Sunday, 1 March 2009

The benefit of the camera?

Despite being caught up in things like weddings this weekend, there's so much crickte going on, that it would be hard to stay away from it. I did manage to listen to the Test in Jo'burg late last night while very close to Casson Avenue in Warners Bay!

The thing that keeps popping up is the referral system, which has reached the final stages of its trial, and is starting to turn a lot of heads. I'm not sold on the current concept, the main reasons being a dislike for the position it puts the players in and a scepticism regarding just how much the current technology can do.

One other issue worth keeping in mind is that the 'elite' umpires, whatever is said about them, are there because they have yeras of experience watching cricket from the bowlers end and square leg, and making decisions. I don't know how possible it is to develop a similarly helpful experience watching and making decisions form a flat screen, but they certainly wouldn't have it yet.

It seems particularly strange to apply camera replays to most LBWs, and yet it has happened an awful lot in the last few days. Among other things, this has led to a lot of talk about the fact that a decision by the onfield umpire is only meant to be overturned if there is a clear error. While it is not at all clear that this principle is actually being followed, one commentator described this "giving the benefit of the doubt to the umpire, rather than the batsman" as subtle shift in a fundamental part of the game, implying it is something to be concerned about, but this is nonsense.

The way the system is meant to work, the onfield umpire still gives the batsman the benefit of the doubt. In the relatively rare case that a decision is questioned, this decision is then given the benefit of the doubt. Is this good or bad?

Overturning marginal decisions might more seriously undermine an umpire's authority, but there is probably truth in both the arguments that authority needs to be maintained and that the correct decision is more important than an ego.

More particularly, used properly, this principle makes sense if the third umpire is to consider incidents where the camera doesn't tell the whole story. Sometimes it would be ridiculous to consider a dismissal only in terms of what can be seen on the screen, and any tv-watcher just has to say, "I can't tell!" So why ignore the opinion of one who has already gathered evidence from a different view?

Apart from all of this, perhaps this approach unwittingly puts the umpire in even more of a spotlight. Most would agree that the right decision is of principle importance, not judging the umpires. While umpires should be subject to scrutiny, the game shouldn't be made all about them.

In any case, this system is not taking benefit of the doubt away from the batsman. If the umpire now, when challenged, is assumed correct until proven wrong, then this simply shows how much more the role of the umpire could be changed. Traditionally, the batsman was given the benefit of the doubt, but the umpire was always right.


Krish said...

I agree more with "[the] correct decision is more important than an ego" part of the equation. No one should want to win a match because of a wrong decision, and it is horrible to lose a match because of one. That should be the No. 1 criteria. And if some umpires make too many mistakes, they should be removed.

Ankit Poddar said...

I think, it is this inability to maintain a balance between technology and umpiring ego, that is the bane of the problem.

It doesn't help matters with their ego, that previously when technology was used with run outs, it completely resolved the umpires of giving run out decisions without help for the third umpire.

But what needs to be paid attention to, is that it has increased the number of correct decisions to a very certain high!