Jury remains out as hi-tech trial proves testing experience

ICC's extended use of slow-motion television is proving to be a turn-off for batsmen at the Champions Trophy
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The Independent Online

THE USE of television technology to help umpires in the Champions Trophy has indeed proved to be a trial. It is both an experiment and an ordeal: batsmen are having to wait a minute, sometimes more, after the appeal while the uncertain interpretation of slow-motion replays decide their fate.

The use of television technology to help umpires in the Champions Trophy has indeed proved to be a trial. It is both an experiment and an ordeal: batsmen are having to wait a minute, sometimes more, after the appeal while the uncertain interpretation of slow-motion replays decide their fate.

No matter how hi-tech the high-technology, human error is still apparent. Confusion in applying the temporary regulations has been rife. Umpires seem to have extended, if not blatantly breached, the guidelines, though all in the pursuit of ensuring the proper verdict. The players are divided, as they have been eternally. This time bowlers think it is a good thing and batsmen are not so sure.

Third umpires have been involved in line calls to decide on run-outs and stumpings for years. Now they are also helping with leg before wicket decisions and catches behind and of the bat/pad variety. The other big difference is that the third umpire does not now deliver the verdict. He presents information in response to certain specific questions from the men in the middle who must decide what is in and what is out.

After seven pool matches in this tournament there had been 29 consultations, 15 of them in the new categories, with 12 for leg before and three for catches. Batsmen may feel hard done by but seven of the lbws had been given not out and all three of the catches appeals turned down.

England's captain, Nasser Hussain, said: "I think it's great but I'd go the full way and not just ask one or two questions but find out with everything: Was that out or not? We all fall asleep a little bit out there."

The ICC is reluctant to comment on the progress of the experiment, insisting it wants to let it run its course before delivering a verdict on whether to return to the old ways, settle for this limited expansion or invite technology to intrude on everything.

According to David Richardson, the ICC's general manager (cricket), Umpires' Communications Vests – UCVs – have been comfortable and efficient: "Just as importantly, the quality and sound and reliability of the links has been of a very high and consistent standard." Which is perhaps more than can be said for the consistent quality and reliability of the referrals.

Under ICC regulations for the tournament, umpires in the middle can ask about two points when reaching a leg-before decision. He can request a view on whether ball pitched outside leg – in which case the batsman would be not out under the Laws – or on its height, which has always been a subjective matter.

That would suggest he would make referrals on those points only if he had already formed the view that the ball would go on to hit the stumps. Otherwise why bother to ask? Replays in several cases have shown the ball pitching in line and easily low enough for height not to be a factor. Yet still the verdict has been not out, which suggests the consultations have been much wider than intended.

"You have mixed emotions while you're waiting [for a decision]," said the England fast bowler Matthew Hoggard yesterday. "It's not like with a run-out where you're pretty sure one way or the other and can celebrate. Here you just have to wait without knowing. Anything that improves the decision-making is good for the game. If it can interrupt your flow, it also means in this heat that you've got time for a drink."

Time is the main quibble. Some observers claim that a wait of a minute, which has been the case in most referrals, is too long. But with the average number of referrals running at around four per match that is a total delay of only four minutes.

In any case, the wait adds to the game's sense of theatre. Nobody has explained why the discussions are taking so long. Maybe the umpires are discussing where to have dinner.

The pool match yesterday between Australia and Bangladesh merely enhanced the confusion. With Bangladesh's last man out, it was difficult to know whether he was leg before, run out or indeed had been referred. Nobody on the tell seemed to know either, and it is their technology.

Australia won by nine wickets, easily surpassing the opposition's 129 all out. They have taken 20 wickets in their two matches and look formidable.

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