Tag Archives: Greame Smith

The UDRS: An UnDesirable Review System

The last week of 2010 saw two interesting Test matches being played. Both of these ended in amazing results — for England and for India. England retained the Ashes with a stunning victory at the MCG and India, with a win in Durban, seemed to take a significant step towards establishing — yet again! — that they travel well these days.

But the two matches made news for another reason: The Umpire Decision Review System (UDRS).

Ricky Ponting made a mess of himself on field by arguing with umpire Aleem Dar after a UDRS decision had gone against his team! As I stated in my earlier post, in my view, if Ricky’s surname was not Ponting, but either Singh or Kumar or Khan, he would have been suspended for his totally over-the-top antics at the MCG. The over-tolerant Aleem Dar ought to have showed Ricky Ponting a red card for carrying on like a pork chop! After the over-the-top carry-on, the match referee slapped a mere fine on Ponting! Once again, we saw extreme incompetence — if not impotence — of the match referees in dealing with situations involving players from the “traditional powers” of cricket (read: Anglo-Saxon nations).

Ricky Ponting had a problem or two against the UDRS and chose a rather public and unacceptable way to demonstrate his disagreements with it.

Across the Indian Ocean and away from the MCG, Graeme Smith made a point about the UDRS to the International Cricket Council (ICC) in his post-loss press-conference. After being at the receiving end of bad decisons at crucial points in South Africa’s attempt to overhaul a victory target of 303, and without the benefit of the UDRS to fall back on, Smith complained about ICC’s inconsistency in its approach to the application of the UDRS.

Graeme Smith does have a point. The UDRS needs to be uniformly implemented. As per the current implementation of the UDRS, the host country must decide on the use of the UDRS in consultation with the visiting country. Although, South Africa was in favor of implementing the UDRS, and although South Africa could have insisted on the use of the UDRS, the UDRS was not implemented in the RSA-India series. One assumes that the BCCI, the Indian Board, which does not like the UDRS, used its financial power to muscle the UDRS out of the RSA-India Test series. Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni are not fans of the UDRS as it is implemented.

India’s only experiment with the UDRS was a bitter experience against Sri Lanka in 2008 — the team got most referral decisions wrong. The players developed a sense of extreme mistrust with the system and treated it like a hot potato. Since then, India has not used the UDRS in series in which it plays host (its prerogative) and has used its power to ensure that the UDRS has not been used in series against Sri Lanka and, now, South Africa.

In my view, a limited version of the UDRS should be uniformly employed in all series. Further, his decision should not be left to the host country or the visitors. Just as 2 on-field umpires, a match referee, a 3rd umpire and a reserve umpire are mandatory in all Test matches, the ICC should make a limited version of the UDRS compulsory for all Test matches.

So what should this new-UDRS include?

From an umpires’ point of view, the ICC should enable them to focus only the big issues. Umpires should not need to focus on things like counting balls, run outs and no-balls. Umpires already refer run-outs. The 3rd umpire should rule on no-balls and should whisper in the umpires ear to call the end of an over. These decisions should be taken away from the on-field umpires. These somewhat straight-forward decisions can and must be technology-driven and technology-assisted.

This then brings into focus “nicks” and whether a ball pitched in line in LBW decisions.

I believe “hot spot” should be used in all matches. In my view, the two dimensional technology that is used to project height, swing, spin and movement is just not believable nor trustworthy! The ICC should choose a version of UDRS (of the many that exist) and employ it for all matches.

All “nicks” (whether for detecting inside-edges in LBW decisions or for caught behind appeals) should be referred to the 3rd umpire if the on-field umpire wants seek the assistance of technology in deciding. It should be the on-field umpires’ prerogative to seek the referral. Just as it works for run outs currently, the on-field umpire will seek out technology when needed. The “hot spot” technology does work effectively and is utterly believable, in my view. The “Snickometer” technology which is also error-free takes too long to spit out results — and the game cannot be stalled for such long periods of time.

Further, the UDRS should also employ one of the many systems that can be used to detect whether a ball pitched “in line” for LBW decisions. Technology in this area is believable and accurate.

With all of the above modifications, the umpires can then save their focus on trajectory, discipline on the ground, ball changes and other such decisions; decisions that requires their judgement to be applied. The problem is then with interpretation and errors in these areas alone. One doesn’t need judgement and interpretation of whether the ball pitched in line or whether it is a no ball. A machine can predict that accurately regardless of the type of technology that’s used.

So what would a new-UDRS mean?

  • The 3rd umpire counts balls and informs the on-field umpire when it is the end of the over
  • Run outs are referred to the 3rd umpire when needed (as now).
  • Clear cases of no-balls are automatically called on the field. In borderline cases, the 3rd umpire whispers in the ear of the on-field umpire. An alternative would be to use a “cyclops” type machine to yell “NO” on the ground.
  • The 3rd umpire is called upon to use “hot spot” to detect “edges” in caught-behind, LBW and bat-pad catch appeals. The on-field umpire must request the 3rd umpire to adjudicate in these cases.
  • The 3rd umpires’ assistance should also be used in deciding whether the ball pitched impacted in line (off-stump) or pitched in line (leg-stump) in LBW appeals. Again, the on-field umpire must request the 3rd umpire to adjudicate in these cases.

And that is about all that the new-UDRS should include. The on-field umpires can then save their focus on things that need their judgement (trajectory, bounce, etc).

With these modifications I believe we will have a UDRS that is more acceptable; and one that is more widely used.

It is time for the ICC to step in and take real control of the game. At the moment, it continues to dither on most important issues affecting the game.

— Mohan

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India Vs RSA :: 1st Test :: 1st Day

A flat pitch, bad luck (in the context of the toss result), bad fielding, hot and humid conditions, a four-bowler policy and some good batting from the South Africans all conspired together to leave the South Africans slightly ahead at the end of day-1 of the 1st Test between India and South Africa.

Harbhajan Singh in his post-match-interview said that the Chennai pitch was, “very very flat”. One day… Some day, the BCCI will realise that pitches need to be good to retain the attraction that Test cricket has for many in this world. We live in eternal hope. Many “Pitch Committees” have come and gone. But all we are left with, as a legacy of these successive committees, is a pitch for more jobs for the boys. Former cricketers come and go, but the pitches appear to be the same. Bone dry and boring!

What we saw yesterday was a flat, dry pitch that did nothing for the bowlers. The pitch bore a stunning resemblance to the boring pitches that were prepared for the Pakistan series. This is an early call to make, but it looks very likely that we are set for yet another (yawn!) long, slow and boring series! In his article on Cricinfo, Siddhartha Vaidhyanathan argues that some of India’s best recent victories have come on sporting pitches! It amazes me then that BCCI cannot recognise this and prepare lively pitches in India too!

No doubt, this pitch will take some spin from day-3 onwards, but a look at the pitch yesterday was enough for words like dry, flat, unresponsive, boring and insipid to jump to the forefront!

It is, therefore, amazing that India chose to go into this Test match with only 4 bowlers! On a dry pitch and in hot-humid conditions, a four-bowler policy would have been terrible had India lost the toss. India did lose the toss and it was, indeed, terrible.

The pace bowlers bowled like millionaires and leaked runs! There were fours flying off the bats of Neil McKenzie and Graeme Smith. Although India did reign in the rampaging South Africans in sessions 2 and 3, the early damage had been done. South Africa hit a total of forty-five fours on day-1! While the dry, sapping heat and poor fielding could account for some of those fours, I think the bowlers need to put their hands up and admit that they had a bad day at the office! A 5th bowler was called for.

After seeing the fielding-heroics in CB series in Australia, where a young Team India threw themselves around to stop any white object that flew towards them, the fielding standards in the Test team was expected to be poor. But one did not quite expect the shoddy display that we did see! Harbhajan Singh himself admitted, “I think we have given around 20-30 runs in our fielding and that makes a big difference. I hope tomorrow we put in a good performance in bowling, batting and fielding. It would have been nice to stop those 30 runs and see the scoreboard at the end on 270 for 4.” Even Yuvraj Singh, substituting for Sachin Tendulkar, cut a sorry figure on the field. It was ironic that the oldest man on the park had the most spectacular fielding moment of the day when Anil Kumble dived to his left to snatch a return catch!

I score the first two sessions to RSA and score an even third session. So, my Session-By-Session score for this Test would read India, 0 : RSA, 2. India will hope for a better day-2 in this Test match.

— Mohan

India Vs RSA :: 1st Test :: Preview

After a well-earned, short break, India is going to play some cricket; this time at home against South Africa.

This comes a day after Sunil Gavaskar took careful aim at England and Australia in a newspaper column of his!

The South Africans have been smart with their scheduling — they have spent the last month in Bangladesh and are possibly acclimatised. Even though the opposition wasn’t as strong as India, they should have also acquired a feel for the nature of the pitches they might encounter in India. They toured Pakistan not so long ago too. So even though the only practice game that they had (against India ‘A’) was canceled, South African Coach, Mickey Arthur, wasn’t too concerned. As a result of this confidence in the conditions, the team flew back to South Africa on 14 March for a quick refresh before heading back to the sub-continent.

Although some of their players have hit form at the right time — including Greame Smith — the team has been dogged by a colour-based-selection policy. This even saw Charl Langeveldt pull out of the tour — the player did not wish to be included just on the basis of his colour! Greame Smith, the South African captain said, “We need to find a way to deal with these issues so we can concentrate on the cricket.”

Jacques Kallis weighed in to the selection debate and called the selection-saga “frustrating”. He said it is best that “the task of choosing the side is left solely to the selectors in the future.”

Langeveldt was initially included ahead of Andre Nel to fulfill a quota obligation. This has resulted in the charismatic Andre Nel threatening to quit cricket! And now, we have the Langeveldt pull-out! No replacement has been named for Langeveldt!

Amidst this backdrop, the first Test of the three-match series starts in Chennai on Wednesday 26 March 2008.

The Indians have found themselves in a bit of controversy too, since their victorious return from Australia. This has revolved around M. S. Dhoni’s alleged seniors Vs juniors comment as well as the fitness of a few players. A few have also questioned the need to continue to invest faith in Yuvraj Singh in the Test side. Anil Kumble, Team India Test captain, put down the seniors Vs juniors issue as a pure media-play and nothing else.

The two sides, meanwhile, are evenly matched, in my view. The South Africans have done well in India in the past and although they will play against a Team India Test squad that is largely refreshed by the inclusion of a few well-rested “seniors”, this may be a closer series than many Indians would like to accept!

South Africa (possible): Graeme Smith (c), Neil McKenzie, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, Ashwell Prince (vc), A. B. de Villiers, Mark Boucher (wk), Paul Harris, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Makhaya Ntini

Reserves: Jean-Paul Duminy, Robin Peterson, Monde Zondeki

India (possible): Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, V. V. S. Laxman, M. S. Dhoni, Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Sreesanth/Chawla, R. P. Singh

Reserves: Wasim Jaffer, Yuvraj Singh

While the South Africa lineup does not have too many doubts surrounding it, the Indian squad is, as always, punctuated by the opener conundrum and its corollary — the 4-bowler-policy. Anil Kumble has declared emphatically that Rahul Dravid will bat at #3. So, unless the team decides to go with only 4 bowlers — a risk in the humid and hot Chennai conditions — I do think that Pathan will open to accommodate an extra pace bowler (Sreesanth) or spinner (Chawla). The rest of the team picks itself and has, apart from Harbhajan Singh, Dhoni and Tendulkar, a “well-rested” look to it.

This will be a series which will, to me, indicate whether India now has it in them to add the word “consistent” to the adjectives that are used to describe the team. Indeed, this whole year will present an opportunity for Team India to prove that it can be consistently good at the highest level. A good result for Team India will mean that its #2 spot will be consolidated on the ICC Test Table.

— Mohan