South Africa v England, 4th Test, Johannesburg January 16, 2010

ECB stand reflects opposition to UDRS

It's the lack of technology that should be the crux of any further debate, not the gaining back of a lost review

The dark clouds that have surrounded the Wanderers each afternoon of this Test are not the only storms brewing in Johannesburg but, unlike the thunder showers, the latest controversy over the review system won't disappear in a matter of minutes. England have created more than a few rumbles after escalating their anger at Graeme Smith's reprieve on the second day by asking the ICC to reinstate the lost review.

While England's frustrations at seeing Smith survive and score a hundred are understandable, trying to gain compensation makes them out to be desperate. It would set an impossible precedent if the ICC were to grant England an extra review, especially with so much time having elapsed since the incident. Umpiring errors have never been corrected in retrospect and this, for all the controversy involved, is just another of those. What has irked England the most, however, is a belief that pre-series agreements haven't been adhered to.

The ICC, unsurprisingly, have defended Daryl Harper's role in the whole affair, but if he really did just forget to turn up the volume on his TV set then there is no defence. But the ECB knew it couldn't go in all guns blazing against Harper - outright criticism of an umpire just isn't cricket - so it has had to find another route to make its displeasure clear.

The ECB needs to be careful how they handle this whole affair because technology in decision-making isn't going away. They don't want to be alienated and besides, it isn't as though England haven't benefited in this series. Without a review, Paul Collingwood would have fallen to the first ball in the second innings in Cape Town, and England would have lost the Test - and maybe even the series.

Yet, there is a strong feeling they would quite happily do away with the whole system, having been the one board opposed to its implementation in the first place. "Until the technology is applied correctly we are better off with our oldest method," said Giles Clarke, the ECB chairman. "If the umpire is as deaf as a post and as blind as a bat at least it's the same for both sides."

Such is the ECB's anger that Clarke may try and convince the two touring teams that England face in the summer - Bangladesh and Pakistan - to shelve the review system. India, even though they voted in favour of it, set a precedent when they didn't use reviews for the recent Test series against Sri Lanka.

Amid all the rancour, however, it is worth remembering that even if Harper had heard a noise there is no guarantee he would have reversed Smith's decision. Without Hotspot and the Snickometer, edges are very difficult to rule on - although the noise on the Smith replay was loud and at the precise moment that ball passed bat.

It's the lack of technology that should be the crux of any further debate, not the gaining back of a lost review. That has been and gone. The only way the system could be tweaked in the future would be to adapt it such that, if a bowling side asks for a review and the replays show a no-ball was missed, therefore rendering the review null and void, they won't lose one off their quota. That is something that can happen in the instant of an appeal, not a day later.

In truth, a situation like this has been on the cards. The ECB has never been a fan of the review system, mainly because it doesn't like the players being in control of questioning the umpires' decision.

In truth, a situation like this has been on the cards. The ECB has never been a fan of the review system, mainly because it doesn't like the players being in control of questioning the umpires' decision. Speaking at the Wanderers, Clarke was at pains to say how he felt it impacted the basic fabric of the game - that the umpire's decision is final - and expressed his concerns about the effects at lower-levels in club and children's cricket with players replicating what they saw at international level.

Yet there has always been questioning of umpiring decisions, and one impact of the UDRS has actually been a reduction in the levels of dissent. If anything, the system is improving player behaviour which was one of the aims the ICC was hoping to achieve. However, Clarke has already made his displeasure of this "blasted system" known at "the highest levels" of the ICC, and the matter will be on the agenda for the next meeting in February. But having lost out 9-1 in the original vote, there is little hope of him being able to changing many minds.

And rightly so, because the system has shown it can work. It's a point worth emphasising because, in light of all the recent events, that simple fact appears to have been forgotten. But what the last 48 hours has reiterated is there can't be a half-way house where the use of technology is concerned, and that is where the ICC must take a leading role. Clarke confirmed that Hotspot will be used during the English season, but it remains unclear how many aids will be available for England's next Test series against Bangladesh in March. This issue won't be dying away any time soon. The ECB will make sure of that.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rajaram on January 18, 2010, 2:36 GMT

    The URDS in its current form is not working. It should be done away with immediately.

    Only the Umpires should have the right of review. Players SHOULD NOT be given the right of review.

    Only then will umpires take more responsibility,and players will play to the spirit of the game.

    Just as the onfield umpires have the right to refer to the third umpire for run -out decisions, so also for ALL decisions. And Umpires should be provided with ALL doubt -free tools - Snickometer,Hotspot. Hawkeye is not reliable.

  • Chris on January 17, 2010, 10:25 GMT

    The review system is a joke does it make decision making better not in my opinion.Yesterday for example with 1 review remaining Swan should of got AB De villiers out but it was not given however the england players decided not to review it so he survived. So your asking players to umpire as well as play the game. I de scrap the whole thing but if you must keep it it should be in the hands of the umpires.England have never agreed with the system remember so its got nothing to do with this series. As for whining what about : Ponting moaning for an age regarding the Gary Pratt run out, Pakistan not going out on the field after being accused of ball tampering or Gavaskar taking the team off everyone whines

  • Eric on January 17, 2010, 8:39 GMT

    Would you like some cheese with that WHINE, England?

  • Steve on January 17, 2010, 8:27 GMT

    So Giles - when you disagree with the onfield umpires decision, you use the UDRS to try and get that decision changed. When the decision isn't changed by the UDRS you complain bitterly about the system and want it dropped. Please add the word 'sour' to 'grapes'! As far as I can tell the system has worked well except in allowing teams to have a meeting before they decide to call for a review - a time limit needs to be imposed.

  • The on January 17, 2010, 8:13 GMT

    In Sydney, we had da Silva start the match with his usual howler - a LBW that was passing so far over as to be laughable. Rather than ruin the match and be blamed for the subsequent AUS collapse, it was overturned. Then Doctrove, who was having a great match, got a bat-pad horribly wrong at a crucial moment with PAK chasing a small total. Again, HE could have been blamed for the catastrophe - instead it was overturned and they got on with the game.

    So we have a Sydney Test narrowly lost by a visiting team, with no discussion about the umpiring at all despite an enormous amount of focus on this game. Imagine if we could have had that last year with IND's last-second capitulation and Clarke's miracle being the focus rather than the hapless Bucknor who deserved better over a long and stellar career than what he's now remembered for?

    The UDRS is a flawed system, prone to rare debacles. But it's infinitely better than what we had this time last year and it's the best we've got.

  • Sridharan on January 17, 2010, 6:57 GMT

    Most of the contributors to view agree that England are cry babies when the lose out. They're world beaters in this area. When Giles Clarke disputes the players right in the UDRS and saying the umpire's decision is sacrosanct, they why he decries the very system. Beats me. Can somebody tell him the meaning of what he says.

  • Martin on January 17, 2010, 6:10 GMT

    I wish someone posted some actual statistics on the review system. If the stats show an overall improvement then the system should be kept, in one form or another. The ICC needs to publish effectiveness data and take a firm stand on the system.

  • Sudhanshu on January 17, 2010, 5:08 GMT

    I am feeling very sorry for Daryl Harper, he is such a terrific person and a very good umpire but somehow controversies always follow him. He has given so many good decisions and people only notice his bad days...Coming to the review system,i don't think any technology is completely should be done away with...

  • Noel on January 17, 2010, 1:29 GMT

    It is amazing how much ignorance resides at the highest levels of cricket administrators. I thought West Indies was bad but Giles Clarke takes the cake. At least the WICB voted for the "blasted system". How can anyone in their right mind, least of all the top honcho of the inventors of cricket, allow one or two isolated incidents to blind him to all the advantages of the UDRS? Someone like Clarke should not be allowed anywhere near cricket or cricketers, much less be the chairman of the ECB.

  • Michael on January 17, 2010, 0:08 GMT

    The UDRS on display this summer here in Australia has been really good. Imagine if in Sydney Butt's LBW was upheld, Pakistan would be legitimately upset that their run chase was tainted. Similarly, if Sami's wicket wasn't overturned, he might have hung around a while, Akmal might not have gone for that slog so early, & the Aussies would be upset at not pulling off a famous victory. There are still going to be the odd poor errors (especially when Harper is involved!) that can never fully be erased, but there seems to be a lot less of them with this system, and I can't see why that is a bad thing.

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