Cricket fans at Bengaluru's Chinnaswamy stadium were a disgruntled lot on Sunday as a couple of debatable umpiring decisions cost the home team dearly in the semi-final of the Ranji Trophy. Saurashtra batsman Cheteshwar Pujara was at the centre of the unwanted attention and was booed heavily as he completed his fifty.
There were also loud chants of "Cheater, Cheater" as he walked back to the dressing room for lunch, tea and at stumps. The reason for the booing? His apparent refusal to walk after a close caught-behind call in the 25th over from R Vinay Kumar was turned down by umpire Saiyed Khalid. The ball was seaming away from the batsman when an audible sound could be heard on the stump mike as the ball crossed the bat.
It was impossible to tell without the help of technology whether he had actually nicked the ball although the over 1,000 Karnataka supporters in the stands were pretty sure that they had heard a nick as the ball passed the bat and went up in unanimous appeal along with the bowler and fielders. However, the umpire remained unmoved.
There was outrage among Karnataka supporters who felt aggrieved that Pujara did not walk. They also pointed to a close decision in the first innings of the game where too an appeal for caught behind had been turned down by the umpire. Several social media users were quick to point out that the decision to allow him to continue batting influenced the result of the match and called for better umpiring standards in domestic cricket.
Pujara went on to score an unbeaten 131 to guide his team Saurashtra to a win and into the Ranji Trophy finals against Vidarbha.
The sequence of events however has sparked a debate on whether Pujara, the poster boy of India's historic test series win in Australia last month, should have walked and whether the Decision Review System (DRS), a technology-based system used in cricket to assist the match officials, should have been used. The DRS is now commonplace in international cricket but is yet to be introduced for the Ranji Trophy, India's premier domestic cricket championship.
Chasing 278 for victory in the fourth innings of the game, Saurashtra was reeling at 3 for 2 when Pujara walked in to bat. He forged a 214-run partnership with Sheldon Jackson for the fourth wicket, which proved instrumental in the team’s victory.