Mark Richardson: Drama bonus with novel referral law

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The new umpire referral system offers plenty to the game, minimising unjust dismissals or unfair non-dismissals and adding a little drama.

It will reduce player frustration and should defuse situations that lead to nasty outbursts although, from purely an entertainment point of view, I'm not averse to such flamboyant moments. However, the thing I like best about the system is that it does not remove the responsibility of on-field umpires to make a decision.

I originally thought it would not work simply because of the defensiveness in the world of adjudicating officialdom, in all sports. I questioned whether umpires would be prepared to have their decisions overturned for fear of being left red-faced out in the middle.

It would appear, following a meeting between the ICC officials and the Sky TV commentary team before the current test, that the umpires are quite happy to accept their mistakes so long as the right semantics are adhered to.

This is a 'referral' and not a 'challenge' system. The umpires' decision is not being 'challenged', it is simply that the players would like the event in question referred to the third official so technology can help in the review and assist in the decision-making process, giving umpires the right to change their own minds.

The first use in this country when Daniel Flynn was given out lbw upon 'referral' was a great example of how the overturning of a decision may not necessarily indicate an umpiring mistake. The original decision to give Flynn not out was correct because on first inspection at real time there is no way an umpire could be certain the ball had struck Flynn's front pad in line with the stumps and thus he should receive the benefit of the doubt, as he did.

On review, the technically correct dismissal prevailed as the ball was deemed to have only just been striking Flynn in line. It was win-win all round except for, of course, poor Daniel Flynn.

This system will not eradicate poor decisions but will reduce them. The umpires still have to make tough calls and, because teams will not want to use up their three unsuccessful referrals, they won't take a punt on the 50-50 calls. However, it will have a major impact on eradicating the dreadful umpiring mistake which leads to the most tension.

The system adds an extra level of strategy because captains will need to show discretion on when to ask for a review. There would be nothing worse than being in a critical situation after having used your allocation.

I expect in the early stages the system will be used best by the fielding team simply because it will be driven by the captain and wicketkeeper. Since only the batsmen in the middle can call for a review there will be more hesitation in making those calls.

Certainly we will find out those players who never think they are out.

- Herald on Sunday

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