India vs England: To keep or not to keep Umpires' Call in DRS
Following a number of instances where the Decision Review System (DRS) came under criticism for upholding a marginal decision made on-field as "Umpire's Call", that aspect of the review system came under scrutiny at the recently concluded MCC cricket committee meeting.
However, the committee led by Mike Gatting that includes a host of former captains, coaches and match referees, had differing views on the subject and their recommendations to ICC will therefore be varied.
“The committee debated the use of ‘Umpire’s Call’ for LBW decisions made via the Decision Review System, which some members felt was confusing to the watching public, particularly when the same ball could either be Out or Not out depending on the on-field umpire’s original decision,” the MCC statement read. “They felt it would be simpler if the original decision was disregarded on review, and that there was a simple Out or Not out, with no Umpire’s Call.”
In the recently concluded Chennai Test, the Joe Root not out decision against Axar Patel had created a furore. The decision was upheld by the third umpire because on replay to check the lbw, the impact of the ball with the pad was found not-in-line (less than 50 percent) with the off stump. Had the on-field umpire Nitin Menon originally ruled that the ball had struck in line, on review, the DRS would have ruled Root out as that was the Umpire’s call. The ball was projected to crash into the stumps.
UMPIRE’S CALL IN DRS
As per the current law, Umpire’s Call comes in force when “the conclusion (is) reported where the technology indicates a marginal decision in respect of either the point of first interception (like ball hitting the pad) or whether the ball would have hit the stumps.”
For a not out decision to be overturned more than 50 percent of the ball has to hit the pad within an “impact zone” bordered by "the outside of off and leg stumps and bottom of the bails".
There were also those in the committee who felt “it was important to retain the human element of the on-field umpire’s decision, which takes into account the ‘benefit of the doubt’ that has existed in umpires’ decisions for many years.”
“It’s about the benefit of doubt to the umpire because technology is not perfect,” former ICC umpire Simon Taufel earlier told Cricinfo. “It’s about the margin of error that may or may not exist in the predictive path or point of impact. Until we have perfection in technology, we don’t hang and crucify umpires for fraction of millimeters. Players want consistency but they don’t want it all the time.”
Cricket is a rare sport, where, apart from line calls, the predictive path of the ball also has to be adjudicated by technology. In a demonstration on Fox cricket, a Virtual Eye expert agreed that the impact point of the ball was a “human decision”. Although he was confident of getting it right based on evidence of 4 cameras running at 200 frames per second. “We also have a frame before it hits, or just after it hits,” he said.
BOUNCERS TO STAY
With the rising concerns against short-pitched bowling and resulting concussions, the committee deliberated the law and agreed to call for more data and consultations before any decision is taken by year-end. For now, they were unanimous that short-pitched bowling was a core part of the game at the elite level.
SALIVA ON THE BALL
The committee debated prohibiting the use of saliva on the ball on a permanent basis and whilst there was a significant level of support for such a recommendation, some members felt that eliminating the use of saliva on a permanent basis is premature, and that it may be possible to allow its use once again in a post-Covid world.
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