The Role of Umpires in Cricket: Responsibilities and Challenges

The Role of Umpires in Cricket: Responsibilities and Challenges

The Role of UmpireThe Role of Umpire in cricket plays a very crucial role in the course of a cricket match. While we talk about the two teams in detail, no broadcaster or commentator talks in length on the umpires who are going to officiate the match. While it is obvious that the umpires play the support role and the players make the game, history of the game has witnessed how games are robbed of a win due to dubious on-field umpiring or on TV Umpiring calls. Brilliant decisions are also made which goes mostly unnoticed but helps the game move forward. While the governing body give unlimited powers to the umpire on decision making on the field, human errors are bound to be made which then in some occasion have significant role to play in the final outcome of the game.


Presented by Raghunath Nair

Date: 27/06/2023


The game played by 11 players on each side watched by fans in the stadium and millions on Television is bound to be subject of sharp criticism when poor decision affects the game. Human error is a factor which is the most concerning and technology help is taken to reduce human error as much as possible.

The Role of Umpires in Cricket

Umpires do play a vital role in making the game popular and like players, should be acknowledge for their role in the growth of the sport. Like cricket, the quality of umpiring has evolved over the years.

Umpires being the adjudicator of the game, need to be neutral and free from any bias immaterial if they are a local umpire or an international one. They will be constantly be scrutinised by the emotional fan base which can make them vulnerable and a good umpire do not succumb to pressure and make their independent fair call.

The role of an umpire is multifaceted and it is not confided only on the field of play.

Apart from making decisions on appeals, the umpire has to keep a track of all the game record like delivery count etc.

There are 2 on field umpires, one placed behind the bowling crease and one placed at square leg position. Apart from complementing and helping each other’s work both have certain responsibilities.

The Umpire who is at the bowling end takes most of the decision except for the one taken by the leg umpire. The square leg umpire takes decisions of stumping, run out at batsman’s end and wide calls for height. Both umpires play these roles every alternate over when they swap places at the end of an over.

third umpire

When both on field umpires are unable to take decisions and need the assistance of video replays, third umpire is called to check television replays and after thorough checks shares his views to the on-field umpire.

Both team captains are given two to three unsuccessful requests for the use of third umpire if they feel unconvinced with the on-field decision. Additional technology like the Decision Review System is used by the third umpire to come to a conclusive decision.

The Decision Review system has helped in bringing down errors in Leg before decisions and edge catches.

To be on the safer side and with the pressures attached on making a wrong decision has forced the on-field umpire to refer almost all their tough decisions to the third umpire diluting their importance on the field.

It is a given in modern day cricket to ask for the third umpire for runouts or stumping for all margin calls as even inches matter. There have been instances where the umpire did not refer a run out chance to the third umpire and only when the replay was shown on the stadium big screen, the umpire had to embarrassingly refer his decision to the third umpire.

The Responsibility and Challenges  of the Cricket Umpire

Before the match

  • Time of the start of game and hours of play is predetermined.
  • Balls are shortlisted with the captains for the match.
  • When and what frequency breaks will be taken in a match.
  • Umpires also check if the outfield and the pitch is conducive to play
  • Umpires will check the light and other conditions
  • They will check that all the gears used by players are within the rules of the law.


During the Match

During the Match

·       Umpiring calls are made on Leg before the wicket , catches , runouts, leg byes , boundary calls, wides and in some cases disallow runs if the batsman has not offered a shot in the umpires eye.

·       Umpires will monitor the behaviour of players and make note of it during the game and if the conduct is felt unsporting, it is reported to the match referee who decides on penalties and punishments.

·       Umpires have to maintain the pace of the game and will keep the players on their toes to avoid time wasting

·       On regular intervals keep a check on the ball conditions to check if it has not been tampered with.

Human Errors are bound to be made and the greatest umpires have been severely criticised for an unintentional act which have clouded the game for a long time.

Third Umpire and Match Referee

Third umpire is the support system for the on-field umpires and assist the third umpire to make right calls.  He third umpire relays his decision back to the on-field umpire after he looks at all possible available footage /replays.

The call of no ball is now taken by the third umpire and now taken off from the list of on field umpire’s responsibilities.

The match referee is the official who handles disciplinary issues. He has the authority to fine or take other disciplinary action on players when players cross the line and is not maintaining the spirit of the game.

Umpires judge the game as per the laws of the game and keep themselves regularly updated to follow the law. They also give their inputs for the laws to get updated

The Quality of Umpiring are now questioned

The Quality of Umpiring are now questioned

While we acknowledge the contribution of the officials involved, but the quality of umpiring has deteriorated over the years . It was more evident in the recently concluded women’s cricket worldcup where umpiring standards were at its lowest point.

Having the responsibility of safeguarding the spirit of the game, umpires have often found themselves in controversy for their questionable decision making.

While there were true greats like Simon Tauffel , the game has also seen the blunders of Steve Bucknor, who probably was the most disliked umpire for an Indian fan. Steve Bucknor happened to commit errors more when India is playing.

Some blunders of umpires in history

·       The Srilankan Third umpire, DN Pathirana giving Adam Gilchrist run out even after the Tv replay clearly showed that the run out was not fairly executed with the wicket keeper missing the ball when the bails were dislodged.

  • Indian umpire Virendra Sharma wrongly giving Virat Kohli out in the India vs New Zealand Test series.

Some blunders of umpires in history

·       Billy Doctrove was chatting with the groundsmen outside the boundary leaving his umpiring position when the game was in play. An appeal for a potential runout went unheard

·       Umpire Peter Nero did not call for the third umpire for a runout appeal against Ramnaresh Sarwan against Zimbabwe which turned out to be a costly mistake as this reprive helped Sarwan to play a match winning innings.

·       The Infamous 2008 Sydney Test match between India and Australia has to go down in history as the worst and biased umpiring the game has ever seen. From absolute howlers to umpire asking the Australian captain to decide if the batsman was out defied logic and the umpiring went from bad to a bizzare one.

When ever I talk about Ricky Ponting I always remember this test match – 2008 Sydney test match! The match of Steve Buckner, Mark Benson and those 11 cheaters leading by biggest cheater of all time Mr. Ricky Ponting. He is the teacher of Smith and Warner. 

Aleem Dar 

Aleem Dar famously did not give AB de Villiers caught Brilliant in slips by Sachin Tendulkar which made Aleem Dar an infamous personality overnight.

·       Pakistan’s Shakur Rana was another gem when it came to poor umpiring.

• Pakistan’s Shakur Rana was another gem when it came to poor umpiring.

The best Umpire Ever

Simon Taufel

The best Umpire Ever Simon Taufel

Considered the best in modern day cricket with his accuracy of decisions, lack of drama and exceptional professionalism. He won five consecutive ICC Umpire of the Year awards between 2004 and 2008 making him one of cricket’s finest umpires.

Marais ErasmusMarais Erasmus , Rob Tucker and Micheal gough would be considered the  best umpires in the current era .



While we do agree that umpiring decisions are made by human and human errors are bound to take place. The Role of the Umpires in cricket is sometimes a thankless one as the umpire is always criticised publicly for his mistakes but never appreciated for his right ones.

While ICC have a marking system in place to punish and reward umpire for their conduct on the cricket field, it is too little too late for the aggrieved team who could face a wrongful loss due to a costly umpiring mistake during the match.

Technology do play a big role to assist the umpire in giving correct decision but technology has its limitations and cricket will have to rely on the expertise of the on-field umpires for now.

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