Pakistan in West Indies 2013 July 20, 2013

Pakistan's short run: wrong call, but right protocol

Fans might have wondered what would have been had the incorrect short-run call that went against Pakistan been amended in the tied ODI, but the right protocol seems to have been followed

In the 1987 World Cup, in a league match between India and Australia in Madras, Dean Jones hit Maninder Singh for what looked like a six over mid-off. Ravi Shastri, the fielder closest to the rope, though, signalled four to umpire Dickie Bird, who took his word. According to Jones, the hit had cleared the boundary by at least a metre, and their manager protested with the umpires during the innings break, who in turn consulted with the opposition captain Kapil Dev. Kapil allowed them to reverse the call; India's target was adjusted to 271, and they managed 269 in the end.

After Pakistan's tie with West Indies, which involved an erroneous short-run penalty against Pakistan, the common refrain among fans was, if they could correct a decision back when Chennai was Madras, why not do it today when you have so many replays from so many different angles? The clamour had a point, in that a short run or a boundary call are special cases. They don't affect the subsequent deliveries unlike an erroneous judgement on a no-ball or a wide. The same batsman remains on strike, and the same number of deliveries are required to be bowled in the over irrespective of the decision. Nor are short runs a subjective call, unlike wides.

However, there is so much going against such a retrospective correction that the right protocol seems to have been followed although the decision made by the umpire was wrong. Law 27.9 states: "An umpire may alter his decision provided that such alteration is made promptly. This apart, an umpire's decision, once made, is final." Moreover, the India-Australia precedent from 1987 doesn't stand any more. "There is no longer a provision for the TV umpire to change scores relating to boundaries retrospectively, and this principle applies to all runs scored off a ball," an ICC representative told ESPNcricinfo.

You can see the ICC's logic. The most important aspect of any umpiring decision or a correction thereof, at least on paper, has to be fairness and consistency. Which by extension means the correction of a wrong short-run call should imply both to the times when a short run was missed and to an erroneous short run called in, say, the 49th over of a tight chase while bearing in mind that the play doesn't stop for short-run calls and that the replays are provided in an ad-hoc manner by the host broadcaster and might take a few balls by which time the fielding captain would well be within his rights to protest. In this case, for example, the relevant replay was generated one delivery later.

"The ability to change the scores retrospectively was removed several years ago," the ICC said. "The ability for teams to lobby the referee and TV umpire for runs retrospectively raised some disconcerting possibilities. This is now simple: umpires use replays to make a call before the next ball is bowled, and that decision is final." It does become a pain should any party seek a correction after the next ball has been bowled in the closing stages of a tense chase.

The obvious counter to this would be a reference to Andy Flower, who presumably lobbied and famously got a run-out call against Ian Bell reversed in the Trent Bridge Test of 2011. That, though, was different. Firstly it involved a dismissal. Moreover, the cricket laws state that a fielding captain can withdraw an appeal until the next batsman has walked in.

This argument around this short run - it would be naïve to believe it had any bearing on the end result, because West Indies would have chased accordingly if they were going after 231 as opposed to 230 - intensifies because the ICC has felt obliged to defend its systems in the face of umpiring mistakes made in a much more high-profile Test series in England. While making the defence, ICC chief executive David Richardson made an interesting revelation that the governing body is trialling a system wherein the third umpire can be shown prompt replays of every ball in order to see if he can review every aspect of every decision made on the field before the next ball is bowled.

If that system had been in place, this short run wouldn't have been a controversy, but in a practical world we are far off from any such possibility. Given the current technology, it is just not possible. "To review these run-changing calls thoroughly," the ICC told ESPNcricinfo, "the TV umpire would need to not just review the calls that were made on field, but also the non-calls that could have changed the total if adjudicated correctly. This would need to be done fairly to both teams, and require review protocols to be established and followed each time. This option would slow the game considerably, and is currently not practical. Relying on ad-hoc replays from the broadcaster would create inconsistency."

Again, you can see the ICC's point. It is not possible to fairly and consistently check every decision unless the TV umpire is being provided with instant replays in time to make a call before the next ball is bowled. And if you are going to correct a call in the first innings, you should be able to retrospectively make corrections in tense situations in the second innings too.

Given that the technology is nowhere near adequate for such a practice to be in place, possibly the ICC can make an exception for calls on short runs? For how often do batsmen run short? Not even once a match on average. The uniqueness and rareness of the short-run decision might make for a special case, but when it comes to impact, a short run is even less consequential than a wide ball missed.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Steve on July 21, 2013, 14:20 GMT

    Whether short run call was incorrect or not, when WI started their innings, both teams knew what they have to play for. As pointed out by other comments, 1 run wouldn't have made much of a difference, though it may appear that way post match. The spirit of the game should be upheld.

  • John on July 21, 2013, 14:12 GMT

    It appears ICC is spending a lot of time these days to in defending Umpires and the DRS system Either use the DRS system and the third fully and properly as intended or remove it completely and have no umpire/DRS. Give more authority to the third umpire where he can override an erroneous decision where he can either inform the umpire real time to change that decision. This can be done in two ways. Either alert the on field umpire and let him correct the decision or do it by stepping in and overriding it. All the rationalization that is going on is making no sense. Serious errors have been made in this series and in Australia England Ashes series. The West Indian Umpire did not hold up to the highest standards that are required of umpires in this game. Finally the umpires by not calling wide balls from West Indian bowling and the erroneous short run cost Pakistan the game. So whilst your summary is articulate, it is missing with the root cause of the problem.

  • Mohsin on July 21, 2013, 13:41 GMT

    Though the rules are fine and umpire's call is final but how many poor decisions we can have more? Now a days umpiring standards are being questioned, including Ashes test. ICC should introduce some rule in case the on field umpire is making mistake. Overall Pakistan played pretty well but in the end they collapsed and couldn't handle the pressure. WI were lucky no doubt as Pak outplayed them in numerous areas.

  • Albert on July 21, 2013, 11:10 GMT

    Since the broadcaster is already showing the replays on the big screen inside the ground, why can't the on field umpires be allowed to simply change their decision if they have made an obvious mistake? No need to even consult the 3rd umpire when the replays are clear.

  • Cauldric on July 21, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    ppl have to realizr that technology is to facilitate the game, not make it boring. there are two sides on every coin. Should the game be stopped when an erroneous wide ball is called or missed? One may argue that the extra run & ball could have changed the outcome. what about when narine appealed for a plumb lbw decision? that wicket could have burried pak. th truth is both sides were poor. Bravo's dearth captaincy was shocking... samuels had ovrs left (sammy used him in final ovrs a few times effectively) and most batsmen were poor. Misba's dearth captaincy was poor and most pak batsmen were poor. be happy that your team managed a tie and look forward to the next match. Cause no way 230 should have given WI that much trouble.

  • Dummy4 on July 21, 2013, 5:57 GMT

    I am always in favour of having neutral umpires for ODI as in test matches. J.Wilson make 2 wrong decision. Once the LBW of Nazir Jamshed and since there was no DRS he got away with it. Now he gave a run short when U.Akmal was well over the line. Poor decision which changed the faith of the game. Let's play it as the gentleman's game as it is called. ICC think about it in your next meeting.

  • Shiv on July 21, 2013, 2:14 GMT

    To all those cribbing about this one run, let me tell u Pak should be happy that the match ended in a tie. They should have lost this match when the batsmen played like they don't know what is batting. They should have lost it when ajmal gave 15 runs to narine in the 48th over. They should have lost it when wahab couldn't defend 15 runs to no. 11 batsman.

  • zaf on July 20, 2013, 22:06 GMT

    Abdul Razzak should be in PAK TEAM. Good game by Haris Sohail, hope he will improve. Asad Safiq not deserve in PAK Team.

    Holder is good adition in WI team. good game by Sameul/Pollard

  • Android on July 20, 2013, 20:42 GMT

    After that short run signal, reply was shown on the Mega screen in the ground but the filed umpire made it clear to the batsman that you were short run. how it came possible that reply is wrong? and where was the third umpire and referee at that moment? it was man misktake but it could have been correct by accepting it after so many replays broadcasted in that over.