Full use of technology is long overdue

Making mistakes is nothing new but current series has made case for outside help.
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The Independent Online

Apportioning blame for what appears to be anoutbreak of bad behaviour on cricket pitches around the world is not easy. The modern game is played at a greater intensity than the one of yore, and there is more at stake, at least in terms of money, than at any time in the cricket's history.

Apportioning blame for what appears to be anoutbreak of bad behaviour on cricket pitches around the world is not easy. The modern game is played at a greater intensity than the one of yore, and there is more at stake, at least in terms of money, than at any time in the cricket's history.

Technology has left its influence too, with television exposing the game's subtle glories as well as its dark secrets. There is a price to pay for these advances and the sheer marvel of watching a super slo-mo of Muralitharan's off-break, is countered by the number of umpiring mistakes it exposes.

Over the next few days, sundry column inches willbe filled with talk of how today's players now pressuriseumpires with concertedappealing and turn them into jibbering wrecks. Actually it has gone on for donkey's years, especially on the sub-continent, where it was standard practice to intimidate weak umpires into giving decisions that men of stouter resolve would probably have given not out.

In my experience as aplayer the best umpires were invariably former first-class cricketers from England. This is not bias, but based on thebelief that without the useof technology the trickierdecisions often require aplayer's instinct to get them right.

Apart from England, hardly any top-class players go on to become umpires. One exception is Srinivas Venkataraghavan, a former Indian Test off-spinner, now arguably the best umpire standing in Test cricket.

But even ex-players are not infallible, which begs the question why technology - replays and close-up lenses - is not used more widely to minimise the kind of errors that are dominating England's current series in Sri Lanka.

Some modern TV technology is used but under the International Cricket Council's playing conditions for Test matches replays adjudicated by third umpires can only be used to judge line decisions such as run-outs, and to see if catches have carried.

To see how limiting and embarrassing such constraints can be you need look no further than yesterday's dismissal of Sanath Jayasuriya. The Sri Lanka captain was given out caught after a drive he'd sliced into the ground was held at third slip by a diving Graham Thorpe off the bowling of Andrew Caddick.

Anyone looking at a single TV replay could have seen it was not out. But umpire BC Cooray, under ICC regulations, could only have called for the replay had he'd felt the ball had not carried, not if he'd suspected a bump ball. In the event he asked his colleague at square leg who, under no doubt that Thorpe had held the ball cleanly, rubber-stamped the dismissal.

On this occasion, Cooray, as well as most of the England side, felt that the shot had not touched the ground. However, the third umpire would have known differently and through radio communication could have told Cooray to reverse his howler by recalling the batsman.

If it was just the odd rogue umpire then the problem might be improved by a cull. But although the ICC is set to have a super élite of the eight best umpires for Test cricket, the TV eye has exposed the human one as being fallible. For that reason, technology, although not immune from human error itself - cameramen don't always get the conclusive shot - needs to be used as far as possible.

If it isn't, the game risks ridicule and a total loss of meaning.

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