Jonathan Trott (right) and Alastair Cook wait for the third umpire’s decision during the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge © Getty Images
Nishad Pai Vaidya examines the International Cricket Council’s move to empower the third umpire with an independent television feed during the third Ashes 2013 Test. But will this help solve the DRS puzzle?
A framework that was supposed to eliminate howlers has been a banana skin of sorts. The Decision Review System (DRS) has come under fire during the ongoing Ashes 2013 series and in a bid to tighten it; the International Cricket Council (ICC) has added a new piece to the puzzle. The third umpire would no longer be at the mercy of the television producers for his “ideal” replays and would instead have an independent feed. It could be a move that may help the governing body create a more watertight system for the future. But what does it exactly entail?
The new system is revolutionary and promises to change the use of technology in the game if it passes its tests and is implemented. During the third Test At Old Trafford, it wouldn’t be available for making decisions. As a part of the trial run, English umpire Nigel Llong would be given these feeds in a corner of the ground even as the designated third umpire, Kumar Dharmasena will ask the broadcasters for his feed.
Nevertheless, for the first time, an umpire (Llong in this case) will have numerous television screens before him — which will provide different camera angles, Hot Spot and Hawk Eye directly. As Dave Richardson, the ICC chief executive explained, “There will be a bank of televisions in the third umpire’s room — with Hawkeye, replays and Hot Spot directly available to him to look at independently to what is on TV.”
As things stand prior to the third Test, the third umpire has to ask the broadcaster when he needs a different angle or another facility. Currently, the new aspect is said to be at a “drawing-board stage” and it wouldn’t be available for the third umpire’s ‘deliberations’ at Old Trafford.
If this trial is successful and it is implemented in the long run, the third umpire would have a buffet of replays which should help him reach a conclusion faster and probably be more accurate in his decision making. Not only that, but it may also save a lot of time as the third umpire wouldn’t be needed to contact the producer and wait for the replays. All the facilities would be there before him in an instance and he can chose what he wants to facilitate his decision. This will also put the ICC and its officials in complete control of the DRS system. The broadcasters are after all a third-party and leaving such a crucial system completely in their hands isn’t ideal.
During the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2011, CricketCountry had reported that a wrong replay given to the third umpire had resulted in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. When Tendulkar was out caught, the on-field umpires asked for a referral to check for the no-ball. Two replays suggested that the bowler may have over-stepped and ultimately a third angle was considered. That crucial one showed that the bowler was behind the line, but then Tendulkar was at that end. How could he have been there when he was supposed to have faced the ball? Clearly, the third umpire wasn’t given the right footage and in all fairness, he too was only looking at the line to see if the bowler was fine. A few months down the line, Mahendra Singh Dhoni was a victim of a similar incident during a Test match in Barbados.
Such instances only went on to highlight the broadcaster’s duty of care. Their duty was to provide the right replays when asked by the authorities as a wrong decision could have a huge impact on the fortunes of the game. While these instances may have occurred few and far in between, they can have serious repercussions in the long run. There also have been murmurs of certain replays being manipulated for reasons left to conjecture. All these rumours are of course allegations and nothing specific has been established.
Nevertheless, if this system passes its trials, the authorities may no longer need to rely on the broadcasters and the chances of an erroneous or a manipulated replay would be slim. If there is a direct feed in the third umpire’s room, his eyes would naturally turn to the screen that displays the best possible replay. It may be the Hot Spot for an edge, or Hawk Eye for a leg-before decision, but the third umpire may have it quicker than he normally gets. That is the whole idea behind this system.
However, one has to see whether this new proposal helps the DRS become more uniform. The first Test in Nottingham showed that the problem isn’t all about the technology itself, but also the people implementing it. There was no uniformity in the decision making process and that is why DRS continues to divide the cricket world. While the new addition guarantees quick replays to the umpire, but will that also improve the accuracy rate? That question will only be answered in the course of time and a game or two will not give us a conclusive view. We need to assess it in the long run to form an opinion.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_44)