Saturday 25 February 2017

Cricket: No De Silva lining to clouds over Ireland's World Cup journey

Players know they have to move on from Wilson's controversial dismissal against the West Indies, writes Gerard Siggins

T HERE was a haze over the Himalayas yesterday morning as Ireland hauled themselves out of Chandigarh. And the haze hung further over their quarter-final ambitions thanks to a blatantly wrong umpiring decision.

It left William Porterfield's men still standing at Base Camp 2 staring up at the summit -- and knowing that anything less than beating South Africa would mean a plane home next weekend.

The decision of Asoka de Silva to give Gary Wilson out was clearly wrong -- but one that would have done no harm if the Umpire Decision Review System played its part. "The UDRS is there to eradicate bad decisions", Porterfield fumed afterward. "But, for me, that didn't happen this time."

The Irish captain was speaking to the world's media in the library of the Punjab CA stadium, where dusty, musty volumes share wall space with portraits of the greats of the game. The Irish captain was unusually forthright, but succeeded in staying just inside the bounds of what is permitted as an ICC official waited to slap a fine on any indiscretions.

"I am still trying to understand it myself," said Porterfield. "The ball hit him outside the line and the umpire judged him not playing a shot. I don't know how many people agree with that. If you see the replay on the big screen he could have still been able to reverse his decision from there. It was clearly seen Gary (Wilson) was playing the shot. Even though he (De Silva) judged that in the first place -- he saw the replays on the big screen."

There was a comical moment when coach Phil Simmons arrived during the conference and called aside Ireland media manager Barry Chambers. The Irishman then brought the captain around the back of the stage for a hurried chat.

Porterfield anticipated the next question. "I suppose you want to know what he said to me back there?" he grinned.

"That's off the record", laughed Chambers.

Mr De Silva's bizarre series of decisions brought the focus on Law 36, cricket's most complex and least understood -- that pertaining to Leg Before Wicket.

It requires an umpire to make instantaneous and pressured calculations and judgements, the most important of which are where the ball has pitched and where it has hit the batsman in relation to the stumps -- and then make a call on whether the ball would go on to hit the stumps if the batsman's body had not got in the way. Because it requires hairline judgement, it has always been contentious.

The introduction of the UDRS and use of Hawk-Eye was a bid to help eliminate bad decisions that often ruined high-stakes international matches.

With Ireland still entertaining hopes of victory on Friday, Wilson went to deflect a ball outside his off stump. The ball hit his pad first, then his bat. De Silva, who played ten Tests for Sri Lanka more than 20 years ago, raised his finger. Wilson asked for a review and was confident the ball had hit him safely outside the imaginary line drawn between the wickets. De Silva talked on his walkie-talkie to TV umpire Bruce Oxenford.

"Did it hit his pad or bat first?" asked De Silva.

But the big screen then showed the Hawk-Eye decision, which showed Wilson was hit outside the line.

Instead of reversing his call -- and all four reviews of De Silva this tournament have shown him to be wrong -- the Sri Lankan decided Wilson wasn't hitting the ball, making outside-the-line irrelevant. Again he raised his finger and, after a request for clarification from Wilson, raised it a third time.

Porterfield was perplexed. "Surely if you are asking if it was pad first or bat first, you know he is playing a shot? They got it wrong."

But as the team relaxed in Chandigarh Airport en route to Kolkata, the sense of injustice burned. "It's so unfair, this is just as bad and blatant as Thierry Henry's handball," one player told me. "But it's also just as pointless complaining. We just have to move on."

The controversy took away from the high points for Ireland, Boyd Rankin's return to form, Ed Joyce's majestic innings, Wilson's often brilliant knock, and hid some pressing problems.

Ireland have been two wickets down for 30 or 40 every time in this tournament, with Paul Stirling's form a cause for concern. Porterfield, too, was bogged down for 22 balls before he lost patience and chipped a catch on Friday.

His brilliant, inventive captaincy, hailed by the likes of Michael Atherton as the best in the tournament, has been puzzling at times.

George Dockrell, the most consistent and economical bowler he had at his disposal yesterday bowled just three overs, in the last of which he took the top scalp of Ramnaresh Sarwan. It wasn't a pitch that offered anything to the spinners, but Dockrell's control was just what was needed.

This week

Tuesday: Ireland v South Africa

Friday: Ireland v Holland

Sunday Indo Sport

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