July 18, 2010

UDRS: Use it or lose it

The ICC needs to find a way to use reviews in all matches, and if that's not possible, the system needs to be junked
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There's no better example of the dysfunctional nature of international cricket administration than the Umpire Decision Review System.

In late 2009 the ICC informed us the UDRS was a crucial component in ensuring correct decisions were reached on the field. Now here we are in mid-2010 and two Test series are going to be completed without the use of the UDRS.

There are different reasons for the absence of UDRS in the Pakistan v Australia and the Sri Lanka v India series. The Pakistan board (the "home" board, in this case) said it can't afford the system, while India doesn't want it. What are the chances of ensuring correct decisions are made on the field if there appears little likelihood of reaching consensus off it?

The problem is, the heads of the boards meet as the ICC and agree on a direction for the game, and then promptly head off and act in the best interest of the individual board they represent. It's as if they gather in the huddle as a tight-knit group before the match and then instead of dispersing to perform as a cricket team, they play a game of tug-of-war.

The outgoing president of the ICC, David Morgan, recently said: "The recruitment of additional independent directors would improve corporate governance." His assertion is correct but the comment would seem less like the log in the kids' playground - hollow - if, in addition to taking steps to achieve the aim of a more independent ICC board, it was complemented by a move to also have that body as the overall ruling authority in the game.

Whether you agree with the UDRS or not - and there are plenty of scouts in each camp - surely every Test series has to be played under the same set of laws and playing conditions. Firstly on the basis that there should be justice for all players, then for the integrity of Test cricket's statistics, and finally so the officials aren't made to look like right nongs.

There's much to be sorted out with the UDRS if it's to become widely accepted as a tool to assist umpires in reaching the correct conclusion. At the moment, despite being told by the ICC that it's there to eradicate the howlers, there's far too much emphasis on scrutinising 50-50 decisions. This will probably continue to be the case as long as the right of appeal rests with the players.

I'm not personally in favour of the UDRS, but that's immaterial; it's the players and umpires who have to decide the system's method of operation and fate. However, in conjunction with efforts to fine-tune the system, I would also like to hear some parallel discussion on ways to improve the standard of umpiring. And anything that can be done to ensure the best umpires are adjudicating, which in many cases is allowing one home umpire to stand, would be a step in the right direction.

The crucial decision is finding a way to utilise the system in all matches, and if that conclusion can't be reached, it should be shelved. That's unlikely to happen.

Expecting the television-rights holders to pay for extra technology they don't actually need for their coverage is a sure way to create argument. Equally, asking some of the cash-strapped boards to foot the bill is unreasonable. If there was one ruling body, it could fund a separate operation to cover the game from an umpire's perspective from the money received for selling the television rights. This would then be run separate from the television coverage, which is the only way to ensure the integrity of the system.

Like a lot of decisions made by cricket administrators, the umpire review system wasn't fully thought through before it was implemented. Instead, a problem with umpiring was perceived and when greater use of technology was put forward as a solution, it was pounced upon as the way to soothe player- and public unrest. So far it's caused as many arguments as it has solved disputes.

A holistic approach to improving the standard of umpiring, including use of a widely accepted UDRS could help the game progress. However, at the moment reaching the right conclusion on the field is impossible while they don't have consensus off the field.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Romulus on July 20, 2010, 2:25 GMT

    UDRS is flawed because it uses the 3rd umpire as the arbitrator - and the 3rd umpire is a home umpire - not a neutral. If Murali needs one wicket to get to 800, and SL review a marginal LBW decision, do you think a 3rd umpire in SL (with all the pressure on him) will deny him the wicket? Or, say in a series in India, if Tendulkar is the only guy who can prevent a defeat, will the 3rd umpire in India give him out - on a marginal call? So, best option is to eliminate 3rd umpire and give the on-field umpires hand-held wireless video monitors that will display all replays immediately with hawkeye/snicko/hotspot layers. If there is a review, or in case of a run-out appeal, the on-field umpires consult the monitors, and make a decision. The technology to do this available, it just needs some extra investment. Till then use UDRS to challenge OUT decisions only.

  • Sagir on July 19, 2010, 19:57 GMT

    i agree with Kalyanbk on this one... the problem however is, the 3rd ump will have to review every dismissal or non-dismissal and this takes time. it is unreasonable to ask a batsman to hang around until then or worse, recall him from beyond the boundary... lately, i was involved in one such decision when my colleague gave the batsman out caught when the slip fielder had clearly caught it after the bounce.. i then had a word with the bowler's end umpire, after which he recalled the batsman.. the key here it empower the umpires on the field to take decisions jointly if in doubt... off late, the onfield umps aren't given much authority, not just for decisions but also to enforce discipline.. why does it need the match referee to have a word with dissenting or misbehaving players AFTER the match when the two guys in the middle can nip in the bud.. recent example - Pontings bust-up with Mohd Aamir.

  • Sisnaraine on July 19, 2010, 16:35 GMT

    INDIA CAN MAINTAIN THEIR STATUS REGARDLESS OF UDRS. INDIA PROBLEMS ARE FAST/MEDIUM AND GOOD BACK UP SPINNER. AND THEN THEY WILL NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. I WOULD SUGGEST THAT INDIA REST THEIR PLAYERS A WHOLE DAY BEFORE THE 5 DAYDS TEST MATCH. SO THEY WILL NOT GET HURT BY EXERCISING OR PRACTISING . THE PLAYERS MUST REST AND NOTING MORE. WE HAVE FOUND A LOT OF THE INJURY HAPPENED THE DAY BEFORE THE MATCH. IT IS NOT INDIA ALONE BEING HAMPARED BY "LIFTING BALLS", THIS TYPE WILL BE DIFFICULT FOR ANY BATSMAN. ROHAN KANHAI USE TO PLAY IT WELL ALTHOUGH HE WILL GET OUT WITH A FULL TOOS ON THE PADS. BY PLAYING LATE. IT IS A DANGEROUS BALL FOR ALL BATSMEN ( LIFTING BALL). IT IS NOT INDIA ALONE. WHEN W.I. HALL AND GRIFFIT STARTED WITH THE LIFTING BALL. THE ICC IMEDIATELLY IMPLIMENT LAWS AGAINST THE LIFTING BALLS. WHY THINK ONLY INDIA IS ONLY AFFECTED. S.N.SINGH USA

  • Kalyanaraman on July 19, 2010, 15:30 GMT

    Why not allow the third umpire to contact the umpires on the ground and inform over their walkie talkie that they missed a nick or gave an LBW on a bat-pad or that a fielder is claiming a bump ball catch? The umpire on the ground can then reverse their decision. Do it before the next ball is bowled. No player referrals, howlers reduced, not much time wasted.

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2010, 13:12 GMT

    I don't see how the TV company has to pay any more money. In England when there is no UDRS we still have Sky showing Hotspot, Snicko and Hawkeye LBW projections. How can it cost Sky more money to let the 3rd umpire see these pictures?

  • saurabh on July 19, 2010, 11:25 GMT

    I request the ICC to manadte the UDRS System ffor all the test & one day matches .

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2010, 9:23 GMT

    If you really want technology in sport then why do you need players on the field. We can have media folks play matches on Playstation and determine who the winner is. That way we can get clear and results only dependent on how well the experts twiddle thumbs. The system and all kinds of technology in assisting umpires needs to be junked. Yes sports is about winning; but is it about winning at all costs. In cricket you always have Game No 2... Mostly; a decision becomes controversial; if a team has got itself into a situation that its winnning and losing depends on that decision; then the team is responsible.

  • gavin on July 19, 2010, 8:20 GMT

    I watched the last india-lanka series in Sri lanka with the udrs and all......and it was pathetic. Players questioning every lil decision. And while I admit India was at the receiving end of it ....i must say the amount of time it wasted and the way it was conducted really had me wishing it was never there. Dont get me wrong. We all want to see the right decision being made. But you dont want every 3rd ball being referred....is the UDRS good...yes....Is it being used the right way ..absolutely not. I dont think India is against UDRS, rather the way it is being used. India is 1 of the teams who have always been at the receiving end of wrong decisions especially players like tendulkar,dravid,sehwag. My suggestion, let the UDRS be used at the discretion of the on field umpires. If the onfield umpire has a doubt he can call for the replay. Why use technology only for runouts. In this way we would not be compromising on the role of the onfield umpire.

  • John on July 19, 2010, 6:33 GMT

    Time to pressure the ICC to use some of their just announced $84M profit and provide UDRS to all Tests and ODIs. Also time to pressure BCCI to use UDRS in upcoming Tests and ODIs against Australia in Oct. There is no question that they can afford the money but have they got the courage to use it in cricket terms? It would be good Doni practice for the World Cup. Come on BCCI aparatchiks drag yourselves into the 21 Century.

  • Dummy4 on July 19, 2010, 3:38 GMT

    the whole problem is with the UDRS is the requirement for the batsmen/fielding captain to challenge the on field decision which some captains/batsmen tend to get right on more occasions than others...the best resort would be for the 3rd umpire to get the replays at different angles, hoci etc for each ball...if he feels that the on field umpire's decision is a howler (he need not interfere in the 50-50 cases), he can contact the umpire and the decision can be reversed then and there...and regarding who pays for the technology, it obviously has to be the icc in the interest of the game...and lastly i completely agree with ian that the system should either be used for all series or junked altogether

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