Review system adds an exciting new dimension to Test cricket

2010-08-11 00:00

HAD the review system not been implemented in the current Test series between Pakistan and England, Pakistani wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider’s Test career could have started very differently.

If the two teams had decided against using the referral system, he would have had to endure the ignominious fate of making a king pair on debut.

Instead, thanks to a favourable referral in Pakistan’s second innings, Haider went on to score 88 runs.

His efforts added much-needed respectability to a match that England already had by the scruff of the neck.

Even though the match result was inevitable, Haider made the most of the lifeline extended to him and led an impressive fightback.

But how different it could have been.

Had Haider not had the option of a review, his Test record would have read two innings, two balls faced and not a single run scored. His career and his confidence may have taken a long time to recover. Such are the consequences of poor decisions made by umpires who, after all, are only human.

The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS) is not compulsory. Recently the system has been used in the Pakistan vs England Test series.

India opted not to use it in their recently concluded series against Sri Lanka.

Although the umpiring in Sri Lanka was of a high standard, errors that could easily have been identified using the referral system were still made.

Giving Test nations a choice as to whether they implement the system or not results in inconsistency, and I feel strongly that the International Cricket Council (ICC) needs to stamp its authority here.

Unfortunately, the UDRS and the accompanying technological assistance it provides umpires, comes with a substantial price tag.

The “hot spot”, “snicko” and “super slow-mo” technology is incredibly expensive to run.

From a production side there is intense pressure when reviews are called for, as the television director needs to be able to produce the correct footage to present to the third umpire within seconds. He also needs to be able to provide them with endless re-runs and as many different angles as possible should they be required.

World cricket has felt the effects of the global recession and, as a result, purse strings are tight. It’s therefore understandable that not all Test series are able to set money aside for this “luxury”.

This inconsistency could be overcome by the ICC attracting a sponsor who would be rewarded with excellent exposure when referrals are requested and replays called for.

With the constant threat of Test cricket losing its popularity, I feel the review system adds an exciting new dimension to Test cricket.

Viewers are drawn into the decision-making process instead of feeling frustrated when umpires get it wrong.

Let’s take nothing away from the umpires. The review system will never replace them, but will simply add to their effectiveness by eliminating their mistakes.

In my opinion, it’s essential that the ICC implement the UDRS in all Test matches.

This will standardise Test cricket and eradicate mistakes, which can be costly to cricketers’ careers. I think Zulqarnain Haider would agree.

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

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