Following the 1st test match between Sri Lanka and Pakistan, which contained a host of umpiring errors, Pakpassion.net considers why it is vital that the UDRS is rolled out across the board.
The recently concluded test match played at Galle between Sri Lanka and Pakistan ended with a comprehensive 209 run victory for the hosts. However the gloss of the victory was somewhat lessened with numerous umpiring errors from Ian Gould and Steve Davis which for the majority of times went against the touring side.
The chorus has come from all quarters both during and after the test match for the need for technology in the form of the UDRS (Umpiring Decision Review System). Dav Whatmore was the first to voice his disappointment of the absence of UDRS, followed by others such as Pakistani captain Mohammad Hafeez and Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene.
The technology which has thus far been used for the UDRS system in international cricket includes ultra-slow motion replays, stump microphone, ball tracking technology, pitch mat and hot spot footage - all tools which can be used to assist the umpires in better making their decisions. Cricket as a sport has been the frontrunner in terms of embracing technology when compared with other sports and as a prime example you only have to look at how long it has taken FIFA to finally realise goal-line technology is a must. On the other hand, the use of third umpires for runouts has become a part of cricket since it was conceptualised by former Sri Lankan Test cricketer, and current cricket writer Mahinda Wijesingh in 1992. Sachin Tendulkar was the first batsmen to be given run out by the new technology, showing technology did not have regard for names. However the hesitation now with implementing the UDRS across all test matches and important tournaments is bizarre. As the UDRS is yet to become a compulsory requirement for international cricket, the onus on what technology if any is available to the third umpire falls down to the home board.
Pakistan's coach Dav Whatmore was particularly vocal of his assessment of the situation, as UDRS had been in place earlier in the year when England toured Sri Lanka. In that series, the hot spot footage was out of reach of the cash-strapped Sri Lankan board, and in the current series they have removed UDRS completely. While it is hard to argue that such a review system would have altered the result, as a minimum it would have at least made the skill of bat and ball the headlines rather than the umpires.
It is also worth understanding the financial impact for a cricketer in today’s times and the impact a good and/or bad decision can have on a career. A poor call from an umpire could be the difference between a duck or a century, between a 5-fer or a wicket-less performance. When a player’s livelihood is on the line, the difference between success and failure could be the difference between becoming a regular in a squad or being lost to the wilderness for good. With cricket becoming such a professional sport requiring numerous hours of intense training and exercise, those that fail on the big stage may not have much to fall back on.
There is also a perception amongst some that the use of the UDRS has in fact improved the technique of batsmen. With a review system in place, it has given the umpires the confidence to give a batsman out on the front foot, forcing them to play with their bat. It means that no longer can a batsman pretend to play a shot and instead just let the ball hit his pads. The balance of bat and ball has recently been perceived to be leaning towards the batsmen, and any technology which helps tilt the balance, should be encouraged.
In addition, umpires have always been staunch supporters for technology. In today’s cricketing age,with the added travel and playing days, the risk of fatigue for the umpires is a real cause for concern. Even the best of umpires can make mistakes, but when you are constantly on the plane jet-setting around the world usually away from family, it can be hard to keep concentration levels at their highest. The pressure on the men in the middle is immense, and any support will help reduce it.
The cost implication for each home board to implement such technology is certainly something which needs to be considered. Not all cricket boards across the globe are financially thriving and it is here that the governing body, the ICC needs to step in and take the initiative.If the ICC wants to portray a fair game with the best team winning, it is an investment that it needs to bear.
At its recent meeting in Kuala Lumpur, the ICC did discuss the UDRS technology and backed off from making it mandatory for all test matches. The biggest critic to the system has long been the BCCI. Their primary concern is that the system is not 100% error-free. It certainly isn’t error-free but then again neither are the umpires. Their Pakistani neighbours on the other hand, have been one of the staunchest supporters of the technology. Zaka Ashraf the PCB Chairman has even recently gone on record requesting the BCCI to review its stance on the UDRS. It is a topic which has divided the cricketing hierarchy, but ask any of the watching public and almost unanimously they will be in support of technology
There will always be some opposition to change, but the positives in this case greatly outweigh the negatives.