Third umpire is a useful addition to the modern game

2009-03-31 00:00

THE introduction of the referral system has generated much debate and given those of us who love the game of cricket yet another opportunity for an opinion.

It’s interesting to note that while it has been the source of much controversy in the cricketing world, TV referrals have been completely discounted in soccer circles.

It’s apparently felt that eliminating error on behalf of the referee would give spectators and match commentators nothing to talk about after the match.

Depriving a massive TV audience of the opportunity to hear soccer legends and past players assassinating the referee and debating the merits of on-field decisions would, it seems, result in a loss of viewers that would be detrimental to the future of the game.

Soccer and cricket are very different, of course. Soccer is a team game and cricket, although played in a team, is a sport where individual performances are definitely highlighted.

A bad decision at a crucial time in a cricketer’s career could have long-lasting consequences, which ultimately affect his earning potential.

The purpose of introducing the referral system is to improve the percentage of correct decisions being made by umpires and all players will admit that this is ultimately desirable The players have no problems with delays while the umpire reviews his decision, as long as the correct decision is made in the end.

Dave Richardson, general manager of the International Cricket Council (ICC), believes the referral system has improved the percentage of correct decisions from 95% to 97% and this can only be good for the game.

The implementation of the referral system in the Test matches between South Africa and Australia highlighted some interesting situations.

Firstly, how often captains get their referrals wrong, and secondly — and quite reassuringly — how many decisions the umpires get right. This is of course their job and the reason why they are on the elite panel of the ICC and receive lucrative contracts to match.

It also revealed a couple of decisions made incorrectly by the on-field umpires that were then corrected by the third umpire after they had been referred, which is the purpose of the proposed system.

Unfortunately, there were also those decisions made incorrectly and not referred, which is the aspect that concerns me.

In these situations the third umpire should, I believe, have the authority to step in and advise the standing umpire of his error and overrule his decision.

A referral system without this intervention fails to live up to its potential in my opinion.

The act of walking has always served as a moral barometer in cricket and the referral system can only encourage this. No cricketer wants to be shown up by a TV referral if he’s knicked a delivery and stood. It’s bad enough standing when you know you are out, but to have it confirmed by a referral, for all to see, would be far worse.

I believe the third umpire and the referral system add a much-needed dimension to the modern game. The technology is available to assist the process and I think we should use it.

• Neil Johnson is a former Natal, WP and Zimbabwe all-rounder who lives and coaches in Pietermaritzburg.

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