Cricket's golden rule, that the batsman receives the benefit of the doubt in any borderline umpiring decision, may be lost in the TV replays being trialed in the series between New Zealand and West Indies.
The Umpiring Review System, which was first tested in the India-Sri Lanka series this year, allows batting and bowling teams to refer contentious umpiring decisions to the television umpire for review at least three times in each innings.
International Cricket Council umpiring manager Doug Cowie, who oversaw the use of the system in Sri Lanka and was in New Zealand to witness the second of five trials, agreed the system had the potential to make the benefit of doubt redundant. Cowie said the evidence of the Sri Lanka series was that the system would result in a higher percent of correct umpiring decisions but he hoped it would not change "the fabric of the game."
"One of the key objectives of the whole series of trials is to see whether or not technology and it's application does change the fabric of the game," Cowie told New Zealand Radio Sport. "In (one) example (concerning) the benefit-of-the-doubt concept, yes it will change that but it has been changing that if we look back over (the use of technology in) run-out and stumping decisions. "In history, I guess, any decision that was too close for the human eye to pick up invariably went in favor of the batsman. That's where we evolved this concept of the benefit of the doubt. The more technology introduced, the more precise that process becomes in any sport, the more accurate the decisions and you do change some of that fabric of the game, so we should be aware of that." Cowie said the ICC was aware of cricket's traditional values and acted cautiously when introducing new technologies. "Technology in cricket has been a slow process," he said. "Being a traditional game, we don't bring these things in overnight.
"This is not a trial of technology as much as it is a trial of reviewing decisions, what impact that will have on the game of cricket, the role of the umpire and all of those aspects." Cowie acknowledged concern that the use of the Umpiring Review System might create considerable delays while decisions were under review. The system has been used only once to date in the New Zealand series, when New Zealand batsman Daniel Flynn was given out lbw for 95 on the first day of the first test.
That decision was referred by West Indies captain Chris Gayle to TV umpire Rudi Koertzen, who overruled the initial decision that Flynn was not out, took several minutes and left spectators at the ground nonplussed.
"Even in this series in New Zealand you will find that time gets shortened, particularly on certain types of decisions," Cowie said. "In our trial in Sri Lanka it took an average of about two minutes per decision.
"Some of that delay is initially the work that is going on in the background as people are putting together their Hawkeye or video replays. That is something that technology is learning and getting to be quicker at. We learn to identify quicker the key area, what is called the prime question, and that directs things. So there is a little bit of learning going on (but) it will speed up." The system will be reviewed in five test series before being considered by the ICC for full implementation. It will be further trialed in series between West Indies and Pakistan, South Africa and Australia, and India and Pakistan.
Cowie said the trial in the India-Sri Lanka series had gone well. "I think at this stage most people who were part of that trial were positive," he said.
"One of the most important things to me was the number of correct decisions that we finished up with in the series. "Most of the time our umpires operate at around 95 or 96 percent correct decisions. Sometimes that can slip down to somewhere around the low 90s. In Sri Lanka the number of correct decisions at the end of that series was 98 percent so technology added help. "It was probably an unusual series in that there were a lot of appeals, over 200 appeals during the three tests. Of those 200 appeals, 11 decisions were reversed and there were 48 reviewed. "That's a high number of reviews, higher than we would have expected but that's, I guess, players getting used to the system as well."