DRS and Goal-line technology have made life a touch easier for the referees © Getty Images
DRS and Goal-line technology have made life a touch easier for the referees © Getty Images

Cricket has never been short of controversies, whether it’s an on-field spat or blunders in umpiring decisions. While International Cricket Council (ICC) has come up with technological solutions for the latter, it is sometimes used by the umpires way too often, which slows the game down. Football too is a fast-paced game and it has survived the test of time without any fancy technology. There have been many mistakes by referees in football as well. Pramod Ananth feels, there should room for human error in cricket as well.

Over the years, there have multiple new features introduced in cricket. The Decision Review System (DRS) is something that has been used vastly throughout the world and has been a great success as well. It was recently used in ICC Cricket World Cup 2015, where it came in handy. Generally, each team is given two reviews. No doubt, that this technology reduces the burden of the on-field umpire. However, the umpires these days are taking it a step too far by referring things such as no-balls to the third umpire as well.

For a viewer it sometimes becomes increasingly frustrating when run-outs, where batsmen are out by miles, are referred to the third umpire, which  inevitably eats away a few more valuable minutes. When the captain or the team are fined for slow over-rate, shouldn’t all this be taken into consideration as well? Shouldn’t the umpires be fined by the ICC in that case, as well?

There was a time when none of these comfort were available to umpires. Umpires like David Shepherd, Dickie Bird were among the ones, who solely believed in their judgement. They did absolutely fine. However, then again you had umpires who on their off days, made mistakes that eventually turned out to be huge blunders.

Simon Taufel is one of the umpires, who comes to mind when it came to giving impeccable decisions. There have not been many decisions that Taufel gave and was overturned after it was referred.  One can argue that the modern technology used is to better the quality of the game. No doubt it does, but certain things should not go to the third umpire, referring to no-balls is certainly one such thing. Yes, even great umpires made mistakes, but they are humans too and certain errors are bound to happen.

Simon Taufel was amongst the best umpires in the world in his time © Getty Images
Simon Taufel was amongst the best umpires in the world in his time © Getty Images

The legendary Rudi Koertzen too made a blunder or two. For example, when he adjudged Kumar Sangakkara out when he was eight short of his double ton at Hobart. Sri Lanka were chasing over 500 to win in the fourth innings and Sangakkara’s knock gave the team some hope. However, a short delivery from Stuart Clark hit Sangakkara first on the arm, then a little part of the helmet and popped into the hands of Ricky Ponting at slips. Koertzen raised his finger, much to the disgust of Sangakkara. Back in 2007, the DRS was not introduced and Sangakkara had no option but to leave the field. The video below (From 7:29) will clearly prove the point. Australia eventually won the match by 96 runs.

Let’s shift our focus to another popular sport now—Football. Football is a global sport, followed by over 200 countries and is easily one of the most-watched sports in the world. There are generally four referees in football. The main referee is the one, who runs behind the ball and takes decisions on the field. He is assisted by two referees on the sidelines, mainly to point out if the players are offside. Sometimes the assistants point out to the on-field referee, when he sees a foul and the main referee takes a call based on what he has to say. There is also a fourth official, who helps out with the substitutions. These four officials can communicate with each other as they are given a wireless headset, something that did not exist a few years back.

The latest technology that has been introduced in the sport is the goal-line technology. In football, the ball has to cross the line, between the two posts for it to be adjudged a goal and it does not matter whether it pitches or not. Even if it crosses the line in the air, it’s a goal.
The referees are given a watch and the watch is connected to the sensors, which are installed to monitor the line, which is drawn between the posts. Now, for it to be called a goal, the ball has to completely cross the line. Even if it’s on the line, it cannot be a goal. The video below featuring goal keeper David James and midfielder Steve Mcmanaman illustrate how the goal-line technology works.

There have been moments in the past where the goal-line technology would have come in handy. One such moment would have surely been in the Champions League 2004-05 when Liverpool took on Chelsea in the semi-final. The first leg at Anfield saw Luis Garcia score a goal that would eventually separate the two sides at the end of both the legs and Liverpool went on to the final, where they overcame AC Milan against all odds.

The ball seemed to be over the line when Chelsea defender William Gallas cleared the ball, but the referee gave it as a goal as he seemed to have enough evidence to adjudge that as a goal. But nobody till date knows whether it actually crossed the line or not. However, the scoreline at the end of match read, Liverpool 1-0 Chelsea.

Yet another popular mistake was in the FIFA World Cup 2010 match between England and Germany. Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski had put Germany 2-0 up in the early stages of the first half. England defender Matthew Upson pulled one back for England and Frank Lampard scored a goal from just outside the box, as it hit the cross bar, crossed the line and fell into the hands of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer’s hands. The goal was disallowed and England lost the match 1-4.

The above clearly shows that the ball did in fact cross the line and the referee was wrong. This eventually turned out to be one of the main reasons for FIFA to work on goal-line technology eventually and it is now used across the world.

Can you imagine if the referee referring to every simple decision like penalties, throw-ins, fouls, etc? The 90-minute game will easily go beyond two hours, and neither the fans nor the players will enjoy or benefit from it. The pace of the match will reduce considerably and it will not appeal to anybody.

As far as cricket is concerned, the concept of DRS is excellent and should be utilised to the fullest, but little things like no-balls must not be allowed to be referred. The umpires certainly go through rigorous training given by ICC. Errors are part and parcel of any game. Efforts must be made to ensure that most decisions are taken by the on-field umpires which does not slow the game down.

(Pramod Ananth is a reporter at CricketCountry. He has represented Karnataka table tennis under-15, and is a hardcore supporter of Liverpool FC. His Twitter handle is @pramz)