Sunday, 1 March 2009

Referential Integrity

The umpire referral system has come under quite a bit of justifiable criticism. The two Test matches currently under way have been full of referral incidents – very few of which have showed the system in a good light. The players in interview seem to dislike the system and some commentators have called for it to be stopped. Personally I think the system in some form must stay. We need a system that will reverse obvious miscarriages: the LBW that pitches outside leg-stump, the LBW that has a big snick into the pad, the caught behind that clearly misses the bat or the bat-pad that misses the bat by some distance. How do we get from where we are now to a system that people are happy with?

Firstly a few observations about the current system:

  • A batsman never thinks he is out. Batting is a difficult profession made more difficult by the fact that the innings can end on any delivery. Batsmen will try anything to avoid getting out, including using a referral when they are clearly out – as Pietersen showed on Friday.
  • A bowler always thinks it is out. Graeme Smith’s first ball in the second innings was clearly not LBW. It hit him outside off stump and moved away – and yet Australia insisted on a referral. In Ryan Sidebottom’s first over today (Sunday) to Sarwan he appealed to a ball that clearly pitched outside leg stump. It was, of course, turned down so they asked for a referral. Same result.
  • Darryl Harper is a poor third umpire. He gave Chanderpaul out on replay when it was fairly clear on all replays that it way too high. He also turned over the not-out decision in favour of Brendan Nash when there was no good reason to.
  • The current system is not very well implemented because no one seems to know what is going on. There is scope for keeping the crowd informed (novel idea I know) and creating some drama. At present a referral seems to take an age with no one having a clue what is happening.
Some have suggested that it is the umpire that should instigate a referral at his discretion. While I think umpires should be able to refer to the third umpire there is a flaw in this as a general principle: if the umpire thinks it is out when an LBW pitches outside leg-stump then, as he has already made the mistake and he is not going to refer it. Umpires always want to make the correct judgement; if they think the decision is correct – they are not going to ask someone else.

A few recommendations:

  1. Let the on-field umpires talk to the third umpire about anything – it’s ridiculous to prevent them from talking freely. There are rules about what the on-field umpire can or cannot ask the third umpire -- how daft is that?
  2. Allow the third umpire to use any and all technology available. The fact that the third umpire cannot see a Hawkeye track – but I can see it - is silly. Umpires can be told to take the prediction with caution.
  3. Give the third umpire lots of training. Umpires are used to making decisions on-field. Sitting in a room full of TV monitors is a different situation and umpires should receive lots of training in the differences – I am guessing they do not (from the mistakes they make)
  4. Enshrine the principle that ‘The on-field umpires make the decision and they can only be over-ruled when a clear mistake has been made’. This has been followed ad-hoc.
Any other suggestions?


Brian Carpenter said...

A good summary, Rob, and I entirely agree with all your suggestions re the way forward.

My Sky box failed last week and wasn't replaced until late on Sunday which meant that I saw virtually nothing of the game, but I've seen enough of Harper in the past to know what he's like. I think it's one of the great mysteries of world cricket that he's still on the ICC Elite panel. He's always been hopeless.

I fall into the camp that feels that taking it out of the hands of the players would a good thing, but, as you say, the umpires need to have the full range of technology at their disposal.

GoodCricketWicket said...

I would also echo your thoughts on the use of technology, in fact I have blogged about this myself - see here.

I had not realised there were restrictions on how the umpires could communicate. This is plainly ridiculous. The umpires should form a team, instead they seem to be wary of undermining each other.

Rob said...

Thank you for the comments Brian and 'GoodCricketWicket'.

Harper is a bit of an enigma, maybe the ICC are worried about taking people off the elite panel. Maybe they think it shows that they were wrong in the first place. How the Chanderpaul and Nash decisions were reached is beyond me.