Table of Contents
The statistics don’t lie and the following list shows those umpires who have made the most wrong decisions in cricket matches up to 2022.
10 Most Controversial Umpires in Cricket
1. Steve Bucknor
A genial and laid back figure, Steve Bucknor wasn’t unpopular with players but the numbers show that he was the worst umpire in cricket. Bucknor, like the majority of officials on this list, ended his career before the days of the Decision Review System and, had that technology been introduced earlier, his figures would have been much better.
Steve Bucknor’s lowest point came in the Brisbane test of 2003 when Australia hosted India and he made a number of wrong calls. Indian fans will tell you that the LBW decision to remove Sachin Tendulkar by Jason Gillespie was the worst and they probably had a point.
The West Indian umpire just didn’t seem to take into account the extra bounce that the wicket was offering and made a series of wrong decisions. However, not only was this delivery too high, it was also some way wide of the stumps.
The Sydney test match of 2008 marked another nadir and it helped to spell the end of Steve Bucknor’s career who retired a year later at the age of 63.
2. Joel Wilson
The Decision Review System can clearly be a good thing for umpires but it can also highlight the truly awful officials. Joel Wilson suffered the fate of being exposed after making a series of howlers in the Ashes series of 2019.
Lots of reviews followed on field decisions and the third umpire had to dig Wilson out of a hole on several occasions in the first test match at Edgbaston. Sadly for Australia, they had no reviews left when Nathan Lyon struck Ben Stokes on the back pad. It seemed clearly out to everyone except Joel Wilson: Stokes earned a reprieve and went on to win the match in the most dramatic of fashions with England sealing a one-wicket victory.
3. Kumar Dharmasena
Kumar Dharmesena’s umpiring levels dropped so low that, at one point, commentators were referring to the Dharmasena Review System. Like a lot of officials on this list, some of his most debated decisions were against Indian players, and he did have a poor series when India hosted England in 2016/17.
The lowest point came in a Chittagong test match between Bangladesh and England. Dharmasena made 16 on field decisions and eight (exactly half) had to be overturned by the third umpire.
4. Darrell Hair
A number of the umpires on this list would have enjoyed good relations with all the players but that wasn’t necessarily the case with Darrell Hair. This was a man who only rose to prominence on the back of controversy as he famously no balled Muttiah Muralitharan for ‘throwing’.
One of the main issues here is that the umpire did not follow the correct protocols in dealing with the case. If Hair had felt Murali was chucking, he should have reported it to the match referee rather than call it on field as he did.
Following a further incident in 2006 when he and fellow umpire Billy Doctrove issued 5 penalty runs against Pakistan for ball tampering, Darrell Hair was temporarily removed from the elite panel of umpires.
5. Daryl Harper
Daryl Harper’s umpiring career didn’t last too much longer following the advent of DRS. He’d been making howlers for years but they were only really exposed when the third umpire (DRS) came in.
One of his more controversial moments came when a bouncer from Glenn McGrath somehow led to an LBW decision against India. The ball had kept low but maybe not that low. In a later series between South Africa and England, a reviewed caught behind decision against Ashwell Prince was reversed and Harper’s shortcomings were exposed.
6. Ross Emerson
Ross Emerson’s Wikipedia entry starts by saying that he is famous for calling Muttiah Muralitharan for throwing and that tells you all you need to know. The Australian did not progress beyond officiating in ten ODIs and it was his last game which defined his career.
Emerson consistently called Murali for chucking and this was the game where Sri Lankan Captain Arjuna Ranatunga led his team from the field. The umpire had a poor game overall, missing a clear run out, and he was not asked to officiate again.
7. Ashoka de Silva
‘Ashoka’s Had a Shocker’. I can remember commentator Paul Allott uttering these words and he wasn’t alone regarding his thoughts on the Sri Lankan umpire. That reaction came during a series in England and was in response to not out decision on a plumb LBW appeal,but that wasn’t de Silva’s worst call.
His lowest point came in a series between West Indies and Australia in 2003. Aussie openers Justin Langer and Matthew Hayden felt especially hard done by with Hayden attracting most attention when De Silva gave him out LBW when the ball clearly pitched outside leg stump.
8. Rudi Koertzen
In my opinion, Koertzen had the best ‘out’ signal in the history of umpiring. Slowly his finger was raised from his hip, almost like a wild west gunslinger finishing off his victim.
Unfortunately, not all of those decisions were correct and the South African was another official to incur the wrath of India. This time, his failure to refer the stumping of Sourav Ganguly raised particular ire.
Koertzen, and fellow umpire Asad Rauf, were also criticised for intervening when it became feisty on the field. India and Australia were happy with the aggression but the officials felt it had gone too far.
Kumar Sangakkara was especially unfortunate to be on the wrong end of one of Koertzen’s worst calls. Chasing a big total against Australia, the left hander was on 192, and homing in on a double century, when he was given out caught when the ball had clearly hit his arm.
9. Ian Gould
A member of England’s World Cup squad in 1983, Ian Gould went on to umpire at first class and international level. ‘Gunner’ Gould was a down to earth character who the players could relate to but that didn’t stop him from making questionable decisions at times.
Gould received a ton of criticism on Twitter for his handling of an India v West Indies test in 2016 and he’d also displeased Indian fans two years earlier. A delivery from Josh Hazlewood had clearly missed Cheteshwar Pujara’s gloves by some margin but the umpire somehow felt that it had taken a nick.
10. Aleem Dar
One of the longest serving umpires on this list, Aleem Dar was still officiating when 2021 came to a close. Born in Pakistan, he enjoyed a brief career as a player before officiating in his first international – an ODI in 2000 between Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Dar was promoted to the ICC panel of umpires two years later but certain players would have questioned his elevation. Overall, he’s fairly consistent but, like all umpires he will have his off days. His worst ever decision came when India played South Africa and he gave Sachin Tendulkar not out when he’d clearly nicked the ball to the slips.