August 04: You’d think India won the second Test and all talk about the umpire referral system being a crook won’t concern anymore. But not much can change in a matter of a week.
In a previous post, it was argued that the ICC needs to take a serious look at this ‘experiment’ they are carrying out in the India-Sri Lanka Tests. More decisions have been taken, and more decisions have proven to be dubious.
Kumar Sangakkara, who is a member of the ICC’s cricket committee, wrote in a recent column about the system’s numerous pros, but gave away only a slight concern regarding the quality of the technology used to support the system, and that it would work best with a combination of the available technology and the judgment of the umpire. Sure, that remains a problem, but I don’t quite know how it justifies the use.
The Rahul Dravid dismissal in the second innings immediately comes to mind. He was plain unlucky to not have known about Malinda Warnapura taking the catch after the ball ricocheted off the fielder’s helmet, and that Gautam Gambhir had only just challenged the decision against him, which didn’t go his way. But the evidence, and the verdict thereafter during his dismissal in the second innings, evokes some strong doubts.
For one, Dravid was drawn a long way forward out of his crease, almost the length of another crease, to play across the line to Muttiah Muralitharan. Next the fact that the impact was on the half-volley. The hawk-eye showed the ball hitting him right on the margin of the off-stump, and going on to hit the stumps.
To substantiate the argument, here’s another instance.
The Indian bowlers were on a rampage in the fourth innings, working their way to bowl out the Sri Lankans for 136. Harbhajan Singh was one of the chief instigators, and one of his four scalps included Chaminda Vaas. Not that his second Test century and a brilliant rescue act leading to Lankan triumph was on the cards, but he lunges forward and literally steps on a looping Harbhajan delivery on the full adjacent to the stumps, and is ejected leg before.
The matter of concern in both these cases is the technology providing inconclusive, and at times false, trajectory to determine a dismissal. True, Vaas’ appeal was valid in the sense that when a ball hits the pads on the full, the umpire has to consider only the line of the ball and not how much it may have turned. But when hawk-eye showed that the ball, delivered from an obvious angle, ‘may’ have pitched and turned in to the batsman and hit the stumps instead of going away, was proved wrong by the actual replay itself, as pointed out by Waqar Younis during commentary.
The replay showed Harbhajan bowling a conventional off-spinner, which would surely have taken the ball across Vaas’ body. Had the batsman not been there, it would quite easily have missed the stumps. It only suggests the lack of predictive element in the technology, being used to probably determine the fate of a tense cricket contest.
Most of us know how much a ball can do on a real turner, but when the telecast screens it through the hawk-eye, the turn of the ball somehow looks rather less. Now whether that’s only an illusion is another matter, but the complete failure of the technology in the most crucial element in judging lbw calls, in other words cricket’s law of probability, is a huge matter of concern.
Sangakkara is right in mentioning that cricketers from both sides have been magnanimous in accepting decisions and haven’t in any way disrespected the umpires’ verdict. But if the technology, which claims to ‘correct’ the men in the middle is itself far from it, then it’s perhaps time to keep it away for the time being. Imagine Twenty20 cricket including the review system and long and aching pauses for cheerleaders before breaking into a sequence.
Perhaps the grudge is also because of its radical nature. The umpire referral system doesn’t gel with the aesthetics of the game. It doesn’t look the part in this game. But having said that, what really works for Sangakkara and the ones supporting the umpire referral system is the standard of umpiring, which has indeed plummeted over the years. We no longer have the likes of Dickie Bird or Venkat or David shepherding the field.
There is a fixed time for seeking umpire review: Expert
Colombo (PTI): Cricketers cannot take longer than a few seconds to seek an umpire referral in case of a close dismissal, says a technical expert, who submitted a report reviewing the recently-introduced system to ICC General Manager Dave Richardson.
"Consultation between the players is allowed provided it occurs almost immediately and is very brief. Procrastination would disqualify a referral," said Senaka Weeraratana on the referral system that is on trial in the ongoing Test series between India and Sri Lanka.
"The total time elapsed between the ball becoming dead and the review request being made should be no more than a few seconds," Weeraratna, a former consultant to the Sri Lankan Law Commission said.
Weeraratna maintained that if the umpires believe that a request has not been made promptly, they may at their discretion decline to review the decision.
On the referral system as a whole, Weeraratna said, "the notion of justice is infinitely superior to that of tradition."
"A system that enhances a greater degree of accuracy in decision making is innately better than a system that merely rests on tradition i.e. on the finality of the decision of the on field umpire, irrespective of whether he gets it right or wrong," he said.
Weeraratana, however, agreed with Indian cricket captain Anil Kumble, who felt there was a need to address the issue of delays in adjudication.