'Review will eradicate obvious errors' - Richardson
Terming the new umpire referral system a 'review process' as opposed to a challenge process, Dave Richardson, the ICC's general manager, was confident it would work well on a long-term basis with plenty of room for improvement. He said most umpires were in favour of this system and the real purpose is to eradicate obvious mistakes.
"Our policy in the decision-making process has always been to keep an open mind," he said. "You will recall in Sri Lanka in the 2002 Champions Trophy when we first started experimenting with technology and it continued until the Super Series in 2005, during which we allowed umpires to initiate a consultation on decisions. That didn't work because the umpires didn't refer decisions they should have. And then when they discovered that they could have made mistakes they became over cautious.
"It was actually just wasting time. They were double-checking themselves and this lead to a loss of confidence of the players in the umpires. We realised it doesn't work.
"A lot of people will say reviews are contradictory to the spirit of the game and that players are challenging the umpires, but the way we look at it is - what is better or worse for the game? Umpires make mistakes and are accused of cheating, Steve Bucknor's effigies are being burnt, teams threaten to fly home from a country, boards criticise umpires. Should we have a system where the umpire is given an opportunity to review his own decision and make a final decision himself? That would be preferable."
Richardson, who was present in the South African Test side when the first third-umpire referral was made in 1992-93, was firm that the ICC was not paying the television channels for the use of this technology, but rather saw it as a piggyback process. "The very first step in this process was to approach Ten Sports (the main broadcasters) and ask if they were willing to help us. They were keen to do so and we are very grateful to them. The broadcasters, like it or not, have been guilty in the past of showing up the umpires. All we ask them to do is continue to do so, but help us instead of being negative."
The ICC normally appoints three neutral Elite Panel umpires for a series. For this contest, instead of one umpire rotating and taking a break, he will act as the official third umpire. This, according to Richardson, was the way it would be going forward and there may even be the case of recalling some more experienced umpires to be specialist television umpires. But that, he affirmed, would be based on how the players felt about the situation.
Over the last few days the ICC has worked with the company that provides the ball-tracking device. Cameras have been placed in correct positions around the SSC and both parties have confirmed the accuracy of the results. Camera use will differ from series to series but there are minimum specifications, clarified Richardson.
The company being used to provide the ball tracking is not Hawk-Eye, as generally employed, but one called Virtual Eye. They are similar to Hawk-Eye, said Richardson, but the ICC would only use the actual path of the ball until it hits the batsman. "It will then stop, and we won't use the predictive element because the suppliers of that technology will say that it's a bit of a computer guess.
"The trickiest part is going to be for the batsman," said Richardson. "As far as caught-behinds and bat-pads are concerned I have no doubt that every batsman, if he is honest with himself, will know he's got the finest edge. But I can understand as a batsman that you are uncertain as to whether the ball pitched on leg stump or slightly outside. It might be tricky and we may find a circumstance that you get back into the dressing room and your coach has spoken to you for not challenging the decision or asking for it to be reviewed. We must not forget what the real object of this system is - to eradicate obvious mistakes."
Jamie Alter is a staff writer at Cricinfo