Umpires need a little technological help

Henry Blofeld
Tuesday 21 May 2002 00:00
Comments

So much for the élite umpires. In England's second innings one of the chosen eight, Daryl Harper, from Australia, gave two appalling lbw decisions. First, Marcus Trescothick was given out when he got a huge inside edge on the ball as all the viewing world would have seen before the batsman had walked as much as 30 yards towards the pavilion. It was a thick inside edge which made the ball change course, not a feathered edge where it is impossible to discern movement. Not only should Harper have seen it, he should also have heard it, so substantial was the contact.

On the last day, Nasser Hussain played back to a ball from Ruchira Perera which pitched a couple of inches outside the leg stump. It was also clearly going over the stumps as was confirmed by Channel Four's "Hawkeye", not by a millimetre or two but by several inches.

When England were in New Zealand at the start of the year the Sri Lankan umpire, Asoka de Silva, another élite official, was the one neutral umpire in the first Test in Christchurch and the accepted opinion was that he had a shocker. Eight élite umpires have been chosen by the International Cricket Council, but is this apparently splendid initiative going to make any difference to a thorny old problem? All this gives emphasis to one's own personal conviction that the naked human eye is not up to it when it comes to making these decisions when split-seconds are so important. It never has been, but for the first hundred or more years of the game there was no electronic technology and the attendant publicity. Everyone, players and spectators were happy to accept the umpire's word as part and parcel of the game.

"Hawkeye", the "Snickometer" (and, any day now, an "Lbwometer") will often reveal incorrect decisions made in the middle and the commentators eagerly jump on the bandwagon leaving the poor old umpires to look fools. There is no doubt too, that bad decisions make better television than good decisions.

If all the élite panel are going to get it wrong in the way that these two have just done, it is crucially important that full use is made of all technological evidence. If it had been in his brief, no third umpire could have done anything but disagree with the dismissals of Trescothick and Hussain. They and all other batsmen who are beyond a doubt given out wrongly should be recalled.

It is the duty of the ICC to grasp this nettle and prevent the game becoming the laughing stock that it inevitably will if it continues to get its decisions so glaringly wrong. The laws of cricket are there and yet both batsmen were given out in contradiction of these laws as all the world was quick to learn. It was absurd and must be put right.

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