Geoff Boycott: "As a player, all you ever want is as many accurate decisions as possible"
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A push to give umpires access to Hawk-Eye to help their decision-making has won support from an unlikely source, with Geoff Boycott insisting the ICC make the move as soon as possible. Boycott believes at the very least the game's governing body must allow umpires to see basic information such as whether the ball pitched in line with the stumps.
The ICC is set to discuss Hawk-Eye at its Cricket Committee meeting in Dubai next week and a trial in Winchester on Wednesday was intended to give the members hard proof of whether the system works. However, rain meant the testing had to be postponed, possibly in favour of another trial at Lord's following the England-New Zealand Test in a fortnight.
But Boycott hopes it will not be long before umpires are allowed to use the technology. "We seem too reticent to try things, we're taking too long," he told Cricinfo. "As a player, all you ever want is as many accurate decisions as possible. If I make a mistake and I'm out, well so be it, that's my fault, but you don't want to be given out when you feel you're not out."
Boycott is a member of the MCC World Cricket Committee and there is strong support within the group for greater use of Hawk-Eye. If the ICC agrees, it must decide whether to give umpires unrestricted access to all of Hawk-Eye's data, including the predicted flight of the ball, or limit it to more clear-cut information such as where the ball pitched and where it struck the batsman.
Although Boycott believes in the accuracy of Hawk-Eye's predictions he thinks a gradual introduction of the technology would help appease the doubters. "These line decisions - I think we can get them into the game straight away," he said. "The lbws [predicted ball path] - there's too much doubt at the moment to convince the ICC."
He hopes the on-field umpires can remain in charge by simply asking the third official for specific Hawk-Eye information, much like the video-referee system in rugby. Boycott believes the proliferation of new tools being shown to viewers means umpires are being hung out to dry.
"Umpires make mistakes - they're human, we all make mistakes - but today with television as it is and so good, they show the replay and it shows up any errors. I don't like seeing umpires embarrassed or made to look foolish but you can't tell television not to show it because television now pays all the money to keep the game alive.
"There should be a way of doing it, like other sports, where the umpire on field is still in charge and makes the final decision. We need to get rid of blatant mistakes but also accept line-ball decisions. Unless it's clearly not out we should go with the decision of the umpire on field."
If Hawk-Eye is adopted by the ICC, the spotlight will almost certainly move to other devices like the snickometer and the infra-red Hot Spot camera. While Boycott is uncertain whether those tools should be used by umpires, he believes it would be foolish to deny the officials any hard facts available to viewers.
"I'm more concerned at the moment about things that are quite easy to tell - pitching outside leg stump, that should be quite straightforward," Boycott said. "Television is getting so good you've got super slow-mo, it shows inside-edges when people are given out lbw. You've got to find ways to open your mind and some people have closed minds to change."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo