Introducing neutral umpires in Test cricket has led to a drop in the number of leg-before-wicket decisions going in favour of home teams, according to new Sheffield University research.
The research team found that in the days when home countries appointed their own officials – in the period from 1986 to 1994 – bias in favour of the host nation was particularly strong in Australia, India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
The findings come amid renewed debate on whether neutral umpiring is still required in Tests, following the introduction of video technology in most games.
Dr Ian Gregory-Smith and two colleagues analysed LBW decisions in 1,000 Test matches that took place between 1986 and 2012.
Until 1994, both umpires in Test matches were from the same country as the home team.
From 1994 to 2002, one of the two umpires was required to be from a neutral country and after 2002 both umpires were required to be neutral.
The research found clear evidence of fewer decisions in favour of home teams with neutral umpires.
Dr Abhinav Sacheti said: “Our results suggest that when two home umpires officiated in Test matches, away teams were likely to suffer on average 16 per cent more LBW decisions than home teams.
“When the ICC introduced the one neutral umpire policy, this advantage to home teams receded to 10 per cent.
“When two neutral umpires were required in every Test match, this advantage to home teams disappeared.”
Dr Gregory-Smith said: “Whatever the reasons behind the bias, our results suggest authorities should be cautious before returning to a system whereby umpires can officiate in matches involving their own country.”