As a firm believer that the Decision Review System (DRS) is good for the game overall, I was pleased to read that the ICC Cricket Committee is likely to back the concept of ‘umpire’s call’ at its meeting later this week. This is a very important element of the DRS which has not been fully understood and this is why it has led to opposition in certain quarters. The most recent criticism came from Indian captain Virat Kohli who stopped just short of a call to do away with the umpire’s call as he was of the view that it was “creating a lot of confusion.”
One can understand Kohli’s frustration if he has in mind the decision involving the dismissal of Suryakumar Yadav in the T-20 international against England last week. On that occasion on field umpire KN Ananthapadmanabhan gave the soft signal as out before referring it to the TV umpire to see if the catch had been taken cleanly. From some 50 or 60 yards away, there is no way that Ananthapadmanabhan could have given the soft signal of out but going by the rules the third umpire had to abide by the onfield official’s ruling as in his view there was no conclusive proof that this decision could be overturned. On closer scrutiny David Malan appeared to have grounded the ball and that’s how the controversy flared up.
However, Kohli was perhaps off the mark when he referred to the ball tracking system which shows the ball just clipping the stump in a close decision. He was of the view that if the ball is shown as just about clipping the stumps it should be given as out and the umpire’s call should be dispensed with and a simpler approach of it either being out or not out needed to be put in place.
This is easier said than done. The fact remains that technology is not that foolproof that it can be absolutely sure that the ball would hit the stumps or miss it. In any case if the ball is shown in slow motion as hitting the stumps it is out and if the ball is shown as missing then it is not out. In cricket however there are cases when the ball misses the stump by the proverbial whisker or even brushes the stumps without dislodging the bail. Or the bail could be dislodged. That is why the image is shown as just clipping the stump which in other words is it could go either way. In any case here too a decision is reached because of the umpire’s call. If the onfield umpire has given it as out it stays out and if he has given it as not out it stays not out. Again, the helping hand here is the umpire’s call.
The ICC Cricket Committee headed by former Indian captain Anil Kumble has already had informal discussions with former international captains, umpires, match officials and broadcasters and have decided that the umpire’s call had to stay mainly because it was acknowledged that the ball tracking technology was not going to be hundred percent correct. This is just my point too in recommending that the umpire’s call in close decisions has to stay even as grey areas like the soft signal involving the Malan catch could be dispensed with. The TV umpire could take the final decision in such cases.
(Partab Ramchand is a veteran sports journalist, the views expressed here are personal)