In Defense Of Daryl Harper

Daryl Harper has withdrawn from the Third Test between India and West Indies, in what looks like a monumental fit of pique. Apparently, Harper — almost universally hated by every cricket blogger — is angry at the criticism he’s had to withstand from Indian players (including from M.S. Dhoni), none of who has been punished. Examples:

Indian newspapers widely reported that “a very senior member of the side” had claimed that the entire team did not want Harper to officiate in the final Test. “We don’t want him – you can quote it as the reaction of the entire Indian team,” was the alleged remark.

Another India player allegedly said: “It’s Daryl Harper six not out,” complaining that Harper had made three bad decisions in West Indies’ favour.

Regular readers know that I view the cricket umpire as a mythical demi-god who cannot be questioned. I have explained this before, but briefly, it relates to Hobbes’ reasoning in the Leviathan. Because all men are equal, all men have an equal claim to power. But that would lead to anarchy, so instead we consent to a sovereign and let him/her rule. You can question how much power you’d want to give in political societies, but on the cricket field, this makes a lot of sense — and anyone who has played pick-up cricket with more than three South Asians knows the values of this advice. Games without authoritative umpires quickly fold into silliness and disputes about rules and “who’s keeping score.”

So what’s the problem? Well, we now have something the Victorians didn’t — HotSpot and cameras, for one. And people look at replays and see wrong decisions and act as if they’ve been cheated all along. “What do you know,” they say, “the umpire is fallible!” This is the wrong lesson entirely: it was precisely the umpire’s fallibility (i.e., his human-ness) that led to us give him absolute powers. Now, even if you want more technology in the game, or don’t think much of my argument, the fact is both teams went into the Test series knowing fully well that Harper would be in charge. He’s made bad decisions, but he’s still the umpire — so lay off him, and do your job.

I supported Steve Bucknor when the Indians raised a fuss about him at Sydney, and I’ll support Harper now. Complaining about umpires mid-series is a terrible display of sour grapes; it also complicates the umpire’s mind-set (if I give a bad decision against the Indians, they’ll go home and cry to their BCCI overlords). If you choose not to have DRS in a series, and if you agree to play under umpires, and if you agree with the ICC’s umpire training and testing program, then shut up and play the game.


19 thoughts on “In Defense Of Daryl Harper

  1. ashmita says:

    we live in a democratic world u have the rt. 2 say anything but we know dhoni didn’t say anything directly our captain doesn’t accuses anyone directly & more the people outside the team. he only said if some decisions were given right they would have been in the hotel by then . it is u people who r blaming dhoni (bcoz obviously clever people understands what dhoni wants 2 say) we could have ignored his words but obviously harper has made so many (6) mistakes that obviously nobody can ignore that. when arrogant australians & english say anything obviously nobody has a problem with that

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Ashmita, thanks for the comment. You do know what a “limited sample size” means, right? 6 errors? Out of how many decisions? And out of all his decisions in a career? Isn’t the fact that he has a 96% accuracy rate relevant?

      • PSK says:

        I have never been much in favour of the 96% and 94% accuracy figures trotted about. What could be relevant is accuracy of marginal decisions.

  2. krish says:

    “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.

    But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”

    • duckingbeamers says:

      Never thought much of prudence, myself.

      • Naresh says:

        Well think about this then – Punter ranted for 5 minutes with Aleem Dar – I don;t remember Dar saying a word. Dhoni dropped a one-liner, and we got 30 lines of boo-hoo.

        but yeah – the ozzies – they remain the toughest of the lot – here , there and everywhere. role models sir…yeah.

        PS: and by the way, did you support Dar – or is it something with the “nasty Indian lot” only?

  3. WIndian says:

    @krish – brilliant!

    @Ducking Beamers – With great power comes great responsibility! And when you exercise that power incompetently, and in a one-sided fashion, a backlash is but inevitable.

    Yes, it is a little sad that an umpire on the elite panel is leaving in this fashion. But it’s also unsavoury that Dave Richardson is citing Harper’s supposed stats in India matches, without also acknowledging his very poor performance in the match that led to the verbal slight.

    6 boo-boos in 1 Test match against just 1 team… 4 of them in succession in 2 hrs of critical play (on Day 3 – Kohli, Raina, Dhoni, Harbhajan)…. in a low-scoring match.

    Why should the absence of DRS lower the standards (drastically!) expected of an umpire? An elite panel umpire, at that.

    This is Test cricket. And not just for the players.

  4. WIndian says:

    And now there’s news that Dhoni was given out incorrectly off a no-ball in the current Barbados Test!

    The TV producer showed the wrong replay to the 3rd umpire! Edwards actual front foot no-ball was mistakenly replaced by the previous delivery, which was legitimate.

    Does the absence of DRS mean even this incompetence should be overlooked???

  5. Jawad says:

    Daryl Harper is the same guy in the middle of the 5 wrong decision in the Pakistan Canada Worldcup encounter. Read details at

  6. Aditya says:

    All this fuss over one statement from Dhoni, which he made in half-jest and that too when specifically asked by a journalist about it? Who’s whining here? I sure want somebody to give me a link to at least one of the Indian newspapers who have reportedly quoted a senior Indian player that they didn’t want Harper in the last test.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      That is fair enough, Aditya. I actually didn’t see the context of Dhoni’s comment, so perhaps I let my writing get a bit too far ahead.

  7. Sai says:

    now that you have said “then shut up and play the game.” that is what the players will do….why don’t you just do the same and let players express what they want to…umpires decesion is final and that is why the players left the field.

    • duckingbeamers says:

      I wish I could decipher an argument in this broken string of sentences, Sai. My point is that players have a responsibility to respect umpires both on and off the field. Sorry you disagree, but I’m not sure your tone is completely necessary.

  8. raj says:

    I personally prefer the Ponting methodology of wagging fingers at the umpires [i] on the field [/i], abusing them publicly, and humiliating them in front of the world. It works better, too, given that he doesnt get much censure for that. A few Indian bloggers ridicule him, ofcourse but that’s small change – no bans, minimal fines, despite a thousand such instances.

    That Dhoni lacks the class of Ponting.

    Oh I am so sorry I missed this post when it was hot

    • Naresh says:

      and no boo-hoo from Aleem Dar either 😉

      • duckingbeamers says:

        It’s a sorry state of affairs when commenters use Ricky Ponting’s behavior as the arbiter of all things right and wrong.

      • naresh says:

        ok ok — we will leave ricky alone alright? after all he has special rights and we should not “doubt his integrity (boo-hoo and all that)”….by the way, this time the point was more about the other ozzie Daryl. but never mind, I get it. ricky;s off limits for us mortals. maybe daryl is too…….

  9. Jawad says:

    Harper got a rough treatment at the hands of the indian cricketers. Read details @

  10. […] In the old days, cricket umpires received protection and respect because they were treated like a Hobbesian sovereign. (I’ve made this argument in more detail before here.) Hobbes, you will recall from your […]

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