Human error beats Hawkeye for pure entertainment

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The Independent Online

In an age when an umpiring mistake can cost a side millions of pounds it is easy to understand why many feel that cricket should make the most of technology.

In an age when an umpiring mistake can cost a side millions of pounds it is easy to understand why many feel that cricket should make the most of technology. There is no doubt that the use of television replays would help reduce the number of mistakes made by officials and one can sympathise with the views of Clive Lloyd, who feels "it is time to use technology to the full extent".

The former West Indies captain is one of the International Cricket Council's four full-time match referees and he used Monday evening's annual Cowdrey "Spirit of Cricket" Lecture at Lord's as the stage on which to air his feelings.

"If technology is going to be used increasingly to reflect on the performance of the umpires - both by television and by officialdom - surely umpires should also have the opportunity to use it to improve on or supplement their performance," he said.

"How can it be right to ask an umpire to make a split-second decision based on his own eyesight and hearing when everyone else then judges and, if justified - and, sometimes, when unjustified - criticises that decision having made use of technology designed for that purpose?"

Lloyd's observations, which have been made after spending two years watching umpires work at close quarters, are valid and to be respected, but cricket has to weigh up how a potential change in the regulations will affect the game.

The use of technology is a contentious and much talked about subject. Cricket has gone further than most sports in using it, and in the 2002 Champions Trophy in Sri Lanka the ICC allowed umpires to send certain decisions to an official sitting in front of a television screen.

But after assessing their findings the ICC have abandoned plans to use third umpires in all international matches. This was because the third umpire could provide certainty on decisions like run outs, stumpings and boundaries but was still left guessing on many bat-pad catches and lbw appeals.

On the back of this trial the ICC continued to allow umpires to refer line decisions - and bump-ball catches - to the third umpire but stipulated that all other decisions should be made by those in the middle.

And quite rightly so. Everyone within the game would like to see a reduction in the number of mistakes made by umpires but I do not want the man in the middle sending three decisions an over back to someone sitting in front of a television.

Those who think Hawkeye should be used to determine lbw decisions reckon that this will not happen, but it will. If cricket attempts to eliminate human error then every appeal by a bowler must be sent back to the third umpire. Under these rules the official in the middle cannot and should not be trusted to make any sort of decision because somewhere along the line he may get it wrong.

The prospect of this would encourage the bowler to appeal every time the ball hits the pad and on each occasion a catch dollies up to short leg. Coaches and captains will encourage their players to shout for anything because they have nothing to lose and this in turn will increase the number of delays in a day's cricket.

There have already been calls for a day's Test cricket to be reduced from 90 to 84 overs because of mounting pressure from television companies. They want play to finish at a stated time so that it does not interfere with their evening schedule. And if cricket were to increase the number of appeals sent back to the third umpire it would severely affect the amount of cricket spectators see.

If Hawkeye were to be used a line would also have to be drawn in the history books stating that from this day on decision making was made from television replays. As a bowler I hated the "benefit of the doubt" rule which used to go in favour of the batsman and when looking at replays it is amazing how many balls would actually hit the stumps.

This would cost the game millions of pounds because wickets would be easier to come by and games would be shorter, thus reducing the number of people who pay to enter the ground. Sport would also be dull if nobody ever made a mistake. And then what would we have to talk about?

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