Cricket: New rule's a sporting revolution

By Dylan Cleaver

The referral system in operation here for the first time has generated plenty of interest, but the possible spinoffs might end up being more fascinating than the concept itself.

Orthodox spinners with a decent arm ball have suddenly become a lot more dangerous; batting has just as suddenly got a little more difficult.

The front foot lbw, once a rarity, will become a far more common sight, particularly with slow bowlers who will rarely get the ball to bounce over the top.

It could very well change the way batsmen approach their job.

Players will look to defend in front of the pad, rather than with bat and pad together, though that technique was becoming more fashionable even before this technology was used.

You may well see batsmen taking guard on off stump when playing the likes of Daniel Vettori, who possesses a wonderful arm ball that often cannons into the front pad with no reward. An off stump guard will help them get their front pad outside the line of off stump, negating the chance of a leg before as long as they're playing a shot.

The referral system could prove as revolutionary as the lbw (n) law change in 1935, where batsmen could then be given out lbw to balls that pitched outside off stump.

Previously you could only get an lbw if the ball pitched in line with the three stumps and would have gone on to hit, making it near impossible for swing bowlers to get rewarded.

It's all good stuff, watching a game move with the times.

There's an irony here in the fact that 50-50 leg befores would not have been what cricket chiefs had in mind when pressing ahead with the trial. What they were more concerned about was ridding the game of the occasional 'shockers' that can mar a test and create the sort of friction like the SCG test between Australia and India earlier this year, when the visitors were fuming that Steve Bucknor had missed a huge Andrew Symonds nick early in his century.

Umpires no longer want to be the fall guys for occasional lapses in judgement, particularly when every spectator, whether it be at the ground or on the couch, has immediate access to all manner of technology that shows just how big a fool the man in the middle is.

The truth is though, umpires rarely make these kinds of mistakes, which is why Bucknor's shocker is so easily recalled and why Billy Bowden's 'sawing off' of Paul Collingwood in Chennai on Friday are so notable.

So instead the referrals will be overwhelmingly in relation to lbw decisions. That doesn't mean the concept is any less worth, however.

The fundamentals of cricket remain the same: if you're out, you're out; if you're not, you're not. It's not like they've changed the lbw laws or anything, just changed the way they are adjudicated on.

Serial blogger Iain O'Brien gave this little insight into the way he views the creeping technology.

"I'm a little impartial to be honest. I've missed out on a few test wickets but I've also 'got' a couple too. It's the swings and roundabouts, it's cricket.

"I guess they're trying to get rid of the swings and roundabouts and just get it right the first time. That's fine with me."

- Herald on Sunday

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