Saturday, July 26, 2008

Need for Review of the Review System

I am writing this almost immediately after the loss of Virender Sehwag to the review system that is being tested for the first time in the presently underway test series between Sri Lanka and India and from what little I have seen today, I am convinced that cricket must not embrace the sytem, at least not in its present form. Under the current system, from what I understand, the final decision lies with the on-field umpire on the basis of the information supplied by the third umpire. Although, the Sehwag dismissal probably arose out of a human error by the third umpire and not merely out of a technological mishap, I am still of the opinion that the review system as is being applied in the India-Sri Lanka test series has no place in cricket.

A decision on an appeal for leg before wicket for instance can be made best only by the umpire at the bowlers end. The on-field umpire is in by far the best position to determine whether the ball pitched outside the line of the leg stump, whether the ball hit the pads on line with the stumps, and finally whether the ball was going on to crash into the woodwork. Moreover, whilst the review system utilizes hawk eye, other technological aids such as the snickometer and hot spot are not being used as they have not been adequately tested. This is therefore, an admission that hawk eye is foolproof, which is ludicrous considering the number of occasions in the past where hawk eye has been blatantly wrong, just as it was with the Sehwag decision today. The ball had evidently pitched outside the line of leg stump and yet hawk eye was of the opinion that it substantially pitched inside the line and presumably Rudi Koertzen, the third umpire conveyed this information to Mark Benson, the on-field umpire, who in turn on the said basis ruled Sehwag out. Traditions, such as the entitlement of a batsman to the benefit of any doubt, was almost entirely ignored by the umpires because hawk eye told them that the ball pitched in line and that the ball hit the pads in line of the stumps.

The review system, according to the ICC is in place to eliminate obvious errors. Whilst this is indeed a noble objective, the form of the system as is in place presently seems to contribute very little to the goal. The Sehwag dismissal for instance was actually a case of obvious error being created by technology as opposed to being committed by the on-field umpire. I had mentioned in an earlier post that for instances of closely held catches, very often technological evidence is inconclusive and hence a referral must not be made in such circumstances. Similarly in the case of slight knicks, technology, in particular hawk eye is practically useless and if the ICC is not going to utilize the snickometer, there is no point in having the referral system as umpires often need to rely on the sound that is generated in determining a caught behind as invariably the slightest of deviations is not visible either to the eye of an on-field umpire or to the eyes of a third umpire watching through a television screen.

I am not doubting the objectives of the ICC nor the fact that technology can be useful in eradicating obvious errors, but the manner of operation of the referral system doesn’t quite appeal to me. In my opinion, as was pointed out by Geoffrey Boycott during the luncheon interval, for decisions such as an lbw, the on-field umpire must be allowed to have a proper communication with the third umpire and must be permitted to convey the exact nature of his doubts and the reasons why he had ruled either in favour of or against the batsman. Mark Benson in all probability ruled Sehwag not-out on the basis that the ball pitched outside the line of leg stump and since in any event the ball had come in contact first with the front foot which was outside the line of the leg stump. The third umpire Rudi Koertzen was evidently oblivious to Benson’s doubts and completely missed the fact that the ball brushed the front pad first before crashing into the back and thereby the referral system instead of eradicating an obvious error has caused the creation of an obvious error. Of course the system in its limited period of existence has already contributed towards the correction of certain errors by the umpires, but even still on the basis of the Sehwag case, I am of the opinion that the referral system in its current form requires a thorough review and that the ICC must refrain from using it in the same form in future tournaments.


Sroyon said...

I don't think even a foolproof hawk eye should be employed, but that's just my personal opinion.

A Couch-side View said...

So your saying there must be no use of technology in cricket?