Cricket: Referral route leaves Windies captain cold

By David Leggat

Cricket's controversial umpiring challenge system has received the thumbs down from West Indian captain Chris Gayle.

Speaking after the washed-out fifth and final day of the first test against New Zealand at University Oval, Gayle said he didn't like the new referral scheme.

The system, on trial during the two-test series, allows each team to appeal against umpiring decisions in the course of an innings until such time as they have three challenges rejected by the third umpire.

It was Gayle who first signalled a "T" with his hands - to call for a referral - on the opening day after New Zealand batsman Daniel Flynn got the benefit of the doubt on an lbw appeal by umpire Amish Saheba.

Third official Rudi Koertzen upheld Gayle's challenge, cutting Flynn down five runs short of a maiden test century. It was the first of seven challenges to the umpires' decisions during the test.

But the tall West Indian captain would rather the decision making be left in the hands of the two umpires on the field.

"To be honest I'm not really a big fan of it," Gayle said yesterday. "You have two standing umpires out there to actually get the job done, just like we [the players] have to get the job done sometimes."

Gayle said his teammates' feelings about the referral system varied.

"Some of them are a bit 50-50 on it as well. Everybody has got their opinion, but we'll see what the outcome will be in the next couple of months."

The Jamaican allrounder hinted that the arrival of more technology into cricket's decision-making held little appeal for him.

His cricket has always been played on the basis of accepting the rough decisions alongside the ones which fall your way.

"Sometimes they go in your favour, sometimes they don't - and that's been happening over the years."

Gayle knew nothing of the next captains' meeting with the International Cricket Council, when presumably the lawmakers will seek the skippers' views on the referral system.

"But whatever is put [in front of us] we have to deal with it at the time.

"It's only my opinion - maybe no one will listen to my opinion - but I'll just be honest and say what I think."

This is the second series to trial the referral system - after Sri Lanka against India in July - and it will be used during Australia's forthcoming series against South Africa.

New Zealand captain Dan Vettori also has doubts about the system and believes the rules aren't working in the way they were intended.

Resolving 50-50 calls was not the original idea; it was more about fixing the clangers, such as the nick into the pad of a batsman then given out lbw; or the edged catch to the wicketkeeper which the umpire calls as not out.

"A little bit of fine tuning needs to be done. I think the 50-50 ones slow the game down and you take the umpire completely out of it," Vettori said. "If the umpire makes a decision and it's not palpably wrong then you go with the umpire's first decision."

The Kiwi spinner wondered if having only one unsuccessful challenge as the rule, instead of three, would help. It would certainly focus the players' mind on whether or not teams wanted to take the risk of losing their right to a challenge for the rest of that innings.

Vettori praised the work of the onfield umpires, England's Mark Benson and Indian Amish Saheba, who was on his debut, and had the bulk of the challenges come from his end.

"I think all of them were good umpiring decisions," Vettori said. By that, he meant Saheba initially rejecting Flynn's lbw appeal, or Vettori's own appeal against wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin - both of which were overturned by third umpire Koertzen - were based on the accepted umpiring premise of giving the benefit of the doubt to the batsman.

The teams head to Napier today for the second test, with the West Indies feeling good about their comeback in Dunedin from 173 for six to reach 340 in reply to New Zealand's first innings 365, then nipping out two quick second-innings wickets late on the fourth day.

Gayle hopes the Windies will take a decent bit of momentum to Napier.

"Yes, it can lead up to a good start in Napier. Hopefully the conditions are a bit better. But we have to keep our focus on trying to get things right in the middle," he said.

The Windies captain praised man-of-the-match Jerome Taylor for his fine maiden test century in Dunedin.

"I always knew he could go out and give us something big. It's a credit to him because he has trained really hard," Gayle said of his fellow Jamaican.

The biggest focus for New Zealand in the next three days will be the fitness of Jacob Oram and Ross Taylor as they battle to recover from a calf strain and a dislocated finger respectively.

First-test challenges to umpiring decisions:

New Zealand first innings

Daniel Flynn: On 95, Chris Gayle appealed for lbw, it was rejected, he challenged it and Flynn was the first New Zealander to go under the new system. Final verdict: Out.

Jesse Ryder: On 55, he ducked into a shortish ball from Daren Powell. Gayle appealed against the not out decision and third umpire Rudi Koertzen backed the initial decision. Final verdict: Not out.

Kyle Mills: On 12, he prodded forward to Fidel Edwards. Gayle appealed against the not out decision, replays showed the ball hit Mills' pad, then bat, and Koertzen reversed the initial decision. Verdict: Out.

Mark Gillespie: On 0, he shaped to leg glance Lionel Baker, was given not out, and that decision was backed by Koertzen. Verdict: Not out.

West Indies innings

Sewnarine Chattergoon: On 1, he survived a resounding lbw appeal by Mills. Captain Dan Vettori challenged it, but Koertzen supported the umpire's decision. Verdict: Not out.

Xavier Marshall: On 8, Marshall prodded forward to Vettori, whose appeal for a bat-pad catch close in was rejected by the umpire. Vettori appealed and the decision was reversed. Verdict: Out.

Denesh Ramdin: On 5, Vettori appealed unsuccessfully for lbw. He challenged the decision and Koertzen reversed it. Verdict: Out.

Outcome: Seven challenges. Four were upheld and three were rejected.

- NZ Herald

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