Umpiring December 19, 2009

Let's play UDRS

Lets jazz up the UDRS

'This is going to be exciting. You can tell by how loud I'm shouting' © Getty Images

Before we begin today’s sermon, a brief confession. Some days ago, I suggested that UDRS was not quite the thing. In my foolishness, I may have insinuated that it was the beginning of the end, civilisation-wise. Fellow sinners, I was wrong. I have seen the light. Having been exposed to hour after hour of Dave "Reasonable" Richardson patiently explaining why only backward people don’t like his lovely toy, I have been converted to the Church of UDRS.

I was finally sold on it, not just by the drip-drip effect of big DR’s world-weary PR, but by the combined efforts of Messrs Gower and Botham during the lunch break at Centurion on Wednesday. Gower attempted to bore the ICC’s General Dogsbody into an indiscretion, whilst the Beefster, not one to pass up a chance to mouth a tasty opinion was growling like a portly lion on a leash at feeding time. Yet even their Dozy Cop–Angry Cop routine could not rustle up a single meaty morsel of criticism.

The Undeniably Divine Review System is, then, a marvellous creation. It is the perfect union of technology and bureaucracy and I was wrong ever to doubt it. But if a newcomer to the Church might offer a suggestion, I don’t feel that we are unleashing the system’s full showbiz potential. I’ll tell you what I mean.

A bowler (let’s call him Graeme) flings down a fizzing corker. A batsman (let’s call him Abraham) assays a mighty swish. In the air there is the tiniest, feeblest ticking sound that could be the mating call of the high veldt cricket or just possibly a woody nick. Graeme erupts verbally. Old father umpire shakes his head.

At this point, the lights come on; a jaunty jingle emanates from the Centurion PA system and on comes our hero, one Ravi Shastri, decked out in sparkly jacket, twinkly smile and microphone. Arm around the nervous protagonist, our presenter beams for the camera and asks Graeme from Nottingham if he wants to gamble. Graeme isn’t sure. He looks over to Matthew from Johannesburg Brighton.

“Gamble!” shouts Matthew.

“Are you sure? You’ve only got one life left?”

Graeme thinks for a moment. Then his mind is made up. He definitely heard something. He nods.

“Yes Ravi, I’m going to gamble.”

The crowd whoops and hollers in an excited fashion. In the audience, his friend Andrew covers his eyes, he can’t watch.

“Join us after the break to find out if Graeme from Nottingham is a winner or a loser when we play UDRS!”

You see, stick an ICC-approved exclamation mark on the end and the showbiz quotient is already rising. Getting more decisions right more of the time doesn’t have to be an exercise in thumb twiddling and heel kicking. It can be fun. Just imagine the possibilities on Friday, whilst South Africa were hesitating over using their referral. We could have had a clock ticking in the background, the audience shouting out suggestions and Ravi explaining that they’d have to hurry up if they wanted to play their joker.

But now the ICC has a taste for this kind of thing, why stop here? I’m looking forward to the IDRS, the Incompetent Decision Review System. For too long cricket boards have bumbled along in an altogether 20th-century way. Time was when the chief executive’s word was final and we all accepted it. But with so much at stake these days, it simply isn’t good enough to have decisions made on the hoof by duffers in expensive suits.

Just think of the cock-ups, pratfalls and misadventures that various cricket boards have given us in recent times. Allen Stanford’s chopper? The 273-game World Cup? The English Premier League? The ban on ICL players? Why do we still allow these decisions to be made real time when we can call on technology to help us.

Fortunately, my chums at the Adelaide Institute of Silly Studies have come up trumps. They have developed prototypes of a Self-Interest Monitor (Selfo) a Cash Sensor (Casho) as well as an adjusted Hot Spot that can detect nervous perspiration and a Big Fat Lie Detector. With cameras installed in every boardroom, I believe we can improve administrative decision-making by as much as 6%, leaving us just another 94% worth of improvement to find.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England