West Indies v England, 4th Test, Barbados, 3rd day

Teething troubles undermine referrals

Andrew McGlashan in Barbados

February 28, 2009

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The umpiring was in the spotlight on the third day in Barbados © Getty Images
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The West Indies coach, John Dyson, is normally a fairly mild-mannered person, but watching two of his key middle-order batsmen get dispatched by the referral system nearly tipped him over the edge. Shortly after Brendan Nash was given out lbw for 33, Dyson marched down the steps with Omar Khan, the team manager in tow, on the hunt for the match referee. If Alan Hurst was hoping for a quieter Test after the controversy in Antigua that knock on the door changed things.

It was bad enough that Shivnarine Chanderpaul had been given out despite the ball clearly heading over the stumps, but then Nash was also sent packing by a 50-50 call. With both decisions the system had failed to follow its brief. The aim of the trial isn't to adjudicate on marginal decisions, but to correct glaring errors. Here it gave a marginal one, and failed to correct a clear error.

"This is a trial system and some days you get good decisions and today we got two or three controversial decisions," Hurst said. "We have to learn from this."

Dyson for his part struck a more conciliatory tone than may have been expected as he marched down the steps. "One of the great things about cricket is it teaches you to accept all decisions and just get on with the game," he told Sky Sports. "I just went down the stairs to have a chat with Alan Hurst. We just wanted to clarify a few things."

"I think we're still getting to grips with the whole concept," he added. "When you play your whole life with the umpires being in sole charge, but now sometimes find yourself in situations where you can question the decisions, it is hard to deal with."

That brings us to Chanderpaul. Even as Russell Tiffin gave him out the ball, only four overs old, looked to have struck him high on the pad and the first couple of replays confirmed as such. The key view was side-on with the Hawk-Eye graphic (stopped at the moment of impact) which showed the ball was already at bail height and still rising. No one would have argued if the decision had been overturned and the eventual full Hawk-Eye replay - which the third umpire doesn't see - showed the ball missing by at least six inches.

No wonder Dyson looked frustrated. His batsman had been the victim of two poor decisions in one ball. The irony is that if referrals hadn't been in place everyone would have accepted Tiffin's verdict as a rough one, but something that happens in cricket. However, since the TV umpire supported the mistake that made it pretty inexcusable.

Ramnaresh Sarwan, who watched from the other end, understandably stayed clear of the debate but admitted he had reservations over the system. "I really and truly don't want to comment on it, the umpire's decisions are final," he said. "Like I've said before, I'm not a big fan of it. At the end of the day, people make mistakes and I am strong believer that things balance out in the end, over your career. It takes up a bit of time as well."

The man at the rough end of the criticism will be Daryl Harper who was also in the hot seat in Kingston. In that game he made what seemed a glaring error when he upheld an appeal against Daren Powell for caught behind, despite clear daylight between bat and ball. However, it is believed he was given an unsuitable picture by the host broadcaster which obscured the ball for a crucial moment. On these latest occasions picture quality shouldn't have been an issue, but what did come to the forefront was not allowing the third umpire use of Hawk-Eye.

It would have shown, for example, that Nash's lbw was barely clipping the stumps - the type that is correctly given not out because of the margin-of-error principle. Still, when Harper had viewed all the replays, and all the angles, and still none of them gave conclusive evidence that Nash was out the expectation was he would survive. Then Aleem Dar's finger went up and Dyson went off to the match referee, although from England's point of view it was business as usual.

"I'm a bit bemused that it has been referred to as mad because it didn't seem mad out in the middle," Swann said. "We didn't realise there was controversy until we walked off the pitch. As far as we are concerned we got given a couple of lbws. We felt aggrieved in Jamaica by a couple of decisions and West Indies feel aggrieved today. Obviously the system is not ideal if people feel aggrieved by it but personally I have no problems, especially if they go my way."

The problem, though, is a lack of consistency. This is a trial and teething problems have to be expected, but the fundamental basis of the system isn't that complicated. The third umpire can over rule obvious errors, yet the game is getting the worst of two bad worlds. First there are the delays, some bordering on five minutes, while evidence is watched, then incorrect decisions are still being given. At the moment no one is gaining.

"We were led to believe it was to eliminate the bad ones [umpiring mistakes]. But what we are seeing is all sorts of tactical decisions are coming in," Dyson added. "The players are finding it challenging to get used to the system. I think the jury is still out."

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by gtyouth on (March 1, 2009, 16:36 GMT)

the referral system is only good as the people who are using it. you can't have umpires who are not trainned to use the system making vital decisions and making it look bad for the sport.that same umpire who made the mistakes in the first test made the same mistakes again.why is that umpire still in that position doing it again.

Posted by amar_gujral on (March 1, 2009, 15:59 GMT)

This is in response to Maelstormz' opinion on Hawk-Eye. Your suggestion of using Hawk-Eye more consistently is an interesting suggestion, however I don't quite agree. As far as the ball crashing into the middle of the middle-stump is concerned, umpires usually get it correct anyway. And where you have doubful decisions (half the ball hitting the stump) it is better to leave it to the human element, as the umpires are watching the pace, bounce and trajectory all the time and might have a good hunch. Also, the element of doubt and uncertainty in LBWs is so much a part of the flavor of cricket, as is the little unpredictably that it brings in. Sometimes batsmen have even been known to adjust their techniques, knowing the tendencies of certain umpires. It all adds to the experience! I think if you just remove the obviously bad decisions, it is good enough.

Posted by Ellis on (March 1, 2009, 11:39 GMT)

Tiffin and Harper have long been known as incompetent umpires in their on-field and third umpire capacities and should be removed from the panel. Hurst's explanation suggests tha Aleem Dar changed his mind in the Nash dismissal even though Harper was uncertain about whether the ball would hit the stumps.So, Dar reversed his initial decision of " not out" despite Harper being uncertain. What happened to the principle of doubt favouring the batsman? In simple terms, a total cock-up! The referral system makes sense as long as the third umpire has access to ALL the available technology. TV broadcasts and in-ground spectators should not have access to technology that is not available to umpires.At the moment we are finding out that umpires make far more mistakes than we thought. Also, if Hawk Eye has resulted in umpires being more likely to give LBW decisions they had previously refused, there needs to be consistency between umpires.

Posted by maelztorm on (March 1, 2009, 11:35 GMT)

The mistakes made by Harper today have me thinking that perhaps the umpires are deliberately trying to sabotage the system because they are not in favour of it. I hope that is not the case since it is only there to improve on the quality of the game. England complained that there got the raw end of the deal in Jamaica with particular reference to the Sarwan lbw decision that was overturned and Hawkeye later showing that it would clip the top of the stamps. I feel that the Sarwan decision was a good one because if Hawkeye shows that it is only clipping how could the on field umpire with his bare eyes be absolutely certain that the ball would hit the stamp? There is noway he could have known that, there would be doubt and it is only fair that the batsman be given not out. Like Ryan Hinds lbw decision yesterday. That was another poor decison. Hawkeye shows the ball just grazing leg stamp but the on field umpire felt convicted that the ball would hit the stamp... no way he could be so sure

Posted by amar_gujral on (March 1, 2009, 11:23 GMT)

One more point about the techonlogy... I agree with GlobalCricketLover that Hotspot is absolutely necessary. Also, the super slow motion camera...these two are the only ones that can give conclusive evidence about caught behinds... As far as LBWs go, I think that the third umpire should only give feedback to the on-field umpire about the two very objective and conclusive aspects of lbw - where did the ball pitch? and did it strike in the line of the stumps? Height, projected trajectory, etc. should be left to the on-field umpire's original judgment. Simplify the system and it will be a winner!

Posted by dolemite on (March 1, 2009, 11:19 GMT)

With games involving West Indies, why is it that in excess of 75% of poor umpiring incidents negatively impact the West Indies team? These statistics certainly cannot be coincidental. Could it be an elaborate conspiracy to ensure that the West Indies team never recovers from its decade long decline? I accept that mistakes happen, but its quite strange when one team seemingly suffers the brunt of them each and every time. The same way how bad umpiring or poor officiating can destroy a player's career, it is time that an official's performance affects his career as well. Maybe we can scrap the referals, and increase the pool of umpires; whereby, awarded contracts will be performance based.

Posted by maelztorm on (March 1, 2009, 11:18 GMT)

Most of the problems now are with lbw decisions. the claim is that hawkeye is not too accurate but the umpires are not either. With hawkeye the inaccuracy would be consistent and I am pretty sure that with improvements much can be done to improve its accuracy. I suggest that we make full use of Hawkeye in lbw decisions. According to cricketing laws where there is doubt the decision should favour the batsman so if hawkeye suggest that the ball is plummeting middle stamp then the batsman should be given out. Where hawkeye shows that less than half of the ball is making contact with the stamps then the batsman should be given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to stay. If hawkeye with its tech is suggesting that the ball is only grazing the stamps then I feel that there is no way the onfield umpire can know for certain that the ball is going to hit the stamps and a not out decision in favour of the batsman should be given. Also there should be more than one person in the 3rd ump chair.

Posted by amar_gujral on (March 1, 2009, 11:16 GMT)

Since I'm the 19th article in this thread, I know a lot has already been said...let me try to give my two pennies worth on the 'total picture' as far as referrals are concerned. First of all, I think the idea is a good one. How often have we seen batsmen given out LBW when the ball has actually hit the inside edge? Or a dubious caught behind? It's good that the ICC are finally doing something about it rather than the commentators just telling us every time that the batsman or bowler was 'unlucky.' Remember, it's not just the result of the match that may hinge on that one decision, but also, in some cases, players careers. Imagine, if on that last evening at ARG Darren Powell had been given out wrongly and England had won the test match. He would probably have been dropped for all times to come, whereas now his heroics and resolve have given him one more opportunity to prove himself (even though he is not a batsman). Continued in the next thread...sorry for the length!

Posted by maelztorm on (March 1, 2009, 11:05 GMT)

the technology is great the only problem is that there is not enough of it. I personally feel that the computers should play most of the third umpires role while he basically monitors what is going on. The problem is that human umpires are inconsistent but with the technology that is virtually eliminated. Here is a scenario and why i think more tech is needed (snicko, hotspot, hawkeye, etc., etc.). In this innings Nash was giving not out by the onfield umpire and that decision was overturned by Harper (no matter what Hurst said) that was an obvious faux pas on his part. What if for that same delivery the onfield umpire had given Nash out and Nash had asked for referral? Nash would have still not been out but then Harper would have likely held his ground and go along with the onfield decision. Who would they have blamed now? Based on the evidence Harper would say that there was nothing conclusive for him to overturn the onfield umpires decision. If we using tech let's go all out.

Posted by 9aussiecricfan9 on (March 1, 2009, 10:21 GMT)

In all newspaper reports the gist is that Harper is at fault for the bloopers but in reality he CANNOT be held accountable solely! Alan Hurst in the post day interview clarified that Harper's role is to give his opinion (whether right or wrong which is a different subject!) on seeing the replays and relay that back. The FINAL DECISION then lies with the on-field umpires who consulted him. So in this case the two umpires Messrs Tiffin and Dar are also to be blamed. More so Tiffin for the blooper of the innings than Dar - Nash's was a 50/50.

As to the Joburg incident, the problem there was that supposedly for the referral that Ponting wanted to ask, there was a technical issue and thus couldn't be done ! Nothing to do with time limits.

Posted by Kilat on (March 1, 2009, 9:30 GMT)

In response to MuneebOsh, the article doesn't make it clear that Nash was actually given not out by the field umpire, and it was England which called for the referral. So there needed to be clear evidence that he WAS out. That obviously makes the decision to overturn the original verdict far worse.

Posted by Kilat on (March 1, 2009, 9:28 GMT)

Don't blame the referral system, blame the TV umpires. These are the same men who were making mistakes on the field, and now they're back to their old tricks. This time they don't have the excuse of the action happening too fast when they're watching a slow-motion replay and tracker. It's high time the ICC recognised the problem and taught their umpires some common sense and basic physics.

Posted by NumberXI on (March 1, 2009, 9:15 GMT)

The referral system looks like it is headed for the trash can. When India visited SL for a test series in 2008, it played a big role in deciding the outcome of that series with SL winning 20 decisions in their favour including the last test where each of Tendulkar, Sehwag and Dravid fell to it in the first innings, and India winning just one - and that was a not out. The system was plagued with inconsistencies which were so bad that even Cricinfo felt they were worth commenting on, mostly in the case of LBWs. One suspects that the ICC has decided to introduce the system but the guidelines to umpires on how to make decisions are far removed from what would appear to be an obvious decision. Maybe, this is the ICC's way of doing away with the use of further technology in cricket too.

Posted by ajitjdsouza on (March 1, 2009, 7:23 GMT)

My two cents to improve the system... In cases of lbw decisions, the referral system can be used only to judge if there was any contact with the bat. I believe the system is good. But it seems like those like Harper who are responsible for making these decisions have a personal vendetta against it. these 3rd umpires are giving wrong decisions are making sure this system is done away with.

Posted by popcorn on (March 1, 2009, 7:21 GMT)

No. Giving the batsman or bowler or fielding side the prerogative to question the unpire's decision is incorrect.Firstly, what is the sanctity of just allowing two appeals? In a match, there could be innumerable dubious decisions.

In my opinion, ONLY the umpire should be given the liberty to refer to the third umpire AS OFTEN AS HE LIKES,just as he does for stumping or run-outs. Also,Hotspot is accurate, and the technology of Hotspot should be made available to the third umpire. Hawkeye is not accurate.It can PRESUME the ball followed a certain trajectory ONLY. It is two dimensional,and cannot take into account wind speed,or the movement of the ball after the friction it has had with the variable pitch surface. Mistakes WILL be made,but they will be fewer.

Posted by GlobalCricketLover on (March 1, 2009, 5:42 GMT)

I cannot agree more with Gzawilliam's comments about leaving the front-foot no ball to be policed by 3rd umpire and let the on-field umpire focus only at the business-end of the pitch, ie. the batsman's end. I had in fact emailed the same suggestion to Tony Greig sometime ago. I think ICC should certainly try this - cos it not only retains the power with on-field umpires but also help them much better judgements than otherwise.

I also feel that each team should only be allowed 1 referral per 'entire match' so they use it only for 'truly unbearable and horribly' wrong decisions and not waste time on 50-50 calls.

And surely, with out HOTSPOT no one can be sure on most occassions whether the ball had a feather-edge or not - like in Boucher's case yesterday, he was very sure he didn't nick it but the tv replays can never be sure if there wasn't an edge or not - so a referral would not help in such cases without HOTSPOT technology.

Posted by vip322 on (March 1, 2009, 5:23 GMT)

I strongly support the referal system. Only problem here is the people who operate it. The decisions that Daryl Harper Made were horendous. whole world knew they were wrong except Harper. I dont understand why ICC does not do anything to train some new umpires rather than keeping this same bunch of umpires who distroying the game of cricket. Daryl Haper is not a competant umpire. He has made so many wrong decisions.

Posted by MuneebOsh on (March 1, 2009, 4:51 GMT)

Reading from your description, it appears to me that the umpire got the Nash decision correct. In (American) football, the TV umpire needs to see incontrovertible evidence to overturn the on-field umpire's decision. Isn't this how it works with the cricket referrals? If it doesn't it should! If the ball was seen to be clipping the stumps (even if barely) in replays, then the on-field umpire's decision should stand. The Chanderpaul decision should have been overturned since it was so obviously wrong.

Posted by kaiser1 on (March 1, 2009, 4:51 GMT)

It should be used to correct the bad decisions not to protect the on field umpire as is being done. This way the batters would always be fearful of the system and not be able to play naturally and freely.This is abuse of the system by the third umpire to protect his on-field colleague instead of giving the correct decisions which is the main aim of it. I personally was happy that finally the technology has arrived by virtue of which we would not see a great or flamboyant batsman sent packing by the umpiring mistake or a match would be destroyed at all at the end of the day. But what we are witnessing is glaring mistakes and then the cover up by the third umpires. Please correct the referrals for the betterment or give hawk-eye to the third umpire and power to tell the on-field umpire of a mistake without being referred to as well. Thanks.

Posted by michaelfernando on (March 1, 2009, 4:06 GMT)

The process takes up too much time because the TV umpire talks to the other two via radio and without the pictures. Like in the American NFL games, put up a small booth by the side of the field where the on field umpire can step-into and see the pictures for himself. If that were the case today, both Tiffin and Dar would have realized height was the problem in both cases. As Hurst explained in the Sky, the TV umpire was looking for all these other things (ie: was there an edge, was it in-line, etc) and the on-field umpire (probably) never asked "do you think it is out?" Give the facilities (an iPhone, seriously!) for the first umpire to see the pictures himself.

Posted by chandau on (March 1, 2009, 3:56 GMT)

This is the most ridiculous "innovation" the ICC has come up with. I feel they have a need to tamper with all and sundry to show everyone how important they are!!! This system was first trialled in Sri Lanka and what a mess it created and almost ruined the very friendly relationships our cricketer have with their Indian counterparts. In one match the usually Gandhi-like Kumble was ready to punch the umpire... And did anyone see the fiasco in South Africa when Ponting could not make the referral because he had exceeded the specified time limit!!! Bucknor is lucky cricketers are more mild mannered say compared to many in other sports, but still punter was fuming his face turned red and purple. If ICC want to make the game better they shud first insist on the existing rules of the game being followed, like 90 overs a day on time, no water breaks at players' fancy, no feilder substitutions for shirt change or pee break, no make believe appeals, no undue and unsporting chatter non-stop.

Posted by vladtepes on (March 1, 2009, 3:32 GMT)

I think such technology has no place on the cricket pitch. Keep replays for tv viewers and stadium screen highlights, but leave it out of umpires' responsibilities. If they use these replays to decide calls on the field, why bother with on-field umpires at all? Just have players appeal to the umpire in the stands who can signal dismissals from the replay booth. No thank you. The sport is not played by robots, so it should not be officiated by robots. Sometimes the umpire's call works for you, sometimes it doesn't. Imagine how many of Lance Gibbs's 309 or Wasim's 414 would not be because of a cameraman's flinch. I thought Swann's comment, "personally I have no problems, especially if they go my way" was pretty immature, but probably not spoken in a serious tone.

Posted by gtzshotta on (March 1, 2009, 3:20 GMT)

When the whole point of getting the decision right in the end is the main focus, why isn't the match referee allowed to get all the views that we and everyone else get. Its like adding a second umpire and hoping he knows the answer by giving him 50/50 shots at the delivery. Just horrendous decision from the ICC and is inexcusable to have this at such a high level of cricket.

Posted by spinkingKK on (March 1, 2009, 2:04 GMT)

I am a huge supporter or referral system in Cricket (than in Tennis). Because, one bad decision can change the match, as it happened in this match even with the referral. If Chanderpaul was there with Sarwan at stumps, Windies will be in driver's seat. Referral system can only be successful, if the third umpire understand the fundamental reason why it is referred. It is not a time to show the solidarity and back the onfield umpire or it is not the time to get biased. It is been referred, because one of the team thinks that they are hardly done by an umpiring error. He only have to look at and find out if it was obvious that the onfield umpire's decision was wrong. If it wasn't obvious, just support the onfield umpire. It is that simple. Still they make mistake??? Actually, the third umpire's job should be given to somebody who is not an umpire. Because, they will look at this with open mind. If they can't find a candidate, please give me this best job in the world!!.

Posted by KiQass on (March 1, 2009, 1:18 GMT)

the third umpire isnt keen on giving the correct decisions. maybe he doesnt want to make the on field umpires look bad by reversing their opinion too many times. the players would lose their respect for the on field umpires decision then.

Posted by gzawilliam on (March 1, 2009, 1:05 GMT)

This is a sham wihout doubt. Two test matches in the same day show the problems with this system. I still can't believe the need for this referal system. If they wanted a cut down in the bad decisions it seemed it obvious what was needed.

TAKE THE LINE AWAY FROM THE UMPIRE! Let him concentrate on the batsmen at the other end. If the umpire didn't have to look down to check a no-ball and then quart of a sec later look up to see the other end there would be far less mistakes made. We don't need perfection from technology just help the umpires out there.

Why not let the 3rd umpire police the lines in the match and the umpires police the rest. They have radio's out there why not have the 3rd umpire tell the ground umpire a noball was bowled a sec after the action has finished? Simple.. May take some getting used to. But seems a lot more plausible that the sham we just saw in Sout africa and the west indies.

Umpires are there for a reason. Don't make a mockery of them please.

Posted by hytman on (March 1, 2009, 0:37 GMT)

yes but not the way it is being used. we should use it to the full extent rather than half way. the west indies had three terible decisions that of gayle mash and chanderpaul. i think we should change it

Is the referral system good for cricket?
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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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