Monday, 7 December 2009

With reference to referring

There is so much discussion about cricket currently; 4 days tests, day night tests, how few tests some countries are playing, Sledgie in Adelaide........

I've decided to pick the referral system and we may have the first resignation of an umpire as a result of central umpires being undermined. There are many points of discussion on the UDRS but I'll try to be concise.

Firstly, despite commentary to the contrary, I think the system has to be asked for by the players. By this I mean the players have to request the referral 'upstairs' otherwise we will see the same lack of confidence by umpires as we do with run-outs. How may times do we see a batsman out by 2 metres but the on-field umpire calls for a second opinion. In this current test we've seen a catch by Hauritz referred when he claimed it but the umpire weren't certain. I may be wrong but I thought it had already been established that cameras were rarely going to be conclusive enough for close catches. The umpire has to make a decision and then the teams decide if they want to challenge it. This by its nature is problematic. Billy Bowden has said if he got it wrong and his decision is over-ruled he's fine with that because the right decision has been made and he can get on with the next ball and decision; rather than have a potential mistake haunting him. I'm not sure all will agree with this sentiment. Perhaps there is an element of pride here that umpires' fallibility will be highlighted.

Secondly, the mantra that the system is designed to prevent 'howlers' already makes reference to umpire ability. The statement means referring and a subsequent over-rule is designed to correct a woeful decision by an umpire. I see little benefit in heading down this path of argument. Why not declare the system is there to enhance correct decision making and be done with it?

Thirdly, expect few batsmen 'walking' after snicking as umpires will be more inclined to give 'not out' for close calls as the fielding team can ask for a referral. I maintain that most technology will not make it clear whether there is a nick or not and so batsmen will be given 'not out' more often than not by the third umpire. Perhaps captains will learn that it is rarely worth referring for little nicks as if the central umpire says the batsman stays it more than likely going to be the case with the off-field umpire.

Lastly, I think there is an underlying and tacit assumption that the referral system will ensure the right decision is made far more often. This will not be the case. Firstly there is only a certain amount of referrals available. Secondly, unlike tennis' technology, cricket's is nowhere near able to present the necessary information 100% of the time to give a conclusive picture of what's occurred.

I must admit to be sitting on the fence somewhat on this issue. Generally I feel that sport ebbs and flows in it's delivering of justice. One day you'll smash one into your pad and being given lbw, others you'll get a life when you know you've just edged one behind and the umpire doesn't hear it. Similarly the opposition may give a life in the slips by dropping a dolly or they may snaffle a blinder. On the other hand technology should be used to improve the accuracy of decisions in the same way it is part of the evolution of other aspects of the game - eg equipment. BUT, the ICC can be very clear about the purpose of the referral system and outline what it will not and cannot do. The ICC can also better highlight the importance and role of central umpires in relation to the system or risk losing some of the best in the world so all we have left are umpires like Rudi.


  1. I have to say that I like the referral system for a few reasons.
    The system "backs" the umpires in that if it is not absolutely clear cut then the field umpires decision stands.
    it is limited to 2 incorrect referrals, ensuring that the captain or batsman is "sure" that the decision is wrong.
    It brings about more excitement to the game....not for me as I love it enough but for anyone trying to get into Test cricket it adds a tasty morsel to a banquet untried.
    Because (and my english teacher always told me never to begin a sentence with "Because") it is a new change to the game I reckon that we should give it time for the players, captains and umpires to get used to before making judgements on it.

    As an aside....Having an in depth chat with Joel Garner at the Adelaide oval was a highlight of an impromptue trip to the third world that I shall cherish. Not as much as the time I spent with Lefty at the cricket and playing 18 holes with the "C U Next Tuesdays boys"
    I know I dont post enough but shall endeavour to do so in the future, it's been a bit hectic....know that I love you all.

  2. I still can't believe Sledgie told Big Bird to 'make runs or get out' when he was taking a piss during the tea break. Pure test cricket at its best - go for the, um, jugular.

  3. I just loved it when he had a sneaky peek whilst we were at the trough, seeing the big man go pale was a classic

  4. That turtle retreated quicker than a beagle vs a german shepherd