Barely days after FIFA, football's governing body, rejected available technology and plunged the ongoing World Cup into a raging debate on the need for video replays, the cricketing world declared that technology was the future.
On Thursday, the men who matter at the International Cricket Council's annual conference in Singapore gave the 'Decision Review System' — a process that allows players to request the use of TV technology to review an umpiring decision relating to a dismissal — the go ahead for the 2011 cricket World Cup.
This, though, depends on agreement with ICC-broadcast partner ESPN-Star Sports and there is sufficient technological back-up available with the hosts — India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. ICC Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat was unequivocal in cricket's support of technology. "We have all seen the benefits of using DRS and we are now keen to use it in the ICC Cricket World Cup," he said.
Understanding the referral system
Once a player asks for a review, the on-field umpire contacts the third umpire and the two exchange complete factual information (for eg, did the ball pitch in line, did it strike the pad in line, was there an edge off the bat — for an lbw) and decide if there is any reason for the original decision to be overturned.
n If the TV umpire, using available technology, can’t answer a question by the on-field umpire “with a high degree of confidence”, he calls it “inconclusive.”
n The 3rd umpire cannot try and guess an outcome or weigh up probabilities. If, there is indecision, the original decision, whether out or not out, stands.
n If, after receiving inputs from the TV umpire, the on-field umpire believes his original decision to be incorrect, he reverses it. The final decision, in all cases, rests with the on-field umpire.
Contrast this with the FIFA's stand. "Why should we have technology in a game where the main and unique parts should be the humans, players and referees?" asked FIFA General-Secretary Jerome Valcke.
FIFA's inexplicable vetoing of technology has resulted in everything from gaffes to World Cup heartbreak. While purists might argue that the charm of the beautiful game lies in its unpredictability, yet, the good outweighs the bad as far as technology is concerned. A single goal often changes the complexion of the game and the availability of a replay is then, equally critical. Goal-line decisions particularly assume paramount importance in high-stake matches, such as the England-Germany tie.
While there is a balance needed to prevent continuous call ups, cricket addresses this by allowing each team a maximum of two unsuccessful reviews per innings. The call to ask for a review is taken by the batsmen on field or the fielding captain and the on-field umpire still makes the final call, after consulting the third umpire (see box). Cricket (and tennis, basketball etc) has shown that, if tested and implemented carefully, the human element in sport need not be compromised. Bringing technology into football would allow the more deserving side a more sporting chance to end up on top.