December 12, 2009

Umpiring

The umpire is right (even when he’s wrong)

Andrew Hughes


‘Pipe down with your appeal there, laddie, or I’ll do unspeakable things with this here ICC-approved deterrent’ © AFP
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UDRS! It sounds like the cry of a Bulgarian shot-putter as he lets fly. Or perhaps the first word that David Boon uttered as he disembarked at Heathrow airport in 1989.

In fact, this collection of letters stands for Umpire Demoralising Review System, an entirely new method of making cricket more complicated that is completely unrelated to the previous Player Review System, which everyone hated. You can tell it’s different because it has a completely different name, apart from the last bit.

Lots of intelligent and learned cricket folk are asking questions about UDRS. Questions such as: How does it work? Come again? Run that by me one more time? No, still not got it, could you write it down? But the only question I want to ask is: does it enhance the sofa-dweller’s viewing pleasure? Sadly, I have to say that the answer is no.

First, the details. As far as I can make out, this is how it goes. Umpire A makes a decision. Players may challenge this decision by screaming, pouting, or stamping their feet on the ground. If Umpire A remains unconvinced, a captain may, by indicating inverted commas with his forefingers, initiate the referral process.

Umpire A will then talk to Umpire C. Umpire B may also talk to Umpire C, but not without being introduced. Umpire C will watch his television. He is not allowed to tell Umpire A what he sees there, but may pass on information by implication, insinuation or cryptic clues. After a short half-hour delay, Umpire A will then shrug his shoulders to signal that the referral process has been successfully completed.

Naturally the ICC thinks it works. Apparently the correctness of decisions has gone up by 6% since it was introduced. They know this thanks to the Deciderator 2000, a calculator the size of Jesse Ryder housed in a disused storage closet in downtown Dubai. But the ICC aren’t the only ones with access to the latest technology. Thanks to the Hughes Confusometer, I have measured a staggering 350% increase in bafflement and bewilderment since UDRS was introduced.

It has also subtly altered our relationship with gadgets. Once they enhanced our experience, getting us closer to the game than the mosquito perched on Shane Watson’s faceguard. But since it has been officially sanctioned, technology has become omnipresent. The current series in Australia has featured a heart-rate monitor, a traffic-light themed lbw wizard, Hotspot, slow-mos, Snicko, Hawk-Eye, and a special device to warn us when Bill Lawry has nodded off. You have to stay on top of it all because it has become part of the game. As a result, watching a Test match these days is like sitting in the NASA control room during a space-shuttle launch.

I’ll be honest. I like the simplicity of the chap on the field being right. Even when he’s wrong. It isn’t perfect. It isn’t always fair, but then life isn’t fair, and unlike life, a game of cricket really doesn’t matter all that much. At this point I could go on about taking the rough with the smooth, suffering slings and arrows, greeting triumph and disaster and so on. But I can picture the tapping of thousands of fingers on thousands of keyboards, typing words like “old” and “fashioned” and “Who is this Neanderthal?”

So if this is the future of cricket, let’s dive in head first, rather than timidly dipping our toes in Lake Technology. For a start, why involve players in the messy business of making decisions? They aren’t cut out for it. It is tricky enough for some of them to arrive at the right ground at the right time wearing the right trousers. Let them concentrate on dropping catches, bowling wides and styling their hair.

The umpires should retain control of the means of adjudication and should be tooled up with all the latest gear. I propose that the ICC commission full-metal body suits for arbiters. These should feature state of the art Hawk-Eye-enabled visors, Snickometer antennae, and heat-detecting scanners. Optional extras to include a no-ball sensor, a tea-maker, and a hook upon which players can hang their sweaters and caps. Once they’re suited up like Judge Dredd, there would be no doubt where the authority lay.

My name is Aleem Dar. I AM the law.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Indy on (September 6, 2011, 15:24 GMT)

Haha, sholdun't you be charging for that kind of knowledge?!

Posted by Addriene on (September 6, 2011, 1:56 GMT)

Oh yeah, fbauolus stuff there you!

Posted by Rahil on (December 29, 2009, 12:45 GMT)

Hmmmmm... nice article as far as humour is concerned but seriously urds has enhanced the cricket watching experience by mitigating unfair decisions. Remember the sydney test, 2008??? If review system was present at that time, the ugly fiasco that happened could have been obviated

Posted by Shahriar Hoque on (December 17, 2009, 15:53 GMT)

Sorry Andrew but you are wrong! There is nothing wrong to have a system that will provide the correct decision. Players work very hard at nets and fans follow their team like a fanatics. When a match is changed due to Umpire's mistake then then there is no value added to the game. UDRS is excellent. Recently PAK-NZ used it in TESTS and it was amzing. The best team won the battles. Millions of $$ are spent on research technology for it's use and benefits. Cricket should be a fair game. UDRS allows for that to happen. UDRS could be made more efficient but iIT IS NEEDED for fair play.

Posted by Shahriar Hoque on (December 17, 2009, 15:53 GMT)

Sorry Andrew but you are wrong! There is nothing wrong to have a system that will provide the correct decision. Players work very hard at nets and fans follow their team like a fanatics. When a match is changed due to Umpire's mistake then then there is no value added to the game. UDRS is excellent. Recently PAK-NZ used it in TESTS and it was amzing. The best team won the battles. Millions of $$ are spent on research technology for it's use and benefits. Cricket should be a fair game. UDRS allows for that to happen. UDRS could be made more efficient but iIT IS NEEDED for fair play.

Posted by Balaji on (December 16, 2009, 10:29 GMT)

Relax guys! this is page2 :)

Posted by gmsj on (December 15, 2009, 8:59 GMT)

yeah, Hughes is right! There can be no happening more demoralizing in test cricket than waiting for a clumsy-heavens-alone-can-wait decision from Umpire C... looks like the next generation of spectators can no longer spontaneously celebrate a fall of wicket because they'll be glued to the screens like myopic lab specimens.. Test cricket is dead..Long Live test cricket !

Posted by waspsting on (December 14, 2009, 15:46 GMT)

"The crowd came to watch me bat, not to see you umpire," W.G Grace once told a white coat.

with referals, your miniminzing errors. No one really cares about the umpire - its nothing personal. We just want to see the right decsion made. Thats the job they signed on for - if they wanted attention, they could have been pop stars or players.

To watch a series' with the intensity of the 2005 Ashes, or the last India tour of Australia DECIDED by umpiring errors, was very unfortunate - and I say that as one who supports none of those teams. In short, I'm in favor of the referal system

Posted by Nusrat Vohra on (December 14, 2009, 6:41 GMT)

All that is needed is that the Third umpire be allowed to reverse the blatant wrong decisions of the on field umpires. Nobody including the o filed umpires will have a problem if the third umpire reverses a decision like for example, ball picthed outside leg and batsman was given out LBW. Of course the ICC will have to define exactly which type of decisions can be reversed and on what evidence so that there is practically a very remote chance of subjectivity creeping in in the third umpire's reversal decisions. Reviews by players will not be allowed and all blatantly wrong decisions will be reversed.

Posted by Michael on (December 14, 2009, 6:21 GMT)

I believe that the review system should be in place, with 1 very small change. I would rather see the control of the system stay in the umpires hands, just like in Rugby Union. There, the on field ref can ask the video ref if there is a reason he can or can't award a try based on whether he feels it was a try or not. The video ref then advises the on field ref if there is clear evidence to overturn his decision, 50/50's go with the on field call. Cricket could use this for inside edges, bat pads, etc. The umpire makes his gut call, but asks for the third umpire to make sure there isn't clear evidence of a mistake. This way, control stays with the umpires at all times.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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