Ever since Sachin Tendulkar became the first cricketer to be given out by the third umpire — by Karl Libenburg in a Test match in Durban, South Africa in 1992 — cricket has pushed the envelope when it comes to using technology to get the best possible decisions.
There has been a heated debate over whether the role of the two men in white coats has been undermined or enhanced by allowing them the use of technology. In cricket's season of change, as India take on Sri Lanka in late July for a three-Test series, comes the next big one — player referrals.
How it works
If an on-field umpire makes a decision that either the fielding side or one of the two batsmen out in the middle do not agree with, they can consult the television umpire, who will then review the decision based on slow motion replays, sound from the stump microphone and other aids available to him.
A total of three 'wrong' referrals are at each team's disposal. In the event the player is proven right, the team gets another referral to use. Once the third umpire has made his decision, he will communicate it to the on-field umpires who will then either cancel their earlier decision and rule again, or re-iterate their original decision, as the case may be.
What they said
“It would be quite tough on the umpires when they do introduce it because there would have to be a period of adjustment. It will take some adjustment for the umpire to make a decision, and know that within 30 seconds that batsman could be allowed to return to the crease.
But these are little adjustments we have to make to our game if we are to get a better product, said Daryl Harper, an elite panel umpire, in an interview to Cricinfo in May 2008.
“One thing that is definite is there is no doubt the on-field umpire is in the best position and has the best view to make an lbw decision,” said another elite panel umpire Billy Bowden.
The fine print
For some time now, technological tools that aid broadcasters have played a role in making an umpire's decision appear faulty. Viewers sitting in the comfort of their living rooms have had access to more technology than the men actually making the decisions. Now, the third umpire will be able to use various tools to try and bridge this gap.
Invariably, when a new system is put in place, there will be need for fine-tuning. To start with, a few questions need to be answered.
Firstly, just who will decide to refer something? If a top-order batsman decides to challenge a decision, and does so unsuccessfully, this might mean a tail-ender does not have the same privilege in a tight finish.
Is there some way a captain can veto a batsman's decision to challenge a decision? What effect will this have on over-rates? How much time will match referees allot to these decisions in the leeway they provide when calculating a bowling team's over-rates? How will this affect the balance of play —will it result in more dismissals or less?
Hawkeye seems to show more balls hitting the stumps in the case of lbws than the naked eye suggests — will this be a factor when the third-umpire is called up?