Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: A great game has been done a great disservice


It took less than a day for the four-test series between Australia and India to be tainted by poor umpiring decisions. The pity is it doesn't have to be this way, or not to the extent we have seen so far at the MCG.

All those wonderful ingredients for a rivalry - controversy, a changing balance of power, star players and a close contest - continue to fuel the battles between ailing Australia and inconsistent India. Their contests now rival the historic Ashes in representing the pinnacle of world cricket.

As controversy goes, though, there was too much of the needless variety on the opening day at Melbourne.

The fault lies firmly with an impotent ICC which, instead of deeming the decision review system (DRS) mandatory, allows teams to veto the use of technology-assisted umpiring decisions. India, a cricket nation dominated by the power of its senior players, prevents technology being used for their matches while the rest of a sport in awe of its financial power allows the Indians to dictate these terms. What a shoddy state of affairs for an international sport and the ICC's ranking system.

The DRS is not perfect and needs developing and fine tuning in both accuracy and implementation, but despite a few faults it is still far more accurate than letting umpires make decisions alone.

Over the past three or four decades, increasingly sophisticated television coverage has exposed umpiring frailties to a point that they simply cannot be tolerated. This first became most evident with run outs, as slow-motion replays revealed batsmen were being saved by the inadequacies of the naked eye. We quickly learned that far too many decisions on catches and lbws were dubious or just plain wrong.

Subsequently, "snicko" and "hot spot" have become quality umpiring aids while a ball-tracker system is providing lbw evidence, although the legitimacy of this device is more open to question.

The technology debate in cricket is clear cut compared with, say, soccer, where there are concerns the flow of matches will be affected for scant returns. Technology is an absolute must in cricket, however, because umpires have no hope of matching its accuracy in many vital decisions.

The ICC allows teams the right to veto its use, an option India continue to take. Their aversion to the system is said to stem from a series against Sri Lanka when the Indians were completely outplayed in the referral game. If so, this is petty in the extreme.

You wonder though ... and motives are never so simple. Just as the West Indian rise was put down to the bonds formed in wanting to smash colonial arrogance, maybe India are so intent on flexing considerable new muscle against the old order that their powerbrokers won't be dictated to in any way, no matter the rights and wrongs.

To walk in their shoes is not so easy from this distance, and historical factors cannot be ignored. But they are doing a great game a great disservice with their intransigent attitude to technology.

Captain MS Dhoni and the legendary Sachin Tendulkar have been fingered as the main opponents of the DRS. If so, they need to get over themselves and contribute to making the system better rather than obstructing progress.

The first day of action from the MCG included two horribly incorrect catching decisions against Australia, ones that the review system would have quickly overturned, along with a poor lbw call that went in Australia's favour. The only answer is technology, the only question being how to make snicko, hot spot, ball tracker and co work even better.

As for India, their team is all class with one of the most fantastic batting lineups of all time which includes, in Virender Sehwag, the most flamboyant and destructive batsman ever. I would happily pay at the gate to watch Sehwag ahead of any other cricketer. India rule in so many ways, and they need to be convinced that they can do so in much better ways.

- NZ Herald

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Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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