Officiating in any sport is difficult - a thankless task where the officials may even suffer abuse. It does not help when referees or umpires make terrible decisions that bring their integrity and reputation into disrepute though.
Everyone expects even the best cricket umpires to make the odd mistake, especially as the burden on them is far heavier. However, some of the lot in international cricket produced such significant match-changing howlers that you wouldn't even want them officiating in a benefit match.
Poor lbw decision
Australian umpire Daryl Harper officiated in 94 Test matches. Initially, he was viewed as one of the more competent umpires on the elite panel. However, he was prone to some egregious errors towards the end of his tenure on the Elite panel. Even as the third umpire, he had some problems with the UDRS in the 2009 series between West Indies and England. Harper was removed from the Elite panel in 2011. He was a decent fellow though.
Ashocker in action
Just how bad was the former leg-spinner from Sri Lanka? Well, commentators and fans called him "Ashocker" DeSilva. The Sri Lankan managed to reach the Elite panel, but produced howlers with remarkable consistency. It was surprising that he remained on the panel for so long. Like Daryl Harper, he was finally removed in 2011 - after making some controversial decisions at the 2011 ICC World Cup.
The ICC should have no-balled Hair
The officious Australian umpire was a long-standing international umpire. He was fairly competent, but he is one of the worst umpires because of his attitude to umpiring. Hair infamously no-balled Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and penalized Pakistan for alleged ball-tampering in 2006, which led to the first forfeit in Test history. To rub salt in the wound, the Aussie umpire gave some dodgy decision against Pakistan in the previous Test. Hair was barely competent, but his controversial decisions made him a burden to the game.
Fred Goodall taught us about bad officiating
Was umpiring in New Zealand so terrible? Why did Fred Goodall officiate in 24 Tests matches between 1965 and 1988? The pedantic New Zealand umpire was most infamous for his dodgy umpiring in the 1980/81 NZ vs WI series. Even then New Zealand captain Geoff Howarth suggested that the school teacher was out of his depth. Before 6' 6, 230 lb West Indies fast bowler Colin Croft "accidentally" bounced Goodall during his run-up, he suggested that Fred should return to teaching. Hopefully his teaching was better than his officiating.
Shakoor Rana vs Mike Gatting
Pakistani umpire Shakoor Rana was controversial; maybe Darrell Hair took a leaf from his book. His officiating was piss poor at the best of times and he managed to get under the skins of two Test captains - New Zealand's Jeremy Coney and England's Mike Gatting. According to Cricinfo, Shakoor Rana gave 10 lbws in his first Test and enquired about the Test record for lbws!
Bulathsinghalage Cyril Cooray was one of Sri Lanka's best umpires during the 1990s, so why is he here? Well, while he was regarded as a competent umpire, he did one game too many. That game was the 2000/2001 series between Sri Lanka and England, where Cooray was the home umpire.
In the second Test of that three-match series, Cooray made a slew of atrocious decisions, giving batsmen out to balls pitched way outside the leg stump and even giving Sanath Jayasuriya out caught off a ball that clearly bounced off the ground. So bad were his decisions, that players, fans and commentators turned against the Sri Lankan. Fans even gave him the nickname "Bad Call Cooray."
Although the ICC were already contemplating an elite panel of umpires, B.C, Cooray's poor performance in that Test was a catalyst. One year later, the ICC created the Elite Panel and ruled out use of home umpires as standing umpires in Tests. Cooray's poor performance was not helped by his officious stance, and he was described as "bossy" by one of England's players. The Sri Lankan was always quick to excuse or justify his errors, instead of admitting that he his human.
Some cricket fans might like to see two West Indian umpires on the list - Steve Bucknor and Billy Doctrove. Steve Bucknor was a good umpire, but he stayed on too long. His nadir came in the 2008 India tour of Australia when the Indian team demanded that he be replaced for the series. Doctrove was involved in the 2006 controversy with Darrell Hair and is known for dodgy decisions.
I'd like to reiterate that I know officials can make mistakes; I know the pressure they can be under. However, some officials really bring games into disrepute at times. Other West Indian umpires are not much better. Guyanese Clive Duncan and Jamaican Norman Malcolm are utter rubbish as umpires.
I thought Trinidadian Peter Nero was a bright prospect before he gave West Indies batsman Lendl Simmons caught in a T20 match against India at Port of Spain in 2011. What was horrendous about his decision? Well, Simmons did not even touch the ball with the bat AND the ball ricocheted off the wicketkeeper's helmet! Even if Simmons had hit the ball (which he didn't) the ball coming off the keeper's helmet should have rendered that a not out decision. Perhaps Nero was unsighted, but the incompetent Norman Malcolm (again!) at square leg did not help him out. Maybe he was dreaming of ackee and saltfish.
It seems as though I would have to augment this list of atrocious umpires soon.
SpiffyD (author) from The Caribbean on July 06, 2011:
Well the subcontinent has produced some of the most controversial of the lot indeed. I can recall few really good umpires from there. Venkat and Aleem Dar come to mind. Asad Rauf is not that bad either.
I saw Steve Bucknor give some howlers in his time, but sometimes an umpire gives a decision that makes you wonder about the psychological pressure. I recall Harbhajan Singh appealing regularly (and without success) for decisions from umpire Ian Gould of England. This was in the second Test of the 2011 series (WI v India at Bridgetown).
Harbhajan was bowling over the wicket to the left-handed Chanderpaul. He pitched a regulation offbreak on middle stump. The ball moved towards offstump, but clearly hit Chanderpaul outside the line of offstump (and it was moving away). My immediate reaction was not out, and I was confused when I saw the umpire raise his finger. Replayes showed that the ball would have missed by at least eight inches. I think that was a case of psychological pressure coming into play, because that was clearly a howler.
Aarav from Mumbai on July 06, 2011:
I agree with your last paragraph "Notable omissions", I think the worst umpires are from the sub-continent. WI umpires are better than most. I don't know about the Duncan and Malcolm but Bucknor is the connivance of the media.