a batsman hits his wickets. The ball is usually played by the bat, but the batsman coming further back than usual, either from a mistake in his judgment as to the pitch or from originally standing too near, strikes the wicket. An umpire, however, must keep a sharp look on the wicket-keeper's feet and hands, and see that the fall of the bails is not due to any of these coming in contact with the wicket. It is possible for a wicket-keeper to dislodge the bails with the tip of his gloves or the point of his boot, and yet be unconscious that he has done so. An umpire must also keep his eyes open to guard against any chance of this being intentionally done. Fortunately there is now no 'hanky-panky' play in our first-class cricket; but there have undoubtedly been cases where a smart wicket-keeper has been unable to resist the temptation of removing the bail with foot or glove when in the act of taking the ball. If any part of the batsman's person hits the wicket 'in playing
at the ball,' it is sufficient to justify a decision against him. If his hat blow off and knock the bails off when he is in the act of playing, he is out; several instances are on record of this unfortunate method of dismissal. In the season of 1886 there was an instance recorded of a man knocking one of his bails off with a piece of the string that had been wrapped round the blade of his bat; he was, of course, given out. A difficulty sometimes arises as to whether the bail was knocked off in the actual stroke at the ball, or whether it was in the action of the bat preliminary or subsequent to the stroke.
The duties of umpires are so various, and the decisions they are called upon to give are so numerous, that it is an impossibility to discuss them all. Every umpire should remember that when an unforeseen incident occurs in the game he must use his common sense for its solution, and then he will not go far wrong.
- A batsman's reach is further on the off than the leg side, because he has his legs to put across the wicket to help him on the former side.