Even before they can actually be put to test, the player referrals have raised a slew of questions. The system is so new to everyone that the International Cricket Council deputed David Richardson, its general manager, cricket, to lay the process bare.
The former South African wicketkeeper on Wednesday explained at length that the on-field umpires’ decision was still final.
“The umpire’s word is still final. The review process is an extension of the appeal,” Richardson said.
“Umpires like using technology in this way because it does not undermine their role. Their skill is still paramount, they have to make the decision. In fact, even when it goes on review, it is the on-field umpires who have to make the final decision. The decision-making starts and ends with them.
“Whenever this issue is debated, there is a variance of opinion. I would say it is always about 65-35 in favour of using technology, and umpires are no different. There are some umpires who prefer to be the sole human judge and there are others who would not mind using technology.”
He was not of the view that the new system would threaten the traditions of the game.
“We have given the players the opportunity to initiate a consultation process. We are saying if you think a mistake has been made, then in a polite manner request the umpire to review his decision.
“I know a lot of people will say that’s challenging the umpire’s decision. But what is better or worse for the game? Umpires making mistakes and being accused of cheating, Steve Bucknor’s effigy being burnt, teams threatening to leave the country and fly home, Boards criticising umpires, or a system where the umpire is given the opportunity to review his decision and make a final decision himself. Obviously, our thoughts are that the latter would be preferable.”
Although the system is being used on an experimental basis, Richardson was confident it would be successful and could find wider application.
“Certainly, in my mind, I am quite confident it will work quite well,” he noted.
“Probably the trickiest part is going to be the batsman. I can understand that as a batsman, you can be a little unsure about whether the ball has pitched just outside the leg-stump or leg-stump, and when you get back in the dressing room, you might get a moan from the coach if you haven’t asked for a referral if the ball has pitched outside leg.
“But we mustn’t forget what the real objective of this process is — that is to avoid obvious and clear mistakes."
A similar experiment was trialled in English domestic cricket, but failed for the third umpire had to make the decision himself, rather than act as a support mechanism to the on-field umpires. Richardson pointed to crucial differences between this system and that one.
“What they did in England was refer to the TV umpire and he would actually overrule the on-field umpire. In our case, it is a consultation between the on-field and the TV umpire, and the on-field guy still makes the final decision.