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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Reviewing the decision of On-field Umpire – the Referral system

Dear (s)  -

The Test No. 1882 which started at Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Colombo today is significant in a novel way.  The exciting game of  Cricket is  established team sport for hundreds of years  with affiliation of many nations. The sport's modern form originated in England, and was most popular in the countries of Commonwealth.  Cricket is a passion and almost a religion in our country.
The  life of the governing body ICC (International Cricket Council) can be traced to early 1907  with the formation of  'Imperial Cricket Board' by the President of the South African Cricket Association, Abe Bailey.  The Board's function would be to formulate a set of rules and regulations to govern international matches involving England, Australia and South Africa.  In 1926 in a meeting at the Oval, it was agreed that the membership of the ICC should comprise, 'governing bodies of cricket in countries within the Empire to which cricket teams are sent, or which send teams to England.
The rules and regulations of the game has changed in very many ways thereafter, many for the good.  In the midst of the cricketing action stand gentlemen called Umpires who declare decisions.  They are human too and their mistakes have sometimes thrown to disarray the result of a match and they at times have been accused of cheating, teams threatening to leave the country and flying home and boards criticising the umpires.  The need for opportunity to review their decision has been debated for too long.
In tune with the new technology to show with increasing accuracy the correctness of umpires' decisions. 1993 saw the first chance for umpires in Test matches to refer doubtful line decisions to a third umpire equipped with video playback facilities. By 1995 it had been agreed that TV replays should be available in Tests 'wherever possible' and that the third umpire should signal out with a red light and not out with a green. The following year the cameras were also permitted to pronounce on whether a ball had crossed the boundary. In 1997 the third umpire could be called on to rule on the cleanness of catches. This was also the year in which, for the first time, the Duckworth Lewis method of adjusting targets in rain-affected matches was trialed by ICC in ODIs.
Cricket is about to take a leap of faith in technology with the trial of a system that allows players to challenge the decision of the on-field umpires in the Test series between Sri Lanka and India. The umpire's word will no longer be final.   Here  comes the  significant decision “the referrals” – in effect appeals against the Umpiring decision by the affected !    These appeals can be made only by the batsman in receipt of the umpire’s original decision or the captain of the fielding side, in both cases by the player making a “T” sign with both forearms at shoulder height.
The on-field umpire will consult with the TV umpire, who will review available television coverage of the incident before relaying fact-based information back to his colleague.   The on-field umpire will then deliver his decision either by raising his finger to indicate “out” or by crossing his hands in a horizontal position side to side in front and above his waist three times – as per a “safe” decision by an official in baseball.
For implementation at Colombo  there will be 22 cameras for monitoring at the Sinhala Sports Club here to assist in facilitating the decision-making process and for first time 'Virtual Eye' system will be used for line decisions for reviewing leg before decisions.
Tennis was the first spectator sport that allowed players challenge decisions.  This  trial has received positive responses from the captains of the two teams which will use it over the next few weeks.   There is also a perception that this system may not bring justice for a bigger howler perpetrated if three referrals had gone fruitless.
Looking at it, these are attempts not to challenge the primacy of the Umpires but ways of adapting to reduce the contentious decisions. And technology is neither foolproof nor 100% conclusive.
The ICC will review the process at the end of the series.   Incidentally, at close of play on rain curtailed first day, Lankans were 85/2.
With regards – S Sampathkumar.

PS :  Circulated to my group on 23/07/2008 when the Referral on Umpire Decisions was introduced.  Posted on Web now.

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