New Delhi:Steve Bucknor's horrendous decisions against India in the second cricket Test in Sydney on Thursday evoked calls for the 61-year-old West Indian umpire's immediate retirement from officiating in international matches.
Bucknor, the oldest ICC umpire in the world, has been India's bugbear in recent years but his three decisions which cost India hugely stood out.
The Australians were reeling at 134 for 6 before Bucknor gave a new lease of life to their innings by adjudging Andrew Symonds not out at 30 before the all-rounder went on to score an unbeaten knock of 162.
Bucknor also surprised on Thursday by deciding against referring a close stumping appeal against Symonds to the third umpire. Television replays suggested Symonds was outside the crease when the bails were dislodged.
Asserting that Bucknor is no longer competent enough to stand in international matches, former players felt the Jamaican was past his prime and his poor track record particularly against India has given rise to "skepticism".
"The quality of umpiring in the second cricket Test was very poor. Since Bucknor has repeatedly made mistakes against India, he should not have been deputed for such an important series," former India captain K Srikanth said.
Srikanth said poor umpiring can drastically change the course of the match as was evident on the opening day of the second Test against Australia when the hosts recovered from 134 for 6 to 376 for 7 courtesy some umpiring shockers.
"If it happens so often, Bucknor should be dropped from the ICC's Elite panel. He should not be deputed for matches involving India," Srikanth said.
Another former cricketer Abbas Ali Baig was highly critical of the veteran umpire and said it was high time that he called it quits.
"I think there is an age limit for umpires. He is 61 and why should he continue? Why make an exception for him?" Baig asked.
Baig said umpires were human and it was natural for them to make occasional mistakes but if it happens consistently with one team then it puts a question mark on his ability.
"It is not possible for umpires to be 100 per cent correct every time. There will be occasional mistakes but what is more surprising that India is always at the receiving end," he said.
Baig also said that the ICC should take the captain's report on umpires more seriously and also periodically evaluate the performance of its elite panel umpires.
"I don't think the captain's report is even read. No action is ever taken if the umpire has performed below par," he said.
Baig felt that if cricketers could be fined for breaching the ICC code of conduct, similar financial penalties should be imposed on umpires if their performance is not upto the mark.
"Why not punish the umpires if there are glaring errors. If the ICC can deduct match fees from the players, it should also do the same thing for umpires. They are also accountable," Baig observed.
He was also in favour of making use of technology to minimise umpiring errors in international matches. "Since technology is there, why not make use of it? It will be good for both the teams."
Former India captain Ajit Wadekar also urged the ICC to sack Bucknor at the earliest.
"It's high time Steve Bucknor is removed for his consistently poor umpiring. It's absolutely necessary that ICC brings in a uniform retirement age for umpires. Bucknor is 61."
"More importantly the errors are made because you start getting over-confident. It could happen to anybody and he starts floating (in the air) unconsciously," he said adding that there were many umpires waiting to replace aged ones like Bucknor.
He also called on the players to show some sportsman spirit and walk when they know that they are out.
"If the technology and the advancement of software on TV cameras is 100 per cent correct, why players do not walk when they are out?" he said.
Former stumper Chandrakant Pandit echoed Wadekar's views and said, "It can be considered as the eyesight and hearing capacity go down after a certain age. Retirement age for umpires need to be fixed by the authorities," he said.
Former India opener Navjot Singh Siddhu was also livid with Bucknor and said his persistent goof-ups could no longer be ignored.
"It is high time the umpires are made more accountable. Wrong decisions can ruin not only the prospects of a team but also a young player's career," he said.
"Just imagine what effect it would have had on Ishant Sharma. He would have been totally devastated. But if the appeal was upheld, he would have been a transformed bowler," he said.
Another former Test skipper Chandu Borde emphasised that competence not age should be the criteria in continuing with the services of an umpire.
"If a person is fit and doing a good job then I don't give importance to the age factor. Only if a person is not doing well and he's also old then I can understand removing him," Borde said.
"I want a person who is really fit and doing it efficiently. Even if that person is old it doesn't matter. I agree umpiring has been poor in the Sydney Test but that's because the competency levels have gone down," he explained.
The former middle order batsman also felt that increased use of the available technology was not the ideal answer to the problems of umpiring.
"The same umpires were doing well till recently. Only now their performance level has dipped. Even with the use of technology a wrong decision was given (Symonds being declared not out when a stumping appeal was refereed to TV umpire Oxenford)", he pointed out.
It is not just the fans and experts here who are fuming, even the Australian media has supported the Indian team on the matter.
In a hard-hitting column, Sydney Morning Herald cricket writer Peter Roebuck said Steve Bucknor spoilt what was a superb day of cricket yesterday.
Roebuck wrote that Bucknor should have retired after the World Cup in West Indies.
"Indeed, he was expected to retire after the World Cup. Those responsible for allowing him to linger were also partly responsible for a decision that changed the course of the day and possibly the match and series," he said.