Use the Laws with commonsense
One of the best things an umpire can do to avoid conflict situations is to let players play the game. Umpires shouldn’t be looking for minor technical violations or any other circumstances just to show people they know the Law book backwards. With the new 2000 Code of Laws now firmly in place, umpires should look to use certain Laws as a deterrent rather than a solution. Always try to solve problems they occur.
Such situations may involve Penalty Runs for breaches like damaging the pitch or time wasting. Your proven techniques for dealing with past instances should not be discarded. Successful man management skills that have averted conflict situations need to be continued with minor adjustments. The powers that have been given to us by the strengthening of the unfair play Laws and awarding of Penalty Runs must be treated with care. The ultimate sanction of awarding Penalty Runs in some situations could be a poor reflection of your competence and capability.
For instance, the case of a batsman running on the pitch may not be considered as unfair play the first time it occurs. You will probably take many things into account and issue the quiet “unofficial” warning also adding a gentle reminder that penalty runs are a consequence of further breaches. Remember, the spirit and intent of this Law is not to penalize an accident or unintentional incident caused by a batsman or bowler changing direction to avoid injury/collision. Any pitch damage must be deliberate to be considered unfair. Ask yourself three questions:
(1) “Why did this particular player commit a particular act?”
(2) “Was it because the player wanted to gain an unfair advantage”
(3) “Did the player really know what he was doing?”
The same can be said of other situations like the wicketkeeper encroaching or a bowler getting in close to protected area of the pitch. Sometimes the nonstriker will be only too keen to point out a couple of footmarks made by the bowler. Let him know you are on top of the situation by saying something like “I’m keeping an eye on it”. A quiet word at the first instance will make the player aware of the possible infringement and alleviate a lot of animosity between players and umpires.
Use common sense when applying the Laws. One of the worst tags an umpire can get is that of being a “Law Book” umpire. Unfortunately, it’s a reputation that will stay with you for a long time.
Good umpires know how to interact with players and there are many opportunities to do this during the course of the match. If the wicketkeeper removes the bails and then immediately replaces them, say “Thank you”. Your colleague at the bowlers end will indicate if the wicket is correctly aligned or not.
If you have cause to speak to the Captain about player behaviour, always finish your request with “Please”. After he has spoken to the player, always say “Thank you”. Remember, you are not trying to be their buddy, just showing simple courtesy. Whether this courtesy is returned or not is irrelevant and should not affect your future endeavours.