New rules will attack 'spirit of the game'

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The Independent Online

In a final attempt to use technology to rid umpiring of human error, the International Cricket Council Cricket Committee, of which I am a member, has recommended at its rules meeting here that players be allowed to challenge one of cricket's basic principles.

In the preamble to the Laws of Cricket it states that, "It is against the Spirit of the Game to dispute an umpire's decision by word, action or gesture." Yet the new initiative, proposed by the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, and supported by the England team, will give the players of either side the opportunity to appeal to the third umpire if they feel a decision made by an on-field official is incorrect.

The recommendation needs to be approved by the chief executive's committee, which meets in London in July, and should it receive its support will be trialled during October's Champions' Trophy in India. If successful, it will be used in next year's World Cup.

Each team will be allowed three appeals to the third umpire per innings. If an appeal is successful - the batsman is proven not to have hit the ball after being given out caught behind, or vice versa - they will retain the right to three further appeals. But if an appeal against a decision is turned down, it is lost. Once three appeals have been lost, a team has to accept the decisions of the on-field umpire.

The captain of the fielding side and the batsman directly involved in the decision will be the only players entitled to approach an umpire and appeal. It must be made instantly to avoid off-field members of the side, who have had the benefit of watching an action replay of the incident, encouraging team-mates from the sidelines.

The ever-improving quality of television coverage, and the ability of cameras to highlight virtually every error made by an umpire continues to put pressure on the ICC to use technology. The quality of umpiring continues to be very high - 94-96 per cent of decisions are deemed to be correct - and the aim of the trial is to eradicate the occasional obvious error that an umpire makes.

This will be the third occasion that the ICC have allowed the introduction of new technology, with a third umpire used in the 2002 Champions' Trophy and the Johnnie Walker Super Series in October 2005.

The trials were not considered to be an overwhelming success with both the third umpire and the officials on the pitch making errors. However, the biggest fear over the proposed system is the effect it will have on "The Spirit of Cricket", the fabric of the game and the role and authority of the on-field umpire. It will undoubtedly encourage players to challenge the decisions of umpires at lower levels of the game.

Disciplining international players for their reaction to a decision will also be hard because the prospect of appealing gives them the opportunity to hang around for a period of time before walking off.

Dubai decisions Rule changes

1 Each team has the right to three appeals. On appeal the decision will be sent to the video umpire. After three unsuccessful appeals, the on-field umpire's decision has to be accepted.

2 Floodlights will no longer be used in Tests.

3 "Power plays", or overs of restricted fielding, should remain up to and including the 2007 World Cup.

4 Tests when no result is possible can be ended after 75 overs of the final day or at the beginning of the final hour. Previously this could only take place after 30 minutes of the final hour.

5 Bat blades should be made of a single piece of wood, and the balance that exists between a wooden bat and a leather ball, that one should not dominate the other, should be retained.