Sri Lankan umpire Kumar Dharmasena has finally spoken out about the umpiring mistake he made during the World Cup final which may have cost New Zealand the world title. It was the retired Australian umpire Simon Taufel who pointed out that on the occasion of four overthrows being conceded by New Zealand when a throw from the deep got deflected off the bat of Ben Stokes, the umpires should have awarded only one of the two runs that the batsmen had run prior to the ball reaching the boundary.
The rule says that Stokes and his partner Adil Rashid hadn't crossed for the second run when the throw from Guptill commenced, hence, that run shouldn't have been given. If the correct rule was applied, New Zealand would have not only conceded one run less, which in a tied match is decisive, but, more importantly, Stokes would have been off-strike.
Dharmasena, speaking to the Sunday Times, a Sri Lankan newspaper, accepted the mistake but, shockingly, refused to even regret it.
"It's easy for people to comment after seeing TV replays. I agree that there was a judgmental error when I see it on TV replays now. But we did not have the luxury of TV replays at the ground and I will never regret the decision I made. Beside the ICC praised me for the decision I made at that time."
This would sound very insensitive to New Zealand fans as this mistake which the umpire made, possibly, denied them their first-ever World Cup. A little apology or even expression of contrition wouldn't have been out of place.
The former Sri Lankan cricketer tried to explain his mistake by listing the difficulties of the task and the multiple responsibilities on the umpires.
"One must understand that there were too many things on our plate. We had to watch the batsmen complete the first run, the ball being fielded, how it was handled by the fielder and whether the batsmen completed the second run.
"And where the throw would come from, the striker's end or non-striker's end. In this case, we were all happy that the batsmen had completed the second run because the ball ricocheted off Stokes's bat at the time of him completing the second run. So, we assumed that they had crossed each other at the time of fielder releasing the ball," Dharmasena explained.
He also brushed off the suggestion that the third umpire should have been consulted. "There is no provision in the law to refer this to the third umpire as no dismissal was involved. So, I did consult the leg umpire through the communication system which is heard by all other umpires and the match referee.
And, while they cannot check TV replays, they all confirmed that the batsmen have completed the run. This is when I made my decision."
This is a most unconvincing response from Dharmasena for various reasons. To begin with, he cannot complain about the pressures of umpiring since the ICC had, by picking him to officiate in this match, deigned him as one of the best umpires of the world. If he cannot deal with the pressure, then he shouldn't have been chosen in the first place.
Secondly, if this was an ordinary match, he could make the argument that consulting a TV umpire is not resorted to when a dismissal isn't concerned. But this was the biggest match in the world. There was no reason for him to not take the aid of TV replays, especially when the fate of the World Cup depended upon it.
This statement also shows the ICC in a very poor light. If they have picked an umpire for the World Cup final who is not aware of the rules and just 'assumes' certain things, even when the match is in such a crucial situation, they should really improve their selection methods for the officials. What happened in the final was a disgrace to ICC. The brazen comments by Dharmasena should embarrass them even more.