In recent times, the issues of cricket getting predictable, being unfair to bowlers, and the use of technology in the game, have become rather serious topics. Against this backdrop, the ICC Cricket Committee’s annual meeting at Lord’s was rather significant.
A couple of pertinent points were raised during the discussion, which need to be acted upon rather swiftly keeping the future of the gentleman’s game in mind; the most important among them was undoubtedly with regards to patronizing the Umpire Decision Review System or UDRS, as it is better known as.
Not surprisingly, the committee has recommended that the Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) be implemented during the 2011 Word Cup in the subcontinent and introduced “as soon as possible” in all Test series. While this is definitely a step in the right direction, there are number of obstacles in its path.
The biggest and most challenging aspect of the UDRS that the ICC is facing is the basic, unanimous acceptance of the system itself. During its trail run, it did not earn praise from all quarters. On the contrary, it was mired in controversy. The Johannesburg Test between England and South Africa earlier this year, when a caught behind appeal was turned down by Daryl Harper is still fresh in one’s mind.
But obviously, one wouldn’t want such mistakes to be repeated, especially during a major tournament like the World Cup, and at a time when the 50-over version is facing its litmus test. Of course, efforts are underway to standardize the technology in this context and reduce the chances of errors.
Even so, it shouldn’t be implemented unless and until the ICC is cent per cent sure that this is the very best they have to offer. If the not, the World Cup shouldn’t be used an apparatus to test it out.
Looking at a somewhat humanitarian aspect, it isn’t always fair on the players. As per the laws of the game, a batsman is entitled to stand his ground unless the umpire declares him out. However, during India’s tour previous Test tour to Sri Lanka, a number of the visiting batsmen, who were initially declared not out by the standing umpire, had to talk the long walk back following the decision being reviewed.
While the correct decision was made, it made the batsmen look like cheats even though they were playing in accordance with the rules. What the system also does is take away the human angle from the game. As Simon Taufel has always said, as an umpire he would like to test himself out in the middle rather than allowing the robot to dominate. This is one aspect the ICC must seriously keep in mind while implementing any technology in the game, leave alone the UDRS.
Another flaw with the system is the amount of time it consumes. As it is, a lot of it is lost when referrals are made for run-outs or even boundary decisions. The authorities cannot afford to slow the down the game further for the sake of the fans. Unlike in tennis, where decisions can be reversed in seconds, cricket is a much more complicated proposition.
To judge an lbw, the umpire will have to look at the path of the delivery judiciously – where it pitched, in which direction it is heading, as well as the height. In short, cricketing decisions are often complicated. Having said that, it is better to get a correct decision with a slight delay than give a poor decision in haste.
And so, it is crucial that ICC finds the fine balance so that the amount of time consumed is minimal, and rate of accuracy too is the highest, a herculean task, albeit one they need to master.
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