Saturday, 14 March 2009

Referral System- In or Out?

Whether you love it or hate it, the trial period of the television referral system in cricket has certainly caused much debate.

The controversial system was introduced last year during the Test series between Sri Lanka and India, and the International Cricket Council (ICC) is to assess the trial in May.

ICC general manager Dave Richardson said: "We don't want the umpires to become coat hangers and ball counters. They must be able to show their skills.”

But how can the umpires show their skills when they are being undermined by players who have the opportunity to challenge their better judgement?

The idea of the system is to give players a better chance of receiving correct decisions during matches, and if they disagree with an umpire’s judgement, they may challenge it.

Two unsuccessful challenges are permitted per innings, but while the TV official uses pictures and some of the Hawkeye technology, the computer prediction of the path of the ball is not used.

When I asked various cricketing associates of mine what they thought of the referral system, their responses were similar. Either use all of the technology available or none at all. Not a mixture of the two.

The ‘Hot-Spot’ and ‘Snickometer’ technology is not part of the trial, yet they are perhaps the most useful tools available.

The Old Leightonians Cricket Club (OLCC) members have made some valid comments and suggestions on the matter.

Richard Price said: “Why can't we just leave it to the umpires and agree that they'll make the occasional mistake? If we lost the technology, we could then concentrate on how we could improve the umpiring rather than what technology is round the corner.”

“They shouldn't use the full Hawkeye prediction as the makers admit that it's not as accurate as the tracking of the ball before it hits the pad” argued John Acland-Hood.

Charles Allan backed the umpires saying: “Trust and respect the umps and remember they usually get it right and have always had the leeway to give the benefit of the doubt to the batsmen.”

Respecting the umpire is something all young, learning cricketers are taught from the start, yet it seems to slowly worsen with age and competitiveness.

In my opinion, the referral system is an insult to umpires and a tool that helps to disrespect them.

Furthermore, debate over umpire decisions is part of the appeal of the game, if you pardon the pun. Sit down at the pub after a match and have a chat with the opposition over decisions that affected the game. Standard procedure.

The use of the system during England’s recent Test matches in the West Indies proved that even after the television referrals, decisions still appeared to be wrong.

On numerous occasions, the system’s inconclusive nature overshadowed other shambolic events during the series. The abandoned second Test and England’s 51 all out embarrassment (in a series steeped with big innings totals) were momentarily forgotten.

The referrals also lead to a considerable delay in the proceedings of a match. The game is lengthy enough as it is. The single most common reason for cricket’s following not being as great as sports such as football and rugby is the time it takes to play the game. Hence the cash injection for Twenty20 cricket.

Whatever decisions the ICC comes up with after the May trial review, will be met by disagreement.

Will the system stay in or out of the game, or will only parts of the third umpire’s role be kept? We will soon find out.


  1. Umpires have been respected, apart from the odd incident, remember Mike Gatting and Shakoor Rana, for years. All of this technology simply undermines the respect as it throws decisions into doubt as various replays and snickometers,hawkeye, red zones and hotspots are introduced. Problem is even the technicians aren't sure if they are accurate.
    If and when it is perfected it should be considered, until then let the chap on the field make the decision and stop delaying the game. 12 to 15 overs an hour does not need reducing further. Figures from the past would wonder what was going on, they managed 20 overs an hour all day every day and often more.

  2. Anything to get rid of delays and improve the over rate will do me. I have just been to the Windies and spent a small fortune watching very little happen on the flattest tracks in the world at action replay pace. We even gave up and went to the beach!


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