In a groundbreaking move, players will have the power to question an umpire’s decision — with official sanction — when India travel to Sri Lanka for their three-Test series in late July.
Cricket boards of the two countries have agreed to try out the referral system, in which a batsman in the middle, or the fielding captain, has the right to ask the standing umpires to confer with the television umpire if he feels a wrong decision has been made.
The player who wants to query an umpire’s decision, will make a ‘T’ sign, holding his forearms above his head, and then the umpires will review their decision. The third umpire will be allowed to use all the tools at his disposal to review the decision made by the on-field umpires.
While the broadcasting aids — Hawkeye, snickometer and the like — are not standardised and vary from series to series, slow-motion replays, sound from stump microphones and Hawkeye tracking of the line and length of a ball (not the predictive element after impact) are available.
The on-field umpires will still be responsible for referring line calls like run outs or stumping decisions.
For some time now players have spoken out in favour of the system, believing it will give on-field umpires the best chance of reaching the right decision. It is possible that the decision to test this procedure has been fast-tracked after recent instances in which giant screens at grounds showed that umpires had got it wrong, but left them with little opportunity to change their decision.
But the system has its critics. “Technology and Hawkeye are not 100 per cent accurate. Also, three appeals a side in an innings will slow down the game. Already the average over rate in Tests is 13 overs an hour,” says former ICC international umpire Hariharan.