Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Referral system dismissed, caught Harper bowled ICC

The third umpire referral system is on trial during the West Indies v England Test series and there can only be one verdict: guilty. It simply cannot be used in the long-term in its current format. Daryl Harper has seen to that.

The system has flaws and leaves room for confusion. Ignoring the fact that it contradicts the moral code of players not challenging the authority of umpires, the system is badly constructed.

Third umpires need irrefutable evidence that the original on-field judgement was incorrect, not an element of doubt that umpire Harper cited when he gave Ramnaresh Sarwan a reprieve at Sabina Park.

This is fine in theory, but the man behind the monitor does not have the tools available to him to make such a decision. Sarwan therefore should have therefore been given out, as per Tony Hill’s original call, just as umpire Harper was right to uphold the dismissals of Devon Smith and Ryan Hinds at Barbados.

However, it is revealing that surely neither Smith nor Hinds would have been given out if they were originally given not out – there was not enough evidence to prove that Graeme Swann’s deliveries would have hit the stumps, that is until Hawkeye confirmed as much by using the predictive element that the ICC has not sanctioned for use in the referral system.

It is not these borderline decisions that TV evidence seeks to police. It is the blatant ones, the missed inside edges and instances where the ball pitches outside leg stump for LBW appeals, the flick of the pad rather than glove for caught behinds. We have not seen many of those in this series, suggesting the problem of bad on-field umpiring is not as bad as many think.

The system is only as good as the people who use it and the final nail in the trial system’s coffin came not when umpire Harper failed to reprieve Shivnarine Chanderpaul when he was hit on the pad by one going over the top, but soon after when he gave Brendan Nash out.

It is worth remembering that Nash had originally been given not out by Aleem Dar. England referred it, as it certainly did look close, and perversely Harper saw enough reason to overturn the decision. In other words, he was 100% sure the ball would have hit the stumps. Hawkeye went on to prove otherwise.

We really do have a problem when the use of technology results in the reversing of a decision that was correct in the first place.

Umpires make mistakes due to human error; Daryl Harper has proved that that factor is not taken away by the extra time TV referrals allow for. If the ICC find umpiring mistakes so unpalatable, they must tighten the third umpire system by making sure its adjudicators know if they are making decisions based on doubt or irrefutable evidence and that they have all available technology to hand.

Written by Philip Oliver, an online sports writer who blogs about Test match cricket.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, the margin of error on Hawkeye is far too large to give irrefutable evidence. You are entering very dangerous territory by using words like 'confirmed' and 'prove'.

Richard Lake said...

The TV referee works well in Rugby in that the challenges are due to a matter of fact. An on-field ref will enquire on a single point of unclarity or specifically "is there any reason I can't award the try".

This makes the role of the TV ref very clear and leaves the ref on the pitch in charge.

Where the current system falls down is does Daryl Harper know what he's supposed to be doing as the TV umpire? He has been adjudicating on the decisions rather than checking the facts.

I don't believe the system to be dead in the water, but greater clarity is required of what is expected of the TV umpire.

Geoff said...

I will preface my comments by pointing out that I have not seen any footage of the WIvEng series, and only highlights of SAvAus.
From what I have seen of the use of the referral system in the SAvAus series, I think it is working out extremely well, and in ways I had not originally anticipated.
At first, I shared Philip's belief that simply having the referral system undermines the moral aspect of cricket in accepting the umpires decision. In an age where we have technology which blatantly illustrates when a mistake is made, the move to using this technology to assist the umpire was inevitable.
However, anyone who believes that the referral system will guarantee that mistakes are eliminated needs a reality check.
An unexpected benefit of the system that I have seen in the SAvAus series is an apparent reduction in frivolous appealing to pressure the on-field umpire. The fielding side still goes up for the appeal, but seem much more reluctant to do the "we are so certain, we are already celebrating" style of appeal? Why? Well, first they know that the batsman will be able to challenge any "out" decision. Second, they know there is a limit to the number of referrals. This also applies to the batsman. I refer specifically to AB de Villiers in the 2nd test, 1st innings. He was given out LBW to Hilfenhaus and seemed to linger for quite a while, obviously disappointed (show me a batsman who isn't thinking "No, no, no!" when given out LBW), but then apparently deciding that he probably was out and to accept it and leave. Replays then showed he was right to walk off, but it was certainly a very close thing. I can certainly imagine that pre-referral, a batsman in that situation would be seen shaking his head all the way back to the pavilion at the injustice just suffered.
A different example can be seen from the first test. I forget which innings, but Philip Hughes gloved one to Boucher down the leg side. SA went up for the appeal, but the umpire said no. I could see Boucher looking at Smith, and the bowler, and they decided not to refer it. Pre-referral, they could have pointed to this mistake after the match and said "the umpire cost us the match", but now, when they had the opportunity but declined to refer, it shows that even the players themselves were wrong.
Sure, there will be more teething problems (eg: How far does the referral process go? What if a LBW-out decision is referred by the batsman, and hawkeye shows the batsman is plumb, but, another replay shows that the bowler over-stepped the crease?) but I am now very optimistic about the impact of the referral system.

Richard Lake said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Richard Lake said...

Interesting comments Geoff. I wonder if the umpores have been given the same instructions for the two series, as Aleem Dar has now just made a rickets of a decision, taking 5 minutes to overturn a caught behind that couldn't be seen.

The umpires need to be reminded that they are not there to make the decision, rather to overturn obvious mistakes. I'm pleased that it's working well in the Aus/SA series, but it's a mess in the WI

Philip Oliver said...

Agreed Richard. It is surprising how confused the umpires in the WI v England series appear to be in the implementation of the system - they seem caught between using the element of doubt for batsmen that existed pre-referral system and the need for evidence that the original decision was incorrect that is currently called for. I'm not too angry about it, as long as these lessons are learned.

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