Sudeshna Guha Roy
Umpire Decision Referral System, a.k.a., the UDRS – a technological advancement that invited opinion, in favour or against it, from every nook and corner of the cricketing world.
As the name suggests, UDRS is one system by which, both the teams will have an option of challenging the on-field umpire’s decision thrice in an inning and refer to the third-umpire for clearer and well evaluated verdict. In simple words, a batsman can challenge the doubtable LBW decision and the likes when he feels wronged and vice versa.
Those in favour of the system vouch for complete eradication of incorrect decisions and making the game error free. Those belonging to the conservative school say the game would lack human touch if the UDRS is implemented and would be too much of a financial load for some less wealthy cricket-playing nations.
However, experiments with UDRS in some of the recently concluded Test matches have surely left a positive impact. After all, who would not want to see a match with least number of umpiring blunders possible?
Let us rewind our memories to January 2008 when India dramatically lost the second Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia in the Sydney Cricket Ground. Unforgivably faulty umpiring decisions by Steve Bucknor led to India losing the match by 122 runs.
A vital cog in the Indian batting line-up, Rahul Dravid was devoured by an atrocious decision by Bucknor, who gave him out caught behind even though television replays showed the ball missing Dravid’s bat amid mass Australian appealing.
This is just one example. Time and again, incidents of such incompetent umpiring often come up.
The referral system will not only help in minimising bad-umpiring judgements, but will also take care of ‘biased’ judgements. Apparently, the technology has instilled so much faith in ICC that the apex cricket body is now hoping to do away with the concept of ‘neutral umpires’.
It has been almost a decade that all the international Test matches have been supervised by a team of ‘neutral umpires’, or the so-called ICC elite panel, so as to eradicate the possibility of any supposed ‘home-town bias’. But now, after two years of the referral system’s implementation, the on-field umpire’s nationality won’t matter. The ICC will now have the freedom to appoint the best of umpires for every match, no matter from which country the official comes from.
The UDRS has not only benefited the teams, but the spectators too have found this new inclusion in the game of cricket quite entertaining. The idea of watching a replay of the last played shot on the big-screen and an on-field analysis of whether the batsman just managed to nick in the bat beyond the line was received very positively, and thus made UDRS quite popular.
Be it former international umpire Rudi Koertzen, Australian captain Ricky Ponting or Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara; most people in the cricket fraternity have been bowled over by the UDRS. As far as the apex international cricket body, the ICC, is concerned, it has asked for the implementation of UDRS in all forms of the game “as soon as possible” and in all probability, it will feature in the 2011 Word Cup in the subcontinent.
However, there are a few cricket boards who have opposed the use of UDRS in their matches, the Indian cricket board, BCCI, being one among them.
BCCI’s primary concern is that it is unsure if the UDRS is 100% fool-proof.
In an interview to an Indian daily, BCCI president Shashank Manohar said, “We are not convinced about the UDRS and whether the system is foolproof. We discussed with the ICC too in the last meeting. It is the judgment of one (system) against the other (the umpire). Take the case of a leg before decision. The bounce on a cricket pitch always varies. It is not always the same. Similarly, in case there’s a spinner on, the spin may vary, even the pace of the ball. We are not convinced if the UDRS can take all of this into account.”
Also, the high-cost behind this super-duper technology is too much for not-so-rich cricket-playing countries to bear. The UDRS costs approximately USD 56,000 per match day, that is, almost Rs 25 lakh. And thus, for a five day Test match, the cost may go upto Rs 1.25 crore.
Yet being the richest cricket board in the world, money is not that big an issue for the BCCI. But what about nations who cannot afford such a high amount?
“There is absolutely no pressure on us to use the system. As I said, the costs are very high… Even if the BCCI can afford it, what about other Boards? What about Bangladesh or West Indies?” Manohar added.
The option of using the ‘Hot Spot’ and ‘Hawk Eye’ have also been voiced by players like Sachin Tendulkar, who feel that not only are these cheaper, they are also more accurate as they “establish the contact between the bat and the ball”.
Nevertheless, with the 2011 World Cup approaching, it is up to the ICC to judge all the pros and cons of the UDRS and ensure that the best team emerges victorious at the end of the day and, under no circumstances, is a victim of unfair judgement.