Tuesday, 3 February 2009

'How was that, dad?'

There's an old joke about a man who goes for a country drive and can't find his way back to the city. He reaches a tiny village and stops to ask directions.
'Well,' the local says, 'if I was you, I wouldn't start from here'.

That joke applies to a lot of modern cricket's structure. The concept of touring, for example, began because it took two months on a boat to reach your opposition. It wasn't worth going unless you stuck around for a while. It's not a calendar you'd draw up today.

Similarly, the technology available to the third umpire wasn't developed to improve decision-making, but to improve television viewing. 

Now, with manifestly twisted logic, players are to be invited to use it to umpire their own games, a concept with certain inherent contradictions.

The referral system itself has some built-in nonsense about the number of unsuccessful appeals a side can make - it's currently two. Imagine applying that logic to a bowler, for a start. 

Or imagine the last few overs of a tight match in which a side has used up its two appeals on a couple of very close calls, and then something like the Brad Haddin Hand of Dog thing happens.

Let's not even visit the conspiracy theories about the pitch 'mat' that, it's said, has sometimes been subtly tweaked to favour the home broadcaster's team - wider when they bowl, narrower when they bat* - and the way that catches held close to the ground always look iffy. 

No, let's instead envision a technical utopia in which the gizmos are never wrong. Why not just have the third umpire inspect every decision and offer feedback to his colleagues? Why only do it if the players ask?

We may or may not be headed towards a future in which every decision is correct (and how much poorer the game will be without human fallibility), but if we're going to get there, I wouldn't start from here. 

* Who, from the ICC or the umpires or whoever's in charge, checks that the technology has been set up accurately? Or do they just presume that the TV companies always get it right?


3 comments:

12th Man said...

Two referrals won't be sufficient if a Haddin type incident would occur after using up the available referrals. But allowing more than two would lead to players abusing the provision and thereby, the purpose gets defeated. In Tennis, it has been used very judiciously by the players involved.

Second, however biased the C9 commentary team might be, the pictures rarely lie and it is for the viewer to interpret what he sees on TV. I doubt if technology could be manipulated to favour the home side, like pitches are doctored these days.

We can question the accurateness of the technology we have today. The referral system for LBW's were not welcome, as it does not use Hawkeye or Hotspot.

achettup said...

OB, another excellent post.
12th man, I don't see how having three referrals instead of two creates any significant differential in terms of how the provision is abused. It shouldn't be a lottery on whether you've invoked the referral at the right time, it should be about whether the right decisions are made in general. And I agree with OB, giving teams the option certainly doesn't seem to be the way to go about it.

Good point about calibration OB, but I'm hesitant to have the 3rd umpire review each decision and then confer with the two on the ground, for a couple of reasons: (a) The whole issue about time crops up and I'm not just talking about the time it takes for the umpires to talk things over (b) if the third umpire ends up making all the important decisions, eventually the role of the two out in the middle will be questioned.

If it were up to me, there wouldn't be a third umpire, I think technology has progressed to the stage where the men in the middle can have access to everything the guy in the box does. I'd like to see them have sensors implanted in the crease for autonomous run out decisions, at least for T20s, of course all the umpire should see is if the players have played within in the rules. And I think it would involve the crowd at T20s if replays were played on the big screen and the umpires in the middle make the final decision, so that everyone has seen it and is happy with it. Whats with all the secrecy anyway?

The Old Batsman said...

Was funny last night to see Collingwood trying to get the nod from the dressing room as to whether he should appeal his leg before (answer: no it was plumb). but - and here comes another conspiracy theory - all the broadcaster needs to do to stop that is not show a replay until the outgoing batsman has almost walked off...

I don't see the need for secrecy either. Interestingly, the Sky commentators at Eng v WI were split on whether the players of the umpires should be allowed to call the third ump in...