ICC to soon reintroduce neutral umpires: Chairman Greg Barclay

Dhaka: The International Cricket Council will soon reintroduce neutral umpires despite the Covid-19 pandemic providing an opportunity to give local umpires greater visibility, chairman Greg Barclay said on Monday.

“There were certain advantages (of Covid) for cricket,” Barclay told reporters in Dhaka.

“One of them was the ability to use home referees. This gave local umpires some exposure to international cricket.

” I think that it’s good. He extended the base a bit wider. But, we are on the other side of the Covid. So we’re reintroducing the neutral umpires arrangement… You’ll see neutral umpires coming back into action,” he said.

File image of England referees Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth. AFP

Host country referees have been used exclusively since 2020, when the pandemic imposed worldwide travel restrictions.

The arrangement came under heavy criticism during Bangladesh’s recent tour of South Africa when the visitors raised allegations of bias against two local Test series referees.

South African referees Marais Erasmus and Adrian Holdstock were in the series, where Bangladesh had been on the wrong end of several close calls.

Versatile Bangladeshi Shakib Al Hasan, who did not play the series, was among a chorus of Bangladeshi social media users criticizing the referees.

The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) has said it will file formal complaints with the ICC’s Head of Match Referees over allegations of biased refereeing and “unbearable” sledding.

Bangladesh partially restored neutral refereeing in the country’s ongoing series against Sri Lanka when they named England’s Richard Kettleborough and West Indies’ Joel Wilson alongside local referee Sharfuddoula.

ICC chairman Barclay added that the body does not intend to make it mandatory for Twenty20 franchises to release players for national service like other sports, particularly football.

Football clubs are required to release players to a representative national team if called up.

Bangladesh were unable to call up pace setter Mustafizur Rahman for the current test against Sri Lanka despite injuries to two key frontline players, Taskin Ahmed and Shoriful Islam.

Mustafizur, who played in the Indian Premier League for Delhi Capitals, has been included in Bangladesh’s test squad for next month’s tour of the West Indies.

“T20 competitions are national competitions. Player movement is a member issue, not an ICC issue,” Barclay said.

“We have no arrangement with the players. I would just leave that to the member councils to respond,” he added.

“The Future Tours program is being set up right now. Hopefully we can accommodate whatever is needed.”

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