On the Front Foot: Referral regulation offers little appeal for anyone on the pitch

Referrals should be referred to the International Cricket Council for reconsideration. The series between West Indies and England has been marred by them, and that is likely to be matched by consternation at their use in the Tests between South Africa and Australia. The system has so far been hopeless in the Caribbean. Players and umpires despise referrals at worst, are discomfited by them at best. They have caused time to be wasted and frivolous appeals to be lodged. Worse, they have led to confusion and injustice, precisely what they were instigated to eradicate. The best match was easily the second in Antigua, played in the old-fashioned way without referrals. A case, albeit a flimsy one, could be made for suggesting the fate of the series has been predicated on an experiment. Ramnaresh Sarwan was five in the West Indies first innings at Kingston when he was adjudged leg before to Stephen Harmison. Might have been high, might not, as the TV replays also indicated. However, Sarwan, having been given out, was then reprieved, since when he has never looked back, adding another 592 runs in the series at an average of 150. Harmison has taken four wickets at nearly 37 runs each and been dropped, and England are 1-0 down. The Umpiring Decision Review System (UDRS for short, and best left as a cow's mammary gland) was a good idea notionally. And its proponents would point out that England's best player, Kevin Pietersen, was saved by it on Friday when he was given out lbw to a ball that had plainly pitched outside leg stump. There is strong word that the ICC might try another method in which umpires make their own referrals. But this is fraught with conflict because the umpires would need to have doubt when they are supposed to have certainty, and would be under constant pressure to refer.

Cruel fate of the fatty batter

In a week desperately needing light relief, Samit Patel provided it. He will never entirely recover from being dropped by England for being chubby, having failed two fitness tests. Players have been omitted after making hundreds for scoring too slowly, but never for being too fat. Patel must have felt pretty pleased with himself after making 101 for England Lions in their unofficial Test last week, good practice before the one-day series in the Caribbean. In another age it would not have mattered. For instance, in the way that Jack Hobbs scored more of his 197 hundreds after he was 40 than before, WG Grace probably scored the majority of his 124 centuries after he was fat.

Aleem Dar sticks to his post

Aleem Dar, one of the officials in the Trinidad Test and among the best umpires around, wished to withdraw. He was deeply upset to hear of the injuries to his compatriot and friend Ahsan Raza, who was badly hurt when the Sri Lanka team bus was attacked last week. Eventually Dar was persuaded to stay in the West Indies rather than travel home immediately.

ICC's head in a state of confusion

When a news flash came on TV the other day, it seemed that a body often accused of inertia had exceeded their remit. "ICC charges head of state for first time." Blimey, the International Cricket Council were at last showing who was boss. Turned out to be the International Criminal Court.

s.brenkley@independent.co.uk

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