Neutral umpires return in Test cricket as countries ease travel restrictions

Neutral umpires will be back in Test cricket as countries have started to ease travel restrictions imposed with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic from 2020. On Sunday, the ICC ratified its Cricket Panel’s recommendation to “use” more. neutral umpires in international cricket, but also chose to have home umpires conducting in both ODIs and T20Is.

Accordingly, for the 2022–23 period, the ICC has ruled that three of the five match officials in Test cricket will be neutral: the on-field umpire, the match umpire and the third umpire. The remaining two match officials – the second on-field referee and the fourth referee – are not neutral. Before the pandemic, both the on-field referees, the match referee and the third referee were neutral officials. But since June 2020, given the logistical challenges of the pandemic, the ICC had decided not to use non-neutral match officials in bilateral series.

Last year the ICC Cricket Committee recommended keeping this structure, which was approved by both the global body’s Chief Executives Committee and the Board. On Sunday, the ICC said in a media release that the performance of the home referees was “strong” and encouraging.

“The CEC has been informed of the use of home referees from July 2020 to February 2022 due to Covid-19,” the ICC said. “The committee recognized that the performance of the home referees had been strong and had not affected the games. The use of home referees had also resulted in 12 members of the international refereeing panel making their friendly debuts.

In line with a previous recommendation from the ICC Men’s Cricket Committee, the CEC agreed that more neutral match officials should be used as travel restrictions are lifted, while building on the success of using home referees.

The success of non-neutral umpires over the past two years has given the ICC confidence in not having a neutral presence in limited overs cricket. Going forward, all five match officials, including the match referee, will be non-neutral in bilateral ODIs and T20Is. Before the pandemic regulations, in ODIs one of the on-field umpires were neutral along with the third umpire and the match umpire. There were two home officials: a one-field umpire and the fourth umpire. In T20 cricket, before the pandemic, only the match umpire was a neutral official who will now be of the home committee.

The Cricket Committee re-appointed Mahela Jayawardene as a former player’s representative and also appointed Jay Shah, the BCCI Secretary, as a full member representative of the committee, succeeding David White.

The ICC was also advised by the Afghanistan Working Group at the meeting and, as expected, the appointment of ACB Chairman Mirwais Ashraf as Afghanistan’s appointed representative on the Executive Board was recommended.

“The working group informed the Board that the ICC continues to support the Afghan men’s team to play international cricket while overseeing the governance of the sport in the country, including the development of the women’s game,” the ICC said in a press release.

“The ACB reaffirmed its continued commitment to the development of women’s cricket and will provide a full action plan and budget for this to the Working Group, which will continue to monitor the situation and provide regular updates on its progress.”

Nagraj Gollapudi is a news editor at ESPNcricinfo

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